Is It A Question or A Statement?


Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, February 24, 2019 (7th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C). They will appear on the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill UMC.

A hallmark of many Annual Conferences is the singing of the Charles Wesley hymn, “Are We Yet Alive.”  In the past, this was sung to celebrate the completion of a year of service at a time when the lifespan of a circuit rider was notably short.

If we were to sing that today, would it be sung as a question or as a statement?

When I was working on my doctorate at Iowa, some of my colleagues were looking at what constituted a successful high school program.  Their conclusions were very similar to research about successful businesses.  Innovation is best when it started at the bottom and was supported by the top of the organization (adapted from “The Search for Excellence in the Church Today”),

Jesus did not go to the Temple and expect the people to come to Him.  Rather He went to the people.  He did not work within the structure of the Law, which prevents access; He used the Law as a framework for his mission.

Many churches are dying today because they are unwilling to step outside the structure of the church.  But the good news is that if, individually and collectively, the church welcomes the power of the Holy Spirit, they can find ways to become alive once again.

How, then, will we sing “And Are We Yet Alive”, as a question and sign of a dying and dead church, or a statement of a living and growing church?        ~~Tony Mitchell

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Navigating the Fourth Day of Creation by means of Jupiter’s Moons


This is an interesting read on the nature of science and creation – (from the Catholic Astronomer).

Once, at the beginning of a semester, on the second meeting of an Astronomy 101 class, one of my students piped up with a comment.  She said that when she had told a certain person (her grandmother, if I recall correctly) that she would be taking an astronomy class, that person had responded by saying that astronomy in particular and science in general was the stuff of devil-worshipers. My student thus offered the class a wonderful comment.  She was seeking from the outset of class to engage the material, her professor, and her fellow students with a very honest comment, expressing honest fears (her grandmother’s, and perhaps hers, too).  Her comment reflected a sentiment that is not uncommon among students taking science classes—a fear that there is something about science that is contrary to their religion, and in that way there is something about science that is the work of the devil.  (This view is not limited to grandmothers of … Continue reading →

Source: Navigating the Fourth Day of Creation by means of Jupiter’s Moons

Global Vs. Local Perspective. The Difficulties In Helping People Understand Climate Change.


This is one of those posts I almost dread to write. The reason I say almost is because I have come to peace with my understanding of global climate change. The reason I feel a hint of dread is because of how the people I know who live in Wisconsin will react to this post. These past three weeks, we have experience wind chills that have dropped to -51 degrees Fahrenheit, multiple snow storms that shut down local schools for days at a time, and so much cloud cover that those with seasonal affect disorder are going a little nutty. Am I simply complaining about the weather as many in the Midwest United States enjoy doing? Perhaps. However, my primary reason for reflecting on this is because NASA, the United Kingdom Met Office, and the World Meteorological Organization have found that 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record.  After reading the reports, I have no problem embrace these findings. … Continue reading →

Source: Global Vs. Local Perspective. The Difficulties In Helping People Understand Climate Change.

Boy Scout Sunday


In 1962 and 1963, I lived in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a year of many firsts for me; I began playing the trumpet and I was introduced to or at least became aware of the role of football in Southern culture. It was the beginning of my awareness that equality in this country was perhaps nothing more than words.  It was also when I began to think that God was calling me. When we moved during the summer of 1963 to Denver, I began to explore how I would answer that call. And thus I began working towards earning the God and Country award in Boy Scouts.

As I worked on this award, I was also in confirmation class and during the spring of 1965 I would earn the God and Country award and be confirmed in the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Thus I began my walk with the Lord. It has been a rough walk, done at times without acknowledging His presence in my life but perhaps more times than not knowing that His presence was a distinct part of my life.

There came a time around in 1984 when I began to think about that call and that I really hadn’t answered it completely. You have to realize that earning the God and Country award is more than simply answering some questions and do some exercises each week. It requires more than that, a commitment of heart and soul. And I needed to find a way to fulfill that commitment. So I made a covenant with God to be more active. In the churches where I was a member, I began to be a liturgist, specifically requesting that assignment on the 2nd Sunday in February, Boy Scout Sunday. And to the best of my ability, I have done so every year since then. Of course, from 1999 to 2005, on that Sunday, I was also the lay pastor of the church. And since 2005, if I was not somewhere in the district covering for a pastor, I have posted my thoughts on this blog.

The following is a summary of my sermons/messages/posts for the 2nd Sunday in February, Boy Scout Sunday.

February 14, 1999 – Neon (KY) UMC – “A Scout is Reverent”

February 13, 2000 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – “Following Directions”

February 11, 2001 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – “Two Roads”

February 10, 2002 – Walker Valley (NY) UMC – not on file

February 9, 2003 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC– “A Scout is Reverent”

February 8, 2004 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC – “A Scout is Reverent”

February 6, 2005 – Tompkins Corners (NY) UMC – “The Mountaintop Experience”

February 12, 2006 – “Seek The Truth”

February 11, 2007 – “A Brief Discourse”

February 10, 2008 – “What Have We Learned?”

February 8, 2009 – “The New Paradigm”

February 14, 2010 – “That Transforming Moment”

February 13, 2011 – “It’s about Commitment”

February 12, 2012 – “To Leave the World A Better Place”

February 3, 2013 – “Removing The Veil”

February 9, 2014 – Sloatsburg UMC – “The Master Lesson”

February 8, 2015 –  did not post a blog for this Sunday

February 14, 2016 – “Where Are We Going?”

February 12, 2017 – “The Past Can Never Be Our Future”`

February 11, 2018 – “A Reminder” and “Find God In The Details”

February 10, 2018 – “The Path You Walk”  and “The Confluence Between Religion and Science”

Evolution Weekend


With Evolution Weekend coming up this weekend, I figured I should up date this particular piece.

As I have noted in the pieces that I list below,

Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic – to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letters themselves, which have now been signed by more than 13,000 members of the clergy in the United States, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy. – “The Clergy Letter Project”

This project began in 2006 and I have participated, either with a sermon or a blog post, since 2009. The following is a list of those messages and posts. This has been edited since it was first posted to correct a link.

February 1, 2009 – Lake Mahopac (NY) UMC – “The Differing Voices of Truth”

February 14, 2010 – “That Transforming Moment”

February 13, 2011 – “It’s about Commitment”

February 12, 2012 – “To Leave the World A Better Place”

February 3, 2013 – “Removing The Veil”

February 9, 2014 – Sloatsburg UMC – “The Master Lesson”

February 15, 2015 – “Transfiguration Sunday or Evolution Weekend?”

February 14, 2016 – “Where Are We Going?”

February 12, 2017 – “The Past Can Never Be Our Future”

February 11, 2018 – “A Reminder” and “Finding God In The Details”

February 10, 2019 – “The Path You Walk” and “The Confluence Between Religion and Science”

It should also be noted that this weekend is also the weekend of Boy Scout Sunday, which has additional meaning for me.

The Path You Walk”



This will be the “Back Page” for the bulletin at Fishkill UMC this coming Sunday, 10 February 2019 (5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C). This Sunday is Boy Scout Sunday and Evolution Weekend. My piece for Evolution weekend is “The Confluence Between Religion and Science” and will be posted later this week.

As many of you know, the 2nd Sunday in February holds a place special significance in my heart and in my life.  On February 14, 1965, I formally began my walk with Christ as I became a member of the 1st EUB Church of Aurora, CO.  Slightly over 1 year later, I would begin the walk that would lead to my Ph. D. in Science Education.

Of course, back then, I really didn’t know where those paths would take me.  But, over the years, one thing became clear.  You cannot walk two distinct paths; either you walk one and ignore the other or the two paths merge into one.  But to choose one path over another means that your life will be incomplete.

Paul always made, at least for me, a logical argument for believing in Christ.  After all his encounter with Christ was a great deal different from the disciples.  And Isaiah, in the OT reading for today, makes a subtle argument for education and the consequences when one was not willing to learn.  As Jesus selected those who become the disciples, he told them that they would be using their skills in a new way.

The same is true for each of us.  We start off walking many different paths, not sure of where they might lead.  But when those paths merge with the path that we walk with Christ, we know where we are headed.  On this path, we will meet others who also walk with Christ.

But we will also meet many who are lost, have no idea where they are going and are seeking Christ.  With our skills and talents, we can help these individuals began their walk with Christ.

~~Tony Mitchell

“The Confluence Between Religion and Science”


This weekend is Evolution Weekend and the following are my thoughts on the nature of religion and science. My previous posts for this weekend can be found at “Evolution Weekend”

For the better part of my life, I have lived near either a river, the mountains, and sometimes both.  At the present time, I live near the Hudson River and near the Adirondacks.

But during high school and college and for some years after graduation, the river of interest was “Old Man River”, the Mississippi River.  And when I would drive from Memphis to St. Louis and then onto Kirksville, I would look for roads that paralleled the Mississippi.  These roads lead me past the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, just south of Cairo, Illinois.

Confluence of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at Cairo, IL
Figure 1 – photo from https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/6261/confluence-of-ohio-and-mississippi-rivers-at-cairo-il

I remember the first time I come to this spot and saw the two great rivers merging into one and continuing southward.

https://ohioriverparksproject.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/il-alexander-cairo-confluence-the-confluence-600-8-high.jpg?w=1000&h=

Figure 2 – The Confluence – The Ohio River on the left, the Mississippi River on the right.  The Ohio River is larger.  https://ohioriverparksproject.com/the-parks/confluence-of-the-ohio-and-mississippi-rivers/

The thing about moving water is that chooses the path that it wants to flow, carving a path out of the rock and soil   If we follow the Mississippi, just before we get to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, we find what is called “The Old River Control Station.”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/44/Old_River_Control_Structure_Complex.jpg/800px-Old_River_Control_Structure_Complex.jpg

Figure 3 – The Old River Control Structure at the juncture of the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya River. In this photograph, the Mississippi River runs along the left and curves away to the right in the distance. The Atchafalaya River meets the Mississippi

At this point on the river the Mississippi wants to shift its course and join with the Atchafalaya River.  The Old River Control Station was constructed to keep the Mississippi flowing to the Gulf of Mexico through Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  This insures that industries located in Baton Rouge and New Orleans will not lose their access to the Gulf of Mexico and created substantial economic damage.

If we see religion and science as two streams of thought, then we can see that, sooner or later, they will merge into one stream.  It requires a greater effort to keep them separate than it does to allow them to merge.

And just as regular streams of water meander over the terrain that it passes through, so then do our own streams of thought concerning religion and science.  We call that curiosity.

As I noted in “A Dialogue of Science and Faith”, many early scientists were as interested in religion as they were in science.  Now, as the processes of science were codified, it became apparent that while one could understand what it was that God had done, it would not be possible to find God (even if He were in the details).

But instead of seeing this split negatively, one should see it positively.  It should be apparent that one cannot answer all the questions of the universe from science or religion alone but as a combination of the two.  Through the combination, we have a better chance of getting the answers or at least knowing where one might find the answers.

As we look at the lectionary readings for this Sunday, we find Paul, trained as a lawyer, making a logical argument for the existence and power of Christ.  His decision concerning Christ came not actually knowing Jesus as so many others did but in the evidence that comes from what they did.

And God reminds Isaiah of the consequences that come when one is unwilling to learn.  When Jesus picked his disciples, he told them that they would take the skills they already had and used them in a different manner.  (Adapted from “The Path You Walk”.

When we try to keep science and religion as separate streams of thought, we spend more time and energy keeping them apart.  If we were to allow them to merge, that time and energy could be used to expand our understanding of this universe, this planet, and its inhabitants.

It has never been the task of science to find God (even the early scientists only wanted to understand who God was) but, rather, use the skills that God has given us to better understand this place we call home.  And God never meant that religion would answer the questions of science but help us understand how to use science in ways that help rather than hinder (something we tend to forget at times).

I am not sure where society is on this stream of thought I have constructed.  It seems that many, both in religion and in science, are at the “Old River Control Station”, valiantly trying to keep the streams apart.  I would hope that we are further upriver where the streams come together, creating a broader and deeper understanding of the world, the universe and the people.