“Different Pictures”

Here is the back page for the Fishkill UMC bulletin for Sunday, March 11, 2018, the 4th Sunday in Lent (Year B).

In some form or another, the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” has been a part of our language for almost 150 years.  And I am sure that people have used that many words in describing the art of M. C. Escher.

Many of M. C. Escher’s better-known paintings rely on mathematical themes and test the ability of the human eye and mind to see beyond traditional perspectives.Escher cube

In the Old Testament reading, snakes represented both life and death, but life only came when the people changed their way of looking at them.

In a world where prestige was based on power, it was difficult for many to accept the notion that God would sacrifice His Only Son for the benefit of all the people.  As Paul would write to the Corinthians, our view of the world changes when we accept Christ as our Savior.

As our preparation for Easter Sunday and the Resurrection ends, we have a chance to see the world differently, a world of hope rather than despair.    ~Tony Mitchell



This will be the back page for the Sunday, March 04, 2018 (3rd Sunday in Lent, Year B) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  Services are at 10 and you are always welcome.

I had just begun thinking about this piece when I received the news that Billy Graham had died.  I do not believe that there has been anyone who has touched as many souls in their lifetime as Reverend Graham.  I will admit that even though I am properly a Southern evangelist, I was often uncomfortable with his style of evangelism.  But he was an open and honest preacher, telling you what he believed and what he felt people needed to do.  I sometimes wish that those who have taken on his mantle of leadership were as open and honest as he was.

I don’t think he ever judged anyone and while he might offer some glimpse of the future if you did not accept his offer, he didn’t make you accept his offer.  Unfortunately, too many evangelists today do just that; they condemn and ostracize you if you do not accept their view.  And we wonder why today’s church struggles.

Reverend Graham told a story that has been told for some 2000 years.  It is a story of hope and promise, of victory and celebration.  (And here you can start humming UMH #156.)

Each one of us is an evangelist.  It is part of our heritage as United Methodists.  We are here today because someone told us a story, perhaps not in words but in their actions.  And we wanted to know more about that story.  It is the same story that began at a well in Samaria when the woman told her neighbor about Jesus Christ.

Accepting Christ as one’s personal Savior is a personal choice.  But someone for to accept Christ, they must know who Christ is.  Our challenge is to keep telling the story through our words, our deeds and our actions so that others will know Christ as we do.

~~Tony Mitchell


This will be the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for Sunday, February 25, 2018, the 2nd Sunday in Lent (Year B).

We read in Genesis that we are to be stewards of this world, to take care of it, not just for today but for tomorrow as well.  Despite what some may say, how we treat this planet speaks to how we see the future.

In the Arctic Ocean, north of Norway, is the Svalbard archipelago.  And on one of the islands in the archipelago is the Global Seed Vault.  It serves as a backup for the other seed vaults around the world. One of the reasons for this and the other vaults is to protect seeds from all parts of the world from destruction by either man-made or natural causes and maintain a diverse collection of seeds for future use.

What was it that Jesus told Peter, that Peter had his eye on the real world and not the spiritual world?

If our vision of the world is limited to the present, we are going to have a very hard time getting to the future.  Tying ourselves to the present keeps us from going with Jesus and while we may think that it is safer to stay where we are (figuratively and literally), we end up in more danger.

Because of his faith, Abraham was able to envision the future, to see tomorrow even when it may not have seemed possible.

In our faith, we have a way to keep our future safe.

~Tony Mitchell


This will be the “back page” for the bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist church for Sunday, February 18, 2018, the 1st Sunday in Lent (Year B).

Somewhere among the myriad pages of my blog is a comment that suggested that when you give up something for Lent, you give it up for good.  In other words, if you give up chocolate for Lent, it is a commitment that you will never have another piece of chocolate in your life.  Obviously, that idea was not well received.

Lent is about preparation, of putting your priorities in order, determining what is important to you and your life.  Clearly, God’s decision to destroy the world, His creation, was not an easy one.  How can anyone destroy something they had created?  But God saw in Noah a possibility to (excuse the cliché) wipe the slate clean and begin again.  The people of this planet were His most desired treasure and God would take care of them.

When Jesus went into the wilderness, He had to make a several choices.  What did He value the most?  What did He want the most?

Perhaps that is what Lent is about.  What do you value the most?  As Peter points out, through Christ we are saved.  We are still God’s treasure.  But is God our treasure?  These are the days where we decide.

~Tony Mitchell

A Reminder

This will be the back page for the Fishkill United Methodist Church bulletin for February 11, 2018, Transfiguration Sunday (Year B).  This is also Boy Scout Sunday and Evolution Weekend (I will have something else posted this week that focuses on those topics.)

Several years ago, I was headed to a college in northwest Missouri.  Driving across the plains of northwest Missouri that day and nearing Conception Junction, I saw a cathedral rising from the plains about ten miles away.  It wasn’t what I had planned but I had to see what this was.  After all, when does God check your schedule when he has something for you to do?

Conception Abbey postcard from 1908 postcard – By Unknown – postcard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19493851

Conception Abbey was built in the late 19th century to provide the local Irish and German immigrants of the area a spiritual home.  That day, it served as a reminder that I had made a covenant with God in 1965.

A covenant with God is not a promise but an agreement one makes with God; It is an agreement that each party will do something.  Throughout the ages, God always keeps His part of the covenant; we are often the ones who forget what we said we would do.

Seeing that cathedral, literally rising from the plains, reminded me that I had made a covenant and that it was time to fulfill my part of the agreement.  As I continued my trip that day, I began to think about how I could fulfill that covenant I made in 1965.  How could I use my skills and talents that I had been given and developed over the years?  In one sense, I am here today because of the sudden appearance of the Presence of God in my life.

Each of us, in one way or another, has had that same moment, where God suddenly appears to us.   How will you respond?

~Tony Mitchell

“And What Do You See?”

This will be the back page of the February 4, 2018 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, year B) bulletin at Fishkill United Methodist Church.

Of the twelve disciples, Nathaniel must be my favorite.  Perhaps it is because he was, by tradition, the scholar of the group.  But then again, he, along with Thomas, went to Georgia.

I suppose that Thomas should be one of my favorites as well.  While he has been labeled “doubting”, his request to see Jesus’ wounds was, in the classic sense, the mark of a scientist, of not making a decision until the observations were completed.  Of course, Jesus pointed out to Thomas that there would be many who would believe without the visual evidence that he requested.

But how was it that those individuals came to believe?  They had to see for themselves what it is that Jesus Christ could do.  From the very beginning of His ministry, people heard the Good News that Jesus was preaching and saw the miracles that He performed.  Time and time again, the people saw what He did.  He did not tell them to believe; he gave them the reason to believe.  Paul did not simply tell the people they had to believe; he, too, gave them reasons through his own life and actions to believe.

All we need to, as Isaiah reminds us with the Old Testament reading for today, is look around and we see the works of God.  Each discovery we make, be it here on this planet or deep in space, shows us the grandeur of God’s work and encourages us to seek more knowledge, more knowledge about the world and the people who live on this planet, more knowledge about God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our job is not to tell people about Jesus; our job is to live the sort of life that indicates the presence of Christ in us.  Our job is to live the sort of life that will cause others to seek Christ.

~Tony Mitchell

Finding the truth

The part in straight text will be the back page of the bulletin for the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany at Fishkill United Methodist Church.  The part in italics was added for this post.

If you were to compare the content of my father’s chemistry text book with the content of the textbooks I used as a student and a teacher, you would see that they are very different.  For one thing, in the 1930’s, there were only about 90 elements; today there are at least 118 and the search goes on to find more (see Timeline of chemical element discoveries).


By El Snubbe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63155133

But what if someone decided there was a limit to what one could know in chemistry?  What would our world be like today?

Certain theories in place then have been modified, upgraded, or changed.  And yet, even with these differences, there is a certain fundamental truth.  But you must look for it; it does not come easily.   I discussed the idea of changing theories in “A Brief History of Atomic Theory”.  Other theories that dominated chemistry for many years were the phlogiston theory and caloric theory.  These theories dominated conventional thinking for many years, even with indications that they had changed.

That day in Capernaum 2000 years ago, the people experienced something they didn’t expect.  They saw Jesus give meaning to the Scriptures; they saw Jesus use the information in the Scriptures they way it was meant to be used, as an instrument of empowerment and freedom, not slavery and control.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, pointed out that you needed to understand the Law, not just meekly repeat the words of the Law. One characteristic of the Old Testament prophets was their ability to speak to the truth, to go beyond, even when it was not what the people wanted to hear.

Jesus told the people to seek the truth and the truth would set them free.  In a world where so many people try to tell us what to think and what is true, Jesus’ words and actions remind us from where the truth comes from.

~Tony Mitchell