July 26, 2022: 10th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray:  Dear Savior, today we ask that you inscribe in our minds the importance of the 2nd commandment.  Teach us to use Your name wisely in a way which always honors and uplifts You.  Yes, teach us the importance of what it really means to be holy.  Amen


TEXT:  Exodus 20: 7: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          Chip, chip, chip.  Sculptors slowly chip away at marble, reducing most of it to forgotten rubble in order to reveal the beauty of the statue inside.  Chip, chip, chip.  The rain and wind eat away at that work of art and slowly but surely reduce it to nothingness.   My friends, this is exactly what is happening today when it comes to God’s holy name.  To the ancient people of Israel, God’s most holy name, His special name: Jahweh, or Lord, was considered too holy for them to even say out loud.  But today, what has happened?  “God” or “Jesus Christ” gets tossed around in conversation as a throw away line.  People have tried to strip it of its holiness and the special awe it should evoke.  It’s all so sad.  Moreover, if you look closely at the words of the 2nd commandment, it’s also dangerous for those people to do.  For note well that God says: “I will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses My name.” 

          With those thoughts in mind, today I want to talk to each of you about:



          When Dr. Luther compiled the catechism, specifically the 10 commandment section of it, he drew from this passage out of Exodus and others that relate to it.  Thus, we have all learned it this way: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”  Following that he provides us with this explanation: “We should fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice witchcraft, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

          Why did God pick the order He used when giving us the commandments?  Obviously all of them are important, but one logically follows the other.  Thus, although the 1st commandment is all-important, the 2nd one is directly tied to it.  It is not to be overlooked, or forgotten.

          First off, God’s name is special.  It identifies Him to us.  Although the ancient Hebrews had various synonyms for God, the one that especially stands out is: Jahweh.  It means: The God Who Is.  He has being.  He has existence.  All time is wrapped up in Him.  In Him there is no past or future, only present reality.  This reveals that in Him infinity is contained.  Moreover, since God’s Son is true God, infinity is contained in His very flesh.  Or as St. Paul points out in our epistle from Colossians: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.”  Also, remember that passage: “God is love.”  And God reveals His infinite love for us in Jesus Who came to take away our sins by dying on the cross for all our sins, including all those we conveniently forget….

          Because of this, God wants us to use His name wisely to proclaim His love and to honor Him for His sacrifice in saving us.  Or, as Luther points out, use it to “pray, praise, and give thanks.”  Conversely, He doesn’t want us to misuse His name by employing it via cursing, or asking God to send evil upon another; or swearing, or using it to give weight to our own words which may or may not be truthful.  Likewise, we should not dabble with evil via supernatural witchcraft which puts Satan on par with the Almighty; and we should not make use of God’s good name by trying to hide our hypocrisy behind it.  In short, be careful to use God’s good name wisely in a positive fashion.


          Most of us know these things almost instinctively.  However, very often you hear people say things which show they have given themselves over to this forgotten sin.  That is, in daily speech they stud their words by throwing in: “God” or “Oh, my God” or even the occasional “Jesus Christ!”  From context, it’s obvious they are not using God’s name to pray, praise, or give thanks.  Instead, they just thoughtlessly hurl it out there.  I tell my confirmation kids, “How would you feel if the kids at school used your name in that fashion? How would you feel if they said: “Sally, it’s hot outside today.”  Or, “O my Mark, that test was hard!”?  Obviously you wouldn’t feel too good about it.  It would be very disrespectful of you.  Well, so it is with God.

          So, what do you, as a Christian, do when people thoughtlessly throw God’s name around at work?  Yes, you can ignore it.  But mindful of God’s injunction to not hold such folks guiltless, is that really “loving your neighbor?”  Better to watch your own language and also come up with a nice stock response such as: “Please don’t disrespect my Lord that way, I’m a Christian.”  Or, if they need to think a bit, ask them: “Are you praying right now?”  After they give you a blank stare, say: “Well, you were using God’s name out loud, so I thought you must be praying.” 

          I’ve noticed that many Christians also fall into the trap of the forgotten sin.  These same people wouldn’t dream of having an affair, or stealing something, but they, too, often use “God” or “Jesus” as a throw away line.  After all, everyone else does it. It is just so commonplace, isn’t it?  But as people specially blest by the Almighty, is that really how we should use His name?  Would we do the same thing with our wife’s name, or parent’s name, or our children’s name?

          One last item to remember when dealing with the Forgotten Sin; that is, the special name by which we know God also points us to Christ.  When we hear the word: God, as believers we think immediately of Jesus.  We think of His love for us.  We think of His forgiveness won for us.  We think of eternal life, or of resting safely in His arms.  Remember also, to think about how He suffered our guilt for breaking this forgotten commandment.  In fact, never forget about Him suffering so that you wouldn’t have to eternally.  And then be comforted with His words: “Never will I leave nor forsake you!”  Yes, always praise His holy name!—The reasons for doing so are truly infinite!    Amen


Pastor Thomas Fox

July 17, 2022: 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, we know that as the King of all creation, You can do anything.  We also know that as our loving Savior, You have done the seemingly impossible in taking on our flesh and both living and dying to save our souls.  So today we ask You to exercise Your power in our lives in all those “little areas” that loom so large on our consciousness.  Listen to our prayers for help each day and act on them with our very best interest at heart.  And cause us to trust that You are and will do this every single moment of our lives.  Amen


TEXT:  Genesis 18: 1-14

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          Have you ever laughed at God?  Have you ever listened to the prayers in church and inwardly laughed at some of the specific things asked for?  Have you ever thought: God is too big to care, too busy to act, too far-removed from the details of our lives to get involved?  Well, if you have, you’re in good company!  For in the book of Genesis we see both Abraham and Sarah, his wife, laughing at God.—Abraham in chapter 17 and Sarah here in chapter 18.  And the reason they laugh at God inwardly is that in both cases He has promised to fulfill His long-standing pledge to give them a legitimate heir, a child, a natural born son.  Both of these Christians laugh because it seems just too hard, too difficult, to be true.  After all, Abraham is approaching 100 and Sarah is almost 90 years old!  And yet, yet, God does the seemingly impossible, doesn’t He?   And this begs the question in our own lives:



          What’s included on your prayer list?  What items do you specifically ask the Lord for?  Job improvement?  More money?  Kids who behave?  Extended families who get along and don’t always fight each other?  Do you ask Him to alleviate your cancer, heart condition, or get you through a dehabilitating disease?  And just because you haven’t recognized immediate improvement in any of those areas, have you concluded: 1. God doesn’t care. 2. He’s too busy.  Or, 3. It’s just too much to ask for?  Put more succinctly, Is our God far-removed from daily life, or is He up close and personal?  Do you turn to Him only when things get out-of-hand in your life, or do you share everything with Him because you view Him as your Best Friend?  Do you laugh at those who really believe God changes the course of human history to protect and preserve one single Christian—as one person I knew many years ago laughed at that notion?  Or, do you really believe that He cares that much for you?  Well, let’s examine our lesson and see how it answers all these questions.

          Abraham was almost 100 years old.  Sarah, his wife, as about 90.  For over 26 years they have been waiting for God to fulfill His promise to send them a natural son, an heir, through which God would also, someday, provide the Messiah and thus save their souls.  In human terms they were old, worn out, and just waiting out life.  They knew of God’s goodness and compassion.  They had experienced it first-hand.  Think of how God had called them out of the Babylon area, had them pull up stakes and go to the Holy Land.  Think of how God had given them tremendous wealth.  Think of how God had even appeared to them at various times over the years and talked to them.  You’d think they would never laugh at anything God said.  And yet, age had dimmed their trust a bit.  Unfortunately, life had taken the edge off their faith and they succumbed to the human fiction that some things are just too hard for the Lord to do.

          And then, one day, the Lord appears to Abraham.  The Angel of the Lord, pre-incarnate Christ comes to him with two angel escorts.  Does Abraham immediately recognize the Lord?  Well, the English text seems to say so (he calls him: Lord), but the original Hebrew text is a bit more ambiguous.  For “lord” is often used much like “sir” in Hebrew.  So, perhaps Abraham was just being polite in his greeting.  However, it soon becomes apparent just Who this Visitor is due to His message and knowledge of their situation.  Likewise, in chapter 19 of Genesis we see these same two angels going on to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family for that den of moral poison.  So, right here, the Lord acts, He intrudes into human history to help His faithful!

          After Abraham personally oversees a meal preparation, this retinue asks specifically about Sarah.  “Where is your wife Sarah?”  Then the Lord (Christ) said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”  You can imagine Abraham snapping to attention upon hearing this!  Thoughts of: how? and  what? Must have crossed his mind.  Meanwhile Sarah is outside the tent listening.  She also had some inner thoughts which the commentator Leupold aptly translates this way: “So Sarah laughed to herself and said (this is going to happen now?) ‘After I have become worn out, have I enjoyed sexual delight and my lord  too  is an old man?”  Post-menopausal Sarah recognizes that humanly speaking sex and procreation and a son is not in the cards.  She’s incredulous.  But, the Lord shows His omniscience and then adds: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” 


          Well, the rest is history.  God kept His Word.  He delivered on His promise because nothing is too hard for the Lord!  And because of all this Abraham and Sarah were saved.  A nation of believers was spawned and grew into what we know of as the Holy Christian Church.  For from Isaac (remember his name means “Laughter”) ultimately came the Messiah.  Yes, the Angel of the Lord eventually was born from this line of Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and on down to both Joseph and Mary.   Think about that.  Right here the pre-incarnate Christ has His own suffering and death and resurrection in mind to save us when He speaks to Abraham and promises this son!  As St. Paul says today in our Epistle from Colossians: “…the word of  God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.”

          You and I are those saints.  And this mystery of: how can this happen? Has been disclosed to us through a manger and a cross and an empty tomb.  Think of the depth of God’s love shown therein and then ask yourself: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  The only answer there is, is: Obviously NOT!

          So, as you talk to God and ponder the ageless truths of His Word, don’t be afraid to be bold in your prayers.  Don’t grow weary and set your own timetable for Him to follow.  Don’t succumb to laughter, the human, mocking kind, when it comes to God.  Instead, laugh for joy that God can do anything and has!—Both to save your soul and make your life blest!  Amen


Pastor Thomas Fox

July 10, 2022: 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we examine our own lives against the magnifying glass of Your Word we see our inner hypocrisy revealed.  Although we say we love You with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, in reality our love has more downs than we care to remember.  And although we say we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, in reality we all practice “selective love” when it is convenient.  Today we ask that You break us out of our shell!  Empower us to be honest and compassionate people to all.  For that truly is the best way to let our light shine.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 10: 25-37

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          What is your thought process as you go about being a good neighbor?  Let me give you an example in mine.  About every 6 or 7 years I have to tackle a not-so-fun job.  Our bell just outside the front door of the church is a huge temptation to the neighborhood children.  Once they discover it, they sneak up to the entrance, ring it, and run.  It doesn’t hurt anything or anyone.  But I’m concerned things might get a bit out of hand.  So every 6 or 7 years, when a new crop of kids grows into that age of bell-ringing madness, I have to deal with them.  Usually, once I discover who they are, I approach them and say: “Kids, if you really want to learn how to ring our bell, come to church some Sunday morning and I’ll show you how to do it right.”  That takes the fun out of their prank and to this day none of them has ever taken me up on my offer!  I have adopted this approach because being a good neighbor is going directly to the source—plus, it works.

          Adults live in fear of children today in America.   We worry that if we say or do something about an out-of-control child we’ll be tongue lashed by overly protective parents, or sued, or worse.  This is a natural outgrowth of a nation which is sue-happy and in which no one ever wants to admit their foibles or take responsibility for them.  Also, in our cell-phone age, it’s easier to just make a call and let somebody deal with the problem, isn’t it? 

          True neighborliness is a forgotten thing, isn’t it?  In our urban/suburban/move every seven years culture people don’t know their neighbors and even live in fear of them.  We fail to act when problems  occur because of our fears, too.  And in this we’re all a lot like the priest and Levite in our lesson who fearfully shielded their eyes and “passed by on the other side” of the road.  And so today I want to talk to you about this little lesson which might well be:



          On a superficial level everyone likes the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We like the idea of people caring for others and putting themselves out for strangers because one day we might well be on the receiving line of such compassion.  Likewise, we enjoy patting ourselves on the back when we engage in a neighborly act such as: looking after a person’s house when they are away, calling in an accident, or taking a sick neighbor to a doctor’s appointment.  In such cases, we didn’t “pass by on the other side.”  We put ourselves out a bit and it felt good.

          But, on a deeper level, this parable is disquieting.  That’s because all too often we’ve all acted exactly like the priest and the Levite, ignored those in need around us, and passed by on the other side.  Like them, we view neighborliness as something confined to those we know and not to those who are strangers.  This fear of the unknown, coupled with sensational news reports of nasty things done to good Samaritans, often paralyzes us.  I know of a local older man who is afraid to walk his dog around the school next door because someone might report him as some kind of lurking voyeur!  Such stories and more have lead to the popular axiom: No good deed goes unpunished.  Yes, the parable of the Good Samaritan is the most unpopular parable in America today!


          Bearing the Christian cross entails overcoming one’s fears and relying on God in all things.  Think of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  God’s truths dare not be confined to a little religious world walled off from the larger world in which we live in and play in every day.  When Christ summed up the commandments by saying: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind—and love your neighbor as yourself” He meant it!  Those marching orders for the Christian soldier are in effect 24-7. 

          Of course, like the lawyer of our text who sought to justify his actions, we, too, ponder his question: “And who is my neighbor?”  And that’s where the rubber meets the highway of our lives.  I’ve heard many fine Christians express serious concern over this parable in our modern world.  They feel guilty over their fears.  They feel guilty that they didn’t stop to help that stranded motorist, or didn’t say something to that out-of-control parent.  After going through various possibilities—make the cell call, talk to DSS, call the police, etc.—we’re still left with Christ’s words, aren’t we?  When He says: “Go and do likewise” He meant it.  And He practiced what He preached!  God’s Son didn’t pass us by but went out of His way, gave His life on a cross, to save our souls.  He even banked a love-reserve for us to draw on in His absence.  We find that reserve in baptism, communion, and His glorious absolution.

          And yet, yet, we modern humans chaff under this parable because it means personal involvement.  It means getting your hands dirty with another’s problems.  It often means sweat and tears and emotional upheaval.  My friends, don’t dwell on all that “bad” stuff—let the media do it!  Instead, dwell on the thought that by getting involved, this Samaritan made a friend for life.  He made a difference.  And as Christ proved: Kindness really does cover a multitude of sins.  You have the ability, by God’s grace, to make this world a little better, one person at a time.  So, take back your neighborhood, take back your nation, by showing kindness to all people.  It’s o.k. to “be wise as serpents” in this world.  But don’t forget the second half of that verse which says: “Be gentle as doves” too.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

July 3, 2022: 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we live in a land where we are free to worship You and free to make the most of our lives, we pay a heavy price for that freedom.  In the kingdom of this world we pay taxes, we sometimes have to defend our land with blood, and we also are burdened with many rules and laws.  Likewise, our conscience is burdened by our guilt over failing to live up to the high standards which You have set for us—the children of light.  Today we thank You for removing that second burden!  Thank You for freeing us from the inner ravages of sin and the inner pain that it brings.  Yes, thank You for paying the price for our eternal freedom with Your blood.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 11: 29-30

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          The American flags are flying.  The tri-colored bunting decorates homes and businesses.  The snap, crackle, boom of fireworks echoes throughout the neighborhoods at night.  It’s the 4th of July weekend! 

          Tomorrow in Boston from the old State House the Declaration of Independence will be read publicly.  Speeches will be given about that old rallying cry: “No taxation without representation.”  Yes, this weekend we celebrate our freedom.  And yet, we all know that freedom in this world comes with a cost.  It’s not cheap, either.  Think of all the soldiers who have died to make you free.  Think of the taxes you pay to insure your citizenship.  Think of all the rules and regulations that you still live under to help make society work.  Yes, our freedom is not free—it comes with a burden, a responsibility, a price.  And that price is ongoing.

          Perhaps that is why today’s familiar text is so refreshing and uplifting.  For although the cost of our earthly freedoms is ongoing—over 40% of your income goes to the government to make it continue–the cost of our heavenly freedom is paid in full.  Christ did that on the cross when God’s Son died for you and me.  So, why live in guilt over past sins?  Why continue to carry the burden of your failures to obey every commandment perfectly?  Why live in second-guessing and worry over your heavenly future?  Yes, Christ has marked our bill to God: “paid in full!”  Yes,



          As Christians we all know that we live in two distinct kingdoms that occasionally over-lap.  They are the kingdom of the world, and God’s kingdom of grace—of His undeserved love for us in Christ.  So, what do you want out of your life in this world?  What are your ultimate goals and aspirations?  Isn’t it to live in freedom?  Isn’t it to be safe, raise your family without government intrusion, and reap the rest of a peace-filled life? 

          All of us want rest for our bodies.  We crave it.  Most of you spent long hours at work this past week just to make sure that nothing would get in the way of our long holiday weekend.  And yet, even now burdens are inserting themselves into our happiness.  The police are out in force, causing you to worry about a ticket.  Piled up work awaits your return to the office on Tuesday.  The tax man continues to take his chunk out of your paycheck.  And American soldiers around the world continue to die so that we can continue to live safely in our land.  Yes, true freedom is never free on this earth.  Someone, ultimately each of us, has to pay the bill.


          Because of all this, it is only natural that we Christians transfer that attitude of burden and responsibility for our souls unto our own shoulders, too.  More often than not we live under the burden of God’s Law.  That is, we examine our hearts, see our short-comings, and think that somehow God expects His “pound of flesh” from us, as well.  My friends, that attitude is turned upside down by today’s lesson!  For in this little lesson we see that in God’s Kingdom The Tax Collector Has Paid Your Bill!

          Listen again to Jesus’ wonderful invitation.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

          The burden Christ is referring to here is the heavy weight of God’s Law.  It is carrying around your guilty conscience.  It is the thought that you must do something and do enough to make God happy over your life.  Of course, you know that that is a fool’s errand.  No less an authority than St. Paul tells us that in today’s epistle when he speaks of his quandary over being a saint and sinner at the same time.  “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

          In moments of introspection and total honesty, each of you finds an echo of those words in your own heart.  And that burden, that yoke, that heavy weight is crushing.  It leads to frustration and uncertainty.  It breeds despair and doubt.  It hurts.

          But, the point of today’s invitation from the Savior is: you don’t have to carry it any longer because He has!  He carried it to the cross.  And He left it there when He died.  For on the cross Jesus paid for every single one of our sins.  Yes, the Ultimate Tax Collector, the Heavenly One, has paid your bill to God in full! 

          So, take up His easy yoke.  Take His light burden of living in His love and grace.  Wear forgiveness for all sins as a badge of honor.  For “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  Yes, thank God we live in His kingdom of undeserved love!

          This weekend we have much to be thankful for.  But, as Christian Americans our chief reason to celebrate is that Christ has made us right with God—free to us—but at great cost to Himself.  Your body may be weary after this long weekend, but your soul doesn’t have to be!  Not if you embrace Christ’s freedom from guilt and shame.  You may find a brief physical rest from this long weekend, but in Christ you have rest for your souls  which will last forever.  And that, my friends, is the real reason to celebrate our independence day!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox