August 8, 2020: 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, right now we all lament that we didn’t appreciate the months of blessings that You showered upon us in the past.  We took them for granted and thought they would just roll along in sameness as before.  All that has changed.  Now we long for just a day to go by without worldwide upset.  Lord, focus our gaze upon You now and forever.  Move us to praise You, now and forever.  And let us realize that we always rest in Your secure embrace through faith.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS IN CHARGE OF EACH OF US

TEXT:  Ephesians 5: 15-20

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Most of us know that when the railroad signal starts the flash and the gates descend, it’s time to stop and wait.  The roaring train hurdling by shortly thereafter is a graphic reinforcement of that decision.  Likewise a tornado siren.  The moments before any  of that occurs would be described in the Greek language  of the NT with the word: Kairos.  As my sainted Greek prof once described it: Kairos doesn’t just mean “time” it means “critical time.”  A time to act and not sit on your hands.  Our text has that word used in it, although here they translate it: ”opportunity.”  That translation casts a positive slant to a negative situation.

          Right now we live in “Kairos” time.  In fact, we have for a while.  But the train feels like it’s bearing down on us, doesn’t it?  Virus variants, shots that just “sort of” work and then lose efficacy, leaders that flounder, food shortages worldwide getting more and more severe, and the whole house of cards funded by printing presses alone, well, you can add your own details. This topsy-turvey world is spinning of our control.  Critical time, indeed!    

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          I’m just like all of you.  I don’t enjoy wearing out my adrenal glands with constant rushes of adrenaline (the fear and flight hormone).  It’s physically and emotionally exhausting.  I just want to preach and teach God’s Word and “pass my time in rest and quietness” as the old prayer says.  But, I don’t control Kairos times, God does. 

          “Be very careful, then, now you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine (or anything else to dull your senses), which leads to debauchery.”

          Is this occurring?  I recently saw a news blurb that liquor sales are at an all-time high!  Are we surprised?  Likewise,  those little booze “nips” are getting hard to find in  places.  I would agree since I find them along the lawn on Rt. 62 each week!  People are looking for escapism.  They are all trying in various ways to run away from their troubles.  It’s sad and it’s scary.  It’s also unwise, akin to running the crossing gates thinking that somehow you’ll beat the train. 

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          None of us can escape life.  None of us can run away and hide from worldwide troubles. Just like none of us can run away from the sin we bring into our lives and God’s judgment upon it.  So, what CAN we do?  “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

          I was pretty little when I first heard this passage read at church.  My initial response was: that sounds kind of boring.  Quote Psalms?  Speak hymn verses?  Quote passages to others?  What about the rest of life?  Doesn’t any of that matter?  Actually, most human speech doesn’t matter, really matter, when you’re facing a Kairos time.  Only God’s truth, God’s wisdom, matters because it feeds the inner soul and is life sustaining.  The real Bread and Water of life is Christ and His Gospel message.  It is knowing those words: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  It is knowing in your inner depths that: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”  It is the truth of the cross and the resurrection.  It is also knowing, because of all this, that when Jesus said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” He was especially thinking of such Kairos times. 

          Complaining and living in fear doesn’t uplift and doesn’t make anything better.  But seeing even small blessings and giving thanks to God for them does.  The Venerable Bede was a monk in Jarrow, England who lived around 700 A.D.  When he was young they had a nasty plague that killed everyone there except he and the abbot.  I think of him having to help bury 100’s of bodies.  That was his Kairos time.  And yet he kept his faith fixed on Christ.  Our Lord got him through it all, too.  And he went on to an illustrious life and penned that famous hymn: “A Hymn of Glory, Let Us Sing, new songs throughout the world shall ring.”  Yes, Jesus will never let us down.  And He won’t let us down either…. Amen

THE peace of God which…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

July 25, 2021: 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray:  Dear Savior,  You have told us that “the truth shall set us free.”  Also, You have said: “My Word is truth.”  So today help us mine the truths contained in Your Holy Word and live according to them so that our lives may be rich, full, and overflowing with Godly freedom.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST GOD’S INCARNATE TRUTH!

TEXT:  Ephesians 4: 11-16

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          It all started with Adam and Eve lying to  God in the Garden of Eden.  It has continued on through the ages.  Lately, it has risen to new heights of hypocrisy.   We used to call it: lying.  Then people called it “fake news.”  Now it is labeled “disinformation.” 

          It’s poignant that in the “information age” of the internet, more lies are being spread than ever before.  But then, maybe not so surprising considering the more sinners communicate the more lies spew forth.  I always remember my 10th grade math teacher, Clem Stramel.  He used to say: “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”  So, what should we believe considering that lies are “half-way around the world before the truth puts its pants on!”?

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          Paul describes God’s purveyors of truth this way: “It was He who gave  some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Since God’s Word is truth and as long as His servants speak it and share it, good things will result. 

          “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.—Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head—that is, Christ.”

          I’ve lived long enough not to accept everything people say at face value.  If I did, my head would explode!  On the news they’re called: talking heads.  First, the scientists   said: “The earth is getting colder.”  They predicted a mini ice age.—That was back in the 1960’s.  By the late 1980’s they said: “The earth is getting warmer” and we’ll all die due to fire and not ice!  Today that view holds sway.  But a growing number of people are starting to talk more about global cooling again, due to their study of sun cycles.  I wonder who will win out, but then, I won’t be around….

          Here’s another one.  Heart disease is a result of plaque build up in the veins and arteries due to higher cholesterol.  This still holds sway in western medicine.  But new research shows that it is inflammation in the body which causes plaque and leads to heart disease.  Lower your inflammation via diet and lifestyle  and you’ll live longer. Tom Brady would follow this train of thought.  I recall when butter was considered a death sentence and margarine was like manna from heaven.  Now that is reversed!  Yes, everyone has an opinion about everything!  And they shift like a feckless wind.

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          When it comes to our eternal soul, we don’t want to be on the wrong side of truth.  That’s why we always need to put its central truth to the test.  That truth is this: God loves us and sent His Son Jesus to save us via His death and resurrection in our place.  Our salvation isn’t dependent upon us, and our efforts to make ourselves right with God, but upon perfect, holy Jesus.  It’s called: grace.  And it isn’t only about how to live this next year or even decade, but is timeless and eternal.  Grace never changes, even if people disregard it.  That’s also why we need to share it, speak it, and live under the umbrella of its life-changing power.  Or, as Paul now says it: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him, who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

          Our bodies are made of atoms, which comprise molecules, which comprise organs and tissue, all of which support each other.  They are inter-related and inter-locking.  So is the Christian Church, Christ’s body here on earth.   And according to Paul, love, speaking the truth about all this, in love, is what enlarges and enriches the whole body.  In God’s Word Christ calls Himself the Bread of life.  God’s Gospel, the message of Christ’s love, is the water of life. Both combine to give us  eternal life.  That’s His truth not just mine.  So we obviously all need to feast on both a lot more often, don’t we?  Amen THE peace of God which….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

July 18, 2021: 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for coming and saving us.  Thank You for assuming our flesh into Yours and thus linking us to God.  For in the  process You’ve made us part of the most powerful, most glorious assembly in the universe—Your Holy Christian Church.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE HAVE UNITY IN SPIRIT AND ARE BOUND TOGETHER IN PEACE!

TEXT: Eph. 2: 13-22

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          How DID the New Testament Christian Church survive?  It started in a backwater country called Israel.  One obscure Man with a messiah complex gathered a few followers, did some supposed miracles, preached for 3 years and then the Romans crucified Him.  After that there were rumors about him coming back from the dead, but the Romans couldn’t verify it.  Then some of those disciples tried to spread his message of forgiving love across the empire.   They had little or no money.  No political clout.  They were imprisoned, beaten, and even put to death.  Yet within a lifetime Christians existed in every part of the known world.   How did this happen?  The Romans always sought to divide and conquer.  But these people stuck together like glue!  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

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          Unlike all other human relationships, Christianity is between God and human beings.  It has a divine origin and divine unity.  It links us with God. How?  “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”   It takes a very special person to admit when they’re wrong.  We hate swallowing our pride, which is bitter.—That should tell us something since it comes from inside us!  And so hostility is the usual result of people interacting and sharing their views about everything.  Think of our polarized society and how people shout others down today.  This is why America is ridden by strife and disunity.

          But not so when it comes the believers in Christ!  Why?  “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one (humanity and divinity were united together in Him at Christmas) and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law (God’s moral code) with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

          Selfish pride is born of sin.  Sin creates hostility—between people and between people and God.  We always think we’re right—even if God’s laws disagree with our view.  This, in turn, leads to violence and even death.  Truth is always right.  God, Who is Truth, is always right.  Swallowing our pride and admitting it is hard.  On our own we fail to perfectly do so.  This is the birth-parent of hostility.  It’s why when the world ends, the last Man standing is Jesus Christ!  For He conquered hostility between God and man by suffering death for us and then by rising to life—eternal.  Yes, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.

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          This truth is the most life-altering message in the universe! It is the most amazing Truth there is!  And this Truth sets souls free from pride and hostility and unites us with God.  Yes, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away (Gentiles) and peace to those who were near “Jews.” For through him we both have access to the Father by one  Spirit.”

          Remember the old dictum: “United we stand divided we fall”?  Christ is a Unifier.  When we believe in Him nothing else matters.  Not sickness, not money, not social status, not death.  This is why the early church grew and still survives and always will.  It survives, we survive, because Christ survives via His resurrection. 

          “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (the bible) with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

          As you walk out the door into this ravaged world, resolve to show and also tell them what real unity looks  like—and why….Amen THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox