“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/

“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

“A Better Place”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church for this coming Sunday, November 24, 2019, Christ the King Sunday (Year C). Services start at 10:15 and everyone is welcome to attend. If you feel up to it, come around 9:15 and practice with the choir.

For the record, I have probably written more on the idea of stewardship these past four weeks than I have in the previous twenty years.  This is due, in part, because I haven’t had to write on the topic, and in part because, as Pastor Micah noted a couple of weeks ago, it is not a popular topic.

In a “perfect” world,  we would not need to address the topic because it would be second nature to us.  But we do not live in such a “perfect” world and by our proclamation as Christians and as United Methodists, we must find ways to strive for such perfection.

Stewardship takes on many forms, from caring for this world on which we live to caring for those who live on this planet, no matter who they are or what they believe.  Stewardship, in its many forms, is one of the many ways that we can express our faith.

So, for a brief period of time each year, we focus on how we shall be good stewards of this place on which we live and the people with whom we share this place.

~~ Tony Mitchell

“24/7 Stewardship”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the bulletin for this coming Sunday, 17 November 2019 (the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C). Services start at 10:15 am and you are welcome to attend.

When I first looked at the Scriptures for this Sunday, I wondered how I was ever going to focus on the topic of stewardship.  But Isaiah’s words that we were building a new world reminded me that we, God’s children, have been tasked with stewardship from Day 1.

From its very beginning, humanity has been charged with care of this world.  Yet, even today, with the warnings of climate change echoing in our ears, there are some who ignore the call and think that the Earth is theirs is to do as they please. 

It is just as important that we understand that in the passage right before today’s reading from Thessalonians, Paul is complaining about those who are convinced that the 2nd Coming of Christ is imminent and have quit working.  It is not the poor and disadvantaged, as some would have you believe, that Paul is yelling at; it is those who put themselves above the needs of their community.

Jesus warns us to beware the false prophets and teachers, the long-tongued liars who preach hatred and exclusion, who preach that all that is in the world is for a very few and not to be shared.

Our stewardship of this planet goes beyond simple gardening duties; it involves caring for all the people, no matter who they are or where they live.  It has been our task from day 1 and continues on, 24/7, until we all reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

~~Tony Mitchell

“What’s Inside?”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” of the Fishkill UMC bulletin for this Sunday, 10 November 2019, the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C. Services begin at 10 but you can come early and practice with the choir!

I always wondered why so many United Methodists churches in the Midwest look alike but then I found out that there was a collection of blueprints church designers and builders could pick from when building a new church.  Still, seeing the outside of the church really doesn’t tell you what is going on inside the church.  Does one feel the presence of the Holy Spirit or is it just another building?

Cynthia Bourgeault, in The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind, wrote

“Jesus never asked anyone to form a church, ordain priests, develop elaborate rituals and institutional cultures, and splinter into denominations. His two great requests were that we “love one another as I have loved you” and that we share bread and wine together as an open channel of that interabiding love.”

Haggai reminds the people of Israel that they were not simply rebuilding a building; they were building a home for God, a place for the Holy Spirit.  In doing so, they were able to better discern God’s presence in their lives.

Stewardship is about finding ways to make God’s presence in our lives through the ministry of the church.  It is not found in the old ways but in the new, of considering what Jesus did and how we can best continue to do that. ~~Tony Mitchell

“Seeing the Future”


Here are my thoughts for the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday’s (November 3, 2019, 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Year C) bulletin at Fishkill UMC. This and the next couple of weeks will be a focus on stewardship.

In the classic story, “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a new man after seeing his future.  It would be interesting to know if Charles Dickens was thinking of Zacchaeus when he created this seminal literary character.  In one sense, Zacchaeus sees the future when he seeks Jesus that day two thousand years ago.

The prophet Habakkuk writes of concern for his people and is given of a vision that one can assume would be the coming of Christ.  As Paul notes, our future is found in Christ.

We set a path for our future when we decided to follow Christ.  In our decision to be a United Methodist, we accepted the ideas first proposed by John Wesley some 250 years ago.  Ours is a faith motivated by the desire to bring hope to the hopeless, bring healing to the sick, and find sanctuary for the homeless, the goals set forth by Jesus Himself that day in the synagogue in Nazareth.

There are those in this world who would qualify as a Zacchaeus or a pre-Christmas Ebenezer Scrooge.  One can only hope that they will find Christ or see the future as it lies before them and change their ways.

In the meantime, the rest of us are faced with a quandary.  We see the same desolation, pain, and suffering that Habakkuk saw.  But we know what he could only envision; we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a change in this world.  Evil can only exist if we allow it to exist.  Through the gifts we have been given, we have the resources to make the changes.

Stewardship is about using the gifts that you have been given so that the Word of God can be expressed, so that the homeless find shelter, the hungry get fed, the sick are healed, and the oppressed find justice.  Over the course of the next 30 days, take the time to think about how your future will look and what you can do to make it the better for the Kingdom of God.

~~ Tony Mitchell