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  And in their view, woe to those who might question such out-of-date ideas.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

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.

“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

“The Balance of Life”


This was initially written for another publication (Fishkill UMC “Back Pages”.  Part of what I have written may be used in another piece that I will be posting shortly.

When I began working on my doctorate, I was introduced to the book “Two Cultures” by C. P. Snow.  Snow presented the argument that we lived in two cultures, one based on the humanities and the other based on science and technology, a division that appears to still be present today.

I think we also have another division of cultures in our time, with some proclaiming the need for a solely secular/non-religious life while other proclaim that what it is needed is a sectarian/religious life.

But life is and has never been an either/or choice.  Ideas presented in the secular world tell us how to solve problems but do not always indicate what is the best use of that solution.  And it is only through the sectarian view of the world that we come to understand our relationship with others in our community and around the world.

Jesus never said that we should totally abandon the secular world for the sectarian world; he merely wanted us to view things with a sense of priority.

And that means that while one works in the secular world, it is important to maintain a presence, constant and on-going, in the sectarian world as well.  A world that does not include time for thoughts about God (be it in worship, prayer, music or communicating with others) can be a lonely and desolate place.

 

“The Master Lesson”


Here are my thoughts for the 5th Sunday of Epiphany (Year A), 9 February 2014. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Isaiah 58: 1 – 12, 1 Corinthians 1: 1 – 16, and Matthew 5: 13 – 20.  This is the message that I will give at the Sloatsburg United Methodist Church this Sunday (I may make some changes in it between now and Sunday but this is essentially what I shall say); services there start at 10:30 and you are welcome to attend.

Today is Scout Sunday and something of an anniversary for me. In 1965 I was working on my God and Country Award in the Boy Scouts. I actually received the award and was confirmed as a member of the 1st Evangelical United Brethren Church (now 1st UMC) of Aurora in May of that year, this Sunday serves as a marker and a reminder of when I began this journey with Christ.

As I noted in my summary sheet for Boy Scout Sunday, there was a period of time when I didn’t do much after earning the award. But sometime around 1984, I felt the need to do something that reflected the choice I had made twenty years before. Since then, I have either been the liturgist or presented the message on the second Sunday in February as a reminder of a choice I made many, many years ago.

My appreciation for the environment around us also began when I was in the Boy Scouts. And when I began my college studies a little over a year after completing my God and Country work, I began a second journey, a journey of investigation of this world.

This weekend is also Evolution Weekend and marks the celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday on February 12, 1809. This message marks the 6thyear that I have participated in this part of the Clergy Letter Project, an effort to show that science and religion are compatible and can safely interact with each other. (Here is a link to my previous messages and posts – Evolution Weekend.)

Let me begin by saying that the United Methodist Church has 1) endorsed this project, 2) included a statement concerning the relationship between science, technology, and theology in The Social Principles section of The Book of Discipline (¶ 160 – The Natural World, section F), and 3) this will not be a science lesson.

Now, in one sense, perhaps I shouldn’t concern myself with issues about evolution and the creation of the universe and life on this planet. After all, I am a chemist more than I am a biologist and the issue of evolution and creation is one of biology, isn’t it?

But there is a lot of chemistry involved in the beginning of the universe and the development of atoms, elements, and compounds. And the combination of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen to ultimately form the various components of DNA means that I have to be interested or at least should be interested in how it all works.

So, I participate in this project, not because I don’t believe that God didn’t create the universe, this planet, or the life on it but rather because I do believe that He did create the universe, the planets, and all the life that we see.

It never occurred to me back in 1966 that by declaring that I would study chemistry that such studies would be conflict with my belief in God and that Jesus Christ was my Savior and that I could not be a certified lay servant/speaker in the United Methodist Church. Nor did it occur to me that my acceptance of Christ somehow prevented me from being a chemist and from searching for answers to questions sometimes out of reach.

I hold a view of the relationship between science and faith similar to that expressed by Alan Lightman, the first person to hold dual appointments in physics and the humanities at MIT. In an essay entitled “The Spiritual Universe” (from his book The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew) he writes

If science is the religion of the twenty-first century, why do we still seriously discuss heaven and hell, life after death, and the manifestations of God? Physicist Alan Guth, another member of our salon, pioneered the inflation version of the Big Bang theory and has helped extend the scientific understanding of the infant universe back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after t = 0. A former member, biologist Nancy Hopkins, manipulates the DNA of organisms to study how genes control the development and growth of living creatures. Hasn’t modern science now pushed God into such a tiny corner that He or She or It no longer has any room to operate—or perhaps has been rendered irrelevant altogether? Not according to surveys showing that more than three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, eternal souls, and God. Despite the recent spate of books and pronouncements by prominent atheists, religion remains, along with science, one of the dominant forces that shape our civilization. Our little group of scientists and artists finds itself fascinated with these contrasting beliefs, fascinated with different ways of understanding the world. And fascinated by how science and religion can coexist in our minds. (“Brain Pickings for 15 January 2014”)

And while Lightman and those in his group might see a world in which there is a need for both science and faith, there are those today who would tell you that to be a scientist, or in my case, a chemist precludes one from being able to study and preach the Word of God, just as there are those who feel that one’s presence in the pulpit prevents being in a lab somewhere during the week.

And as a science educator, I have to be concerned about what is transpiring in this world today, when people seek to limit free and independent thought about things both secular and sectarian to the point of being forbidden. This limits what we can do, what we can envision and where we might go.

The title of this message comes from a term often used in fine arts and music classes. A master class is one in which a recognized expert comes and teaches something a topic that everyone knows but in greater depth and detail that normally covered. It is designed to take you beyond where you are and to where you can be.

If as it is written in Genesis, we are created in God’s image, how can I not ask questions? Am I, as some would have me to do, to blindly accept something as the truth when other information tells me otherwise?

What I find interesting is that I have learned more about the Bible, Christianity, Methodism, and my own personal faith in the past few years than I learned in the two years I devoted to earning the God and Country Award and becoming a member of this church. But if I were to accept the notion that such knowledge was fixed, I would not have learned anything. And where would I be on this journey that began almost fifty years ago?

You may disagree with me on this point but telling me that I cannot pursue this information just makes me want to find out what it is you don’t want me to know. And I am fully aware that in some translations of the Bible, it was eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and destroyed their relationship with God. In looking for and finding Christ, we have the opportunity to restore our relationship with God.

I know that when I began my journeys in both the secular and sectarian worlds I probably accepted the notion that the world was created in six days as described in the opening verses of Genesis. But somewhere along the line, I began to ask questions, questions that the Book of Genesis could not answer directly, questions that many people do not want answered or even asked today.

Asking questions about the Book of Genesis or any of the material in the Bible does not necessarily mean that one is questioning their faith. It means that one is trying to understand what their faith means. If I am not driven to seek more knowledge, of what value is my life? What have I learned if I do not know who God is and what He means to me?

The British philosopher and writer Alan Watts wrote a book in 1966 entitled, interestingly enough, “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. In a sentiment that Alan Lightman (physicist and holder of a joint appointment in physics and the humanities at MIT) would come to echo more than half a century later in his remarkable meditation on science and what faith really means (and which I have expressed on numerous occassions before), Watts adds:

Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness – an act of trust in the unknown. … No considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency. (“Brain Pickings for 2 February 2014”)

For me, Watts is not saying that because I have studied chemistry that I must abandon God nor because I believe in God and accepted Christ as my own personal Savior that I should ignore chemistry and its scientific foundations but rather that I should use the one to find the other.

But today’s so-called experts don’t do that; they tell you to accept what they tell you as fact and irrefutable. But basis for their knowledge is often limited and incomplete and any challenge to their authority brings ridicule and scorn.

The roots of today’s debate go back almost four hundred years. Each one of us was probably taught that the church did not want Galileo to publicize his ideas about the nature of the universe. But it was not the church, per se, that sought to limit Galileo or the work of Copernicus and Kepler; rather it was individuals within the academic establishment that had based its power and authority on the Aristotlean view that Galileo’s observations challenged.

They were opposed to these new ideas because their reputation, status, and power were built on maintaining the Aristotelian view of an earth-centered universe. The church was brought into the argument because the academic establishment convinced members of the church establishment that the changes proposed by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo would harm the church and threaten their status, reputation, and power as well. (From “The Changing of Seasons”; I believe my original source was The Galileo Connection by Charles E. Hummel)

What I fear, perhaps more than anything else in this world, is this same sort of world today. A world where those whose power and status are maintained in a closed environment, a world in which we cannot find the answers to our questions, a world in which we say to seekers and those on a journey that this is the answer and no questions are allowed in either the secular or sectarian world.

Were Paul’s words to the Corinthians an encouragement to seek new wisdom? Were Paul’s words not an indictment of those in power who sought to limit such new wisdom?

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is.

Paul makes this point –– those who crucified Jesus were blind to the message that Jesus gave. They were so fixed on what they had at that moment that they could not see what lie before them.

If we are trapped in the moment that we call today, how can we move beyond the boundaries of that thought. As I read the words from Isaiah for today, I could not help but think about how those words, writen over three thousand years ago, still have meaning today and how we haven’t learned much in that time.

We are still so much more interested in our own well-being that we are others. Our greed and ignorance take precedence over caring for others and making sure that all have a chance. Isaiah makes the point, I believe, that when we are are more concerned with what we have and we ignore the plight and circumstances of others, we cannot expect much in reward.

Even Isaiah points out that when you do God’s work, you begin to shine as a light that shows the truth and the future. Those who find protection in the Law often times find themselves trapped in it.

Are we to be blind to what transpired in the Galilee some 2000 years ago? Are we to ignore the words that were spoken, the actions were taken as Jesus and His followers walked those roads? Would not asking those questions make us more like those who crucified Jesus?

What is that Jesus said to the people in our Gospel reading for today? We are to be the light of the world. Does that not mean that we show others what we have found and help them to find it themselves?

Jesus points out that He came not to fulfill the Law but to go beyond it. Those who would seek to limit what we know want the Law to constrain and prevent, to keep people where they are and not where they can be.

The lesson from the Master is very simple; if we impose boundaries on others, we will find ourselves limited. If our focus is on ourselves, we will find ourselves trapped. Our journey will be over because we can go nowhere.

But if we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, if we open our hearts, our minds, and our souls to Christ, we will find something beyond the horizon. There will be meaning and purpose to our lives, meaning and purpose that we cannot find any other way. That is the lesson to be taught, that is the lesson to be learned, and that is the lesson to be shared.

What Is Our Focus?


I was at Dover Plains UMC this past Sunday (Location of church) this morning.  The Scriptures for this Sunday, 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, are Isaiah 58: 1 – 9, 1 Corinthians 2: 1 – 12, and Matthew 5: 13 – 20.

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In 1966, following their 51 – 0 loss to the University of Notre Dame, John McKay, the coach of the University of Southern California football team told his team “that it didn’t really matter. There are 750 million people in China who don’t even know that this game was played. The next day, a guy called me from China and asked, ‘What happened, Coach?’’’

A few months later, the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in what was billed as the “NFL – AFL World Championship Game.” The term “Super Bowl” didn’t get attached to the game until the 1970 game, when the Chiefs met the Minnesota Vikings and beat them. And while Super Bowls are a virtual sell-out once the game site is announced, there were plenty of empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum for that first championship game. By the way, tickets for that game costs upwards of $12.00; that might get you a parking place at today’s game.

Interestingly enough, there are no video tapes of that first game as the tapes were reused because no one thought that the game would have the status that it does today. Clearly, that didn’t happen. The game is no longer just a game between league champions on a Sunday afternoon; it has evolved into a multi-hour spectacular with companies spending millions and millions of dollars for a few moments of advertising time (even when research suggests that the return for that moment is miniscule at best). Half-time at a Super Bowl has taken on a life of its own, with entertainment superstars vying for the right to headline the half-time.

Today’s Super Bowl game will be broadcast to practically every country on the globe that has a radio or television station and probably in most of the languages that people speak. It will almost certainly be broadcast on the Armed Forces radio and television networks so that serviceman abroad can have a taste of home. But it will also be broadcast to countries where football is played by kicking a round ball; it will almost certainly be viewed as curiosity to many of those viewers.

I have nothing against football but I no longer care about professional football. I have, on occasion, noted that the most common words uttered by a football official at an elementary, junior-high or high school game is “this isn’t Sunday, coach.” Too many coaches spend all their time watching the professional games in hopes of finding a play that will bring their team success instead of focusing on the fundamentals of the game.

Against the backdrop of glitz and hype and the possibility that a football game might be played, some youth will gather cans of soup in the “Souper Bowl of Caring.” Last year, some 14,000 organizations collected over $10 million through this organization (see www.souperbowl.org). I am appreciative of the fact that the Dover Church has decided to participate in this project this year.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t have the Super Bowl; I am just saying that the focus, the effort, and the energy that is put into it all are in stark contrast to what else is happening in this country. Our focus is on a game when it should be on the problems of this country.

How much more could be done if all the money and energy that were put into producing the Super Bowl were directed towards the problems of hunger, homelessness, and health care in this country? How ironic that Isaiah’s words, written some three thousand years ago, are that the bottom line is profit. How ironic that we are spending so much money on a game that has turned into a business.

This is not one of those statements that so dominated our society in the first years of the game where we would say, “well, if we can put a man on the moon, we can do such and such!” This is a statement about where our focus as a society, as a culture, as individual beings lies.

When we say something like if we can go to the moon, we can solve other problems, we make it easy to ignore the problem or think that sufficient funds could resolve the problem. But you cannot cure the problem by simply giving those without food or shelter or clothing food to feed them, shelter to house them, and clothing so that they will be warm.

You have to change the attitudes and mindsets of people who are more interested in the football game than the condition of their fellow human beings. We are reminded of the ancient proverb that states that when you give someone a fish, you feed them for the moment but when you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.

It is one thing to say that we are a Christian nation. It would be an entirely different thing if we lived as if we were Christians. Go back and read the passage from Isaiah again; how ironic that words written some three thousand years ago can speak so loudly in the 21st century.

God, through Isaiah, called the people’s bluff; He pointed out that their attempts at fasting were charades. The people of Israel were absolutely convinced that if they said the right words and acted appropriately in the temple, then God would find favor with them. But such acts are hypocrisy when the world outside the temple walls doesn’t change.

What did God want from the people of Israel? What does God want from each one of us today? Share your food, invite the homeless into your house, put clothes on the ill-clad, and be available to your own families. Break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed and cancel debts. Those were the words of God three thousand years ago; do we not think that those are His same words today?

Ah, do we not think? You can almost hear Paul writing to the Corinthians about the new wisdom found through Christ. Didn’t Paul point out that the message of Christ is still true today while the words and thoughts of experts disappear over the years? Didn’t Christ point out that God’s words will last long after the stars burn out and the earth wears away?

Again, we hear Paul pointed out the fallacy of the so-called experts being able to offer a solution. Isn’t the current mantra of society to cut government spending and things will get better? Aren’t there those who espouse that attitude also telling you that spending money of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and bringing healthcare to the sick is some sort of socialism? I agree that our government is spending far too much money but I think that the areas that need to be examined are in what we might as well call the military-industrial complex.

Listen to the experts who will tell you that the poor get more than they deserve and that many stay on unemployment because they make more money that way. Since what one receives in unemployment benefits is based upon what one earned, I don’t see how that logic prevails. I can only imagine what Paul would say today in response to what the experts in society and in the church are saying today.

But, there is that light. It was a light that began to shine when Isaiah wrote his words. It was a light that became brighter when Jesus spoke to the multitudes and offering not only a vision of hope but a means of achieving that hope. It was a light than began to get much brighter when the message was carried by Paul and the disciples to lands beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Israel.

It is a light that begins to burn bright when a small church sends messages to soldiers overseas to let them know that they haven’t been forgotten. It is a light that begins to shine brighter when a small church takes part in a nationwide gathering to remind us what our focus should be.

When the light is burning bright, it is hard to not focus on it. As Paul also wrote, your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not what others would have you to do. If you have allowed the Spirit to be a part of life, it will shine through all that you do.

Our society, our culture has focused too long on the superficial. We put great stock in what happens in the moment called now. We tend to ignore or not even care what might happen tomorrow. The words of Isaiah, the words of Paul, and the words of Christ all call us to shift, to not focus on the superficial or the self but to focus on all the people.

It begins when we take that first step of opening our hearts to Christ and then allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives. It begins at the table that was set for us that one night in the Upper Room some two thousand years ago. It begins that night when the authorities tried to extinguish the light that shone through Christ. We have the opportunity to change the world, small and remote though we may be. We have that opportunity because it was given to us at that supper in the Upper Room. We have allowed our focus to shift from that time and place. We have that opportunity to regain that focus.

My friends, what is our focus this day.