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

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE BLESSED HOLY TRINITY!

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:

THE FORGOTTEN SIN

I

          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.

II

          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

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH……  

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

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LORD WHO FULFILLS ALL HIS PROMISES TO US!

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:

IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?

I

          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.” 

II

          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

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….. 

Pastor Thomas Fox