“The Mountains of Our Life”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, 23 February 2020, Transfiguration Sunday (Year A). Our services start at 10:15 and you are welcome to come and worship with us.

When I moved here in 1999 from Whitesburg, KY, I traded one part of the Appalachian Mountains for another and the headwaters of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Big Sandy Rivers for the aforementioned Hudson River.

If you stop and think about it, there have always been mountains and rivers in your life.  Some are physical (Mt. Beacon and the Hudson River, for example); others are more ethereal (raising a child, taking a new job).

Sometimes mountains are a challenge.  When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he replied, “Because it’s there!” 

Other times, mountains are an obstacle.  Until Daniel Boone and others developed the Wilderness Road as a passage for settlers to transverse the Appalachian Mountains, the mountains were an obstacle to the expansion of this country.

Sometimes the mountains in our lives are more ethereal than physical.  For a long time, completing my dissertation was a mountain I had to climb.  When it was finished, it like standing on the mountain top, basking in the sunlight of completion and success.

Sometimes the mountains can give us a sense of what lies before us.  As I drove back to Whitesburg after a business trip, I contemplated the path my professional life was taking.  During the drive, I could see the Appalachian Mountains rising before me in the east and I heard the voice of God quoting the Psalmist,

I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I had to climb the mountain to find the answer; I had to go to the mountain top.

As you leave today, consider the mountains that you have climbed and the mountains that rise before you today.  Know that the answer lies on the mountain top. 

~~Tony Mitchell

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available online.

In this Clergy Letter Project update you’ll find the following seven items:

1.    The Climate Crisis Letter is Live: Have You Signed? (read on the web);

2.    Astrobiology News for February 2020: Celebrating a Noted Climate Scientist during Black History Month (read on the web);

3.    Scientists in Synagogues Program Accepting Applications (read on the web);

4.    Review of The Hidden Life of Trees (read on the web);

5.    Evolution Weekend 2020 (read on the web);

6.    New Year, New Attacks on Evolution (read on the web); and

7.    Teaching about Climate Change: A Special Discount for Members (read on the web).

“The Prime Directive”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin of Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, February 19, 2020 (6th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A). Our services start at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

Can Science and Religion Work Together to Deal with the Problems of Climate Change?

In the beginning, God charged humankind with one directive, to take care of the earth and all that was in it.  In one sense, this affirms that science is as much a part of our life as faith, for it is through science that we can find the ways to take care of this world on which we live and with whom we share its resources and space.  And while the Bible should never be seen or taken as a science text, it can be seen as help us to think and even take us outside the box, as it were.

In Deuteronomy, we read of God telling us to look at what He has done for us.  But when we do look around, can we say that we have taken care of what we have been directed to do?

For a long time, humankind has thought that it could do whatever it wished with this planet and its resources; recent events have shown the fallacy of that thought.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus speaks of the Ten Commandments and our relationship with others.  Does this not extend to how we care for this world that we share with so many others?

Despite the claims of some, the problem of climate change is a man-made problem and it will be up to us to solve.  Science can give us the solutions but it will be the church which provides the moral imperative to seek the solution

~~Tony Mitchell

Information about Evolution weekend can be found on my blog at  https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/evolution-weekend/

We Are The Experts!


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, February 9, 2020, 5th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A). This is also Boy Scout Sunday.

When the disciple Nathaniel Bartholomew was first told about Jesus being the Messiah, he asked “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  This question reflected the rather unfavorable and common wisdom of the time about the inhabitants of Nazareth.

There are times when we are no different than Nathaniel.  As I mentioned to Pastor two weeks ago, some of the people I know from high school 50 years ago still hold onto ideas more suited to the 18th century rather than the 21st century.  And rather than trying to bring their minds, they rely on “experts” to tell them what to think.  And in their view, woe to those who might question such out-of-date ideas.

Paul, when he was Saul, was one of those “experts”; like so many then (and today), one did not question the Scripture and those who did were to be punished.  But after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he understood that there was more than just an adherence to the Law.  This is what Jesus told the authorities when he said that He was the fulfillment of the Law.  Life is more than just a rigorous adherence to the Law; it is about how one lives, a thought echoed by Isaiah when he told the people of Israel God was more interested in seeing what they did rather than knowing they simply adhered to the Law.

There is a need for experts but not to tell you what to do or what to think.  They can show you the way but you have to make the decision to travel in that direction.  In a sense, we are each an expert, for by our actions, we will show others who the Messiah is and we will be able to help them meet the Messiah on their own.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What’s That Sound?”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for Fishkill UMC for this coming Sunday, February 2, 2020, the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A)

In 1966 Stephen Stills wrote and then, with the group he was in, “Buffalo Springfield, recorded a song entitled “For What It’s Worth.” 

Perhaps the key phrase in the song is, 

It’s time we stop 
Hey, what’s that sound? 
Everybody look – what’s going down? 

For me, this phrase echoes the thoughts of the prophet Micah written 3000 years before, “Look around and see what God has done.  And tell me how anything you may have done matches His work.”

Paul makes the point that our perceived status be it political, economic, or religious,  counts very little to when it comes to receives God’s blessings.  As Jesus points out, our blessings come from what we do, not who we are.

One thing that I learned a long time ago is that, no matter how hard I might try, I would never reach the perfection of Christ. 

Nothing I do will ever outdo God and I should never try. But such perfection must be my goal. Anything that I should do should not be seen as a “trophy” in the pursuit of perfection but as a step along the way. 

Today, God is calling on us to listen to the sounds of the world, to hear the cries of the people, and then empowered by the Holy Spirit, bring the Gospel to the world through our words, deeds, thoughts, and actions.

~~Tony Mitchell

Does Your Room Have an Exit?


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, 26 January 2020 (3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A). Service starts at 10:15 am and you are always welcome.

At first, I couldn’t understand why the Old Testament reading for this Sunday began by focusing on the Birth of Jesus.  But the passage was also about a new light shining in the world.

The first to visit the Baby Jesus were the shepherds, the outcasts of society.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus reached out to the outcasts, the misfits, the “outsiders”.  His was a light in a darkened time.

Then came the Magi.  Strangers from a different country, they represented the light of the mind.  They sought to understand the light they saw in the sky.  Their  heritage was teaching and exploration.  The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry would be teaching and healing.

A few years later, when He was 12, Jesus would be in a dialogue with the Elders  in the Temple.  Think very carefully about this; in the society of that time, what 12-year-old boy would have even been allowed to be in the temple, let alone discuss the Scripture with the Elders?

Jesus’ ministry was a different ministry, one that saw the world differently.  And yet today, many individuals want to build walls  to keep out the strangers and keep new ideas from entering our minds.  But  they do not realize that building such walls creates a dark prison for them, a room with no exit.

We can build these rooms; they are quite easy to make.  But you cannot grow, you cannot, by any imagination, you cannot be free.

But if we tear down the walls and let the light in, we can grow, we can have a future, and we can be free.

~~Tony Mitchell

Now it is your turn!


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this coming Sunday, the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A)

. . . it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not the object of our knowledge but the cause of our wonder — Based on Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, author 0f The Orthodox Way  

When I was in college and on my own (as it were), I figured that I would be able to sleep late on Sunday mornings and skip out on church.  But then I discovered that I needed to be in church.  College brought up a lot of questions, some about chemistry, some about calculus, one or two about English and history.  But there were also a lot of questions about who I was and I found that the answers to those questions came when I was in church. 

I was lucky.  The pastors that I meet and worked with in college didn’t give me the answers to those questions.  They showed me the way to find the answers on my own. 

There were some pastors, of course, who will tell you what the answers to the questions are and that you are not to question those answers.  I truly believe that had these individuals been my guide, I would have, as so many are doing today, left the church and the faith.

The invitation was and is always to “come and see”.  John the Baptizer told Andrew, Andrew told Peter, they told others.  We don’t know how many were invited and we don’t know how many accepted the invitation except to say that enough did so that some two thousand years later, someone invited you. 

Isaiah notes that we are given a set of skills.  Today, in the midst of all the troubles in the world, when there are so many people telling us that there is only one way and it is their way and that only a select few will be allowed to take that path, we stand here, with our skills and our knowledge, able to help those with questions find the answers. 

Many years ago, the Disciples told others to come and see what they had found. that they have found the Messiah and you should come and see for yourself.  Today, two thousand years later, it is our turn to say, “we have found the Messiah; let us help you find Him for yourself.”

~~Tony Mitchell