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


When False Rhetoric Sticks: How Do We Flip The Common Presumption Of Faith Vs. Science. – The Catholic Astronomer

As a priest with an assignment of diverse ministries (parish, primary school, jail ministry, and university students), there are ample opportunities to receive and address questions about faith and science from multiple perspectives. What I find fascinating is that, regardless of what ministerial environment the questions are posed, there is a common narrative that often emerges: Faith is against science. Much can be said about how this presumption has come to be the norm. Often times, I find that much of the fuel that feeds this fire doesn’t come from scientists, new atheists, or secular politics. Rather, I find that it is the poor understanding and presentation of biblical creation in a hyper-literalist manner combined with a history of scandals in the Church that has flipped the opinion of many to view Catholicism not as the vessel that pursues truth to a fallen institution that is riddled with scandal and corruption, lacking the needed transparency to foster trust in the … Continue reading →

Source: When False Rhetoric Sticks: How Do We Flip The Common Presumption Of Faith Vs. Science. – The Catholic Astronomer

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

Across the Universe: Redating Easter? – The Catholic Astronomer

This column first ran in The Tablet in January 2016 The archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has recently [2016] announced discussions to redefine the date of Easter. Pope Francis and various leaders of Eastern churches have also expressed interest in a common date that all churches would celebrate together. Easter was originally the Sunday following Passover, the first full moon of the Hebrew year. But the start of the Hebrew year varied from year to year. Jewish months, 29 days long, mirror the phases of the moon, and so every three or four years an extra month is needed to keep that lunar calendar in phase with the seasons. After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, there was no central Jewish authority to determine when to add that month. Instead, Jews of the Diaspora relied on a Greek formula (devised in 432 BC by Meton) to add seven intercalary months over a repeating 19 year cycle. It was … Continue reading →

Source: Across the Universe: Redating Easter? – The Catholic Astronomer

What is the message of Christmas?

What is the message of Christmas?

In 1968 Simon and Garfunkel released a song entitled “7 O’clock News/Silent Night”.  As they were singing “Silent Night”, the news was broadcast in the background, slowly getting louder and eventually became louder than the song.  I don’t know if either Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel commented on the song, but it was clear that the message of Christ’s birth was getting drown out by the news of the world.

Along the same vein, someone might record the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  But the message of Christmas that we might hear will be a similar one, a message of the trouble, the violence, the hatred, the greed and commercialism that seems to dominate the world today.  And what I fear is that for many people, if they hear the message of Christmas at all, this will be the message of Christmas.

Some people, of course, do not hear the message of Christmas but, then again, they are not listening for it.  They have their own faith traditions and stories and Christmas is not a part of that story.  And it would be wrong for those who hear the message of Christmas to expect others to listen, for respect for all people was and should still be part of the message of Christmas.

To hear the message of Christmas, you must, at some point, believe in Christ.  There are those who don’t hear the message because they don’t believe in God, no matter what the faith story may be.  For these individuals, Christmas is merely another name for Saturnalia, a pagan festival at the time of the winter solstice, which the early church co-opted in the name of Christ.

If one studies the history of the early church and the history of Christmas, we know that the story of Christmas did not occur in the darkness of the winter solstice but more likely in the early Spring.  The selection of the time of the winter solstice may have been to distract many people from other celebrations but it was also just as important to not distract from Easter (which is my hypothesis).

But many of those who deny the existence of any god still celebrate Christmas but what message are they hearing?  But while they may not believe in God, Christmas, or what it truly means, they do, I believe, get upset when they do not get their fair share of the presents given out.  Some of these individuals have created their own quasi-Christmas to justify the need for presents, gifts and celebration.  This is a one-day message, a message that has no meaning tomorrow or the day after; there will a new message to take its place.

But the message of Christmas was never about the presents one receives or a measure of one’s worth in terms of presents received.  It is about understanding why presents were given to the baby Jesus in the first place and what those presents foretold for Jesus’ life and later mission to us.

So, what is the message of Christmas?  Sadly, many people today who proclaim themselves to be Christian cannot tell you what that message is.  The message they hear in church is a combination of many distinctly different messages, designed by individuals who either do not want others to learn or do not want to learn themselves.

The message of Christmas given by so many is one that speaks highly of material gain and personal power.

It is a message of convenience, it is a message that echoes the words of Gordon Gecko, that “greed is good”.  It is a message that says Christ’s birth is a triumph of rich over poor and power over weakness.  It is a message that proclaims exclusiveness and hatred, and that only certain people are entitled to the riches and the power that comes from following Christ.  It is a message that say one must and can only say “Merry Christmas” during this season of many holidays and celebrations.  And if you do not accept this message as the one true message, then you must be opposed to Christmas and you must be defeated in this peculiar “war on Christmas.”

To hear the true message of Christmas, we must open our minds as well as our hearts.  We have all grown up and we teach the Bible in such a way as to believe there is one Christmas story when there are two (one in Matthew, where the Magi are the focus) and one in Luke (where we hear of the shepherds).

This is a simple story but as we grow in age, we must also grow in wisdom as well.  We must at some point in our life understand the world into which Jesus was born.  We must understand why it was that the shepherds were first to be told and why the Magi, no matter when they arrived, are also part of the story (I discussed this a few years ago in “A Personal Evolution of Christmas”).

The shepherds were the first to hear the message of Christmas because they were not the rich or powerful.  Rather, the shepherds of Jesus’ day were among the lowest of society.  Their work made them virtual outcasts in society and kept them barred from the Temple.  The religious, political, and economic elite then would never have imagined that the lowest of society would be the first, expect the news of the Messiah to be given to them first (even when the prophecies told otherwise).

The arrival of the Magi (and we really don’t know how many there were; we use three because of the gifts mentioned in Matthew’s story) tells us several things.  For Matthew, the gifts of frankincense and myrrh spoke of Christ’s death to come, for Matthew was writing his Gospel after the fact and not while it was occurring.  That the Magi came was also a statement that the message of Christmas was going to be for the whole world and not just the people of Israel.  I would like to think that Matthew was also making a subtle statement that the message of Christmas was about the mind as much as it was about the heart.

The Magi represented science in its beginning forms and to exclude the search for knowledge would be to limit the message of Christmas.

So, the true message of Christmas is more than a simple story and it is certainly not about power, greed, or exclusiveness.  Rather it is just the opposite of what so many hear.

And when we speak of those who hear the message of Christmas, we must remember that many people do not want to hear a message that speaks in those terms for the darkness of the season only amplifies the pain and loss in their soul.  Messages that speak of personal triumph merely remind many of what they do not have.

The true message of Christmas is one that brings a new light into the world, a light that will grow in time and will encompass the world.  It speaks of hope, at a time when the world needed hope and needs hope today. It is not a message limited to one individual or one group but to all individuals, even if they do not believe or want to believe.  And while there may not be many proclaiming this message, there are a few who do.  And as they tell this message of Christmas to their friends, and lead a life that exemplifies the meaning of the message and the story of Christmas, others will hear it.

And just as the message grew from the back roads of the Galilee through the efforts of the early church, so too will the message grow today.

The true message of Christmas is that in the darkness and despair of the world around us, in a world of hatred and violence, in a world where many are excluded, a child was born.  And with the birth of the Christ Child, a light that can never be extinguished began to shine.  It was and is a light that brings hope and promise to all mankind.