August 14, 2022: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, what a tremendous comfort it is to know that You are the Author and Perfecter of our faith!  When we are weak and fearful and look inward for strength—finding none, it doesn’t matter, for You are there to give us Your strength and Your perfection!  You are there to link us to the Godhead and provide us with the certainty that nothing can tear us away from God’s loving grasp.  O, the joy and comfort You bring!  Amen


TEXT:  Hebrews 12: 1-3

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          If you travel through Dublin, NH you’ll see it.  “Yankee Magazine” has its headquarters there right on Rt. 101.  And as you pass by you’ll see a blackboard affixed to the building.  It has town news written upon it.  It’s a quaint way of keeping the townsfolk informed of local doings. Today most use the internet for similar purposes.  But, 100 years ago they had another way of spreading breaking news quickly.  It was the town crier.  You don’t know what the town crier was?  Let me inform you.  It was a person (usually with leather lungs) that would shout out news to the people.  And he usually began his newsbrief with the familiar words: “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”  

          All of you know the gospel.  That is, the good news about how Jesus has saved our souls.  Indeed, we hear it so often in church that sometimes I think we fail to really take it to heart and apply its richness to our lives.  To counteract that I’m going to act the part of a town crier, a church crier, right now by telling you:



          Some of you who are prone to poison ivy reactions worry about its prevalence upon the church property.  More than once during the clean-ups you’ve come to me and pointed it out.  And my response to your worry is to get out my trusty “Brush Be Gone”, douse the offending plant, and in a few days it’s dead and gone.  Well, the gospel is kind of like brush killer in that when we douse our lives with it, worry beats a fast retreat!  I say this because worry equals fear.  It’s born of the same cloth.  It paralyzes us and even eats away at our faith.  In fact, worry is really the absence of faith, isn’t it?  The old Jamaican tune: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” says it all.  When you’re filled with worry, happiness is elusive.  So, a worry-filled Christian is sad and depressed.  A worry-filled Christian takes the weight of the world on their shoulders and soon is crushed by it.  God doesn’t want that, so: Hear ye! Hear ye!  Worry Be Gone!  Do you think that’s impossible?  Well, remember that: “With God all things are possible.”  Specifically with the gospel all things are possible.

          After outlining in chapter 11 of Hebrews a catalogue of OT heroes of faith who by God’s grace triumphed over worry and fear and died in the glory of resurrection, the author of Hebrews goes on to say this: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, (note the present reality of these witnesses as they still live on in glory) let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” 

Literally in the Greek language that means we must avoid pitfalls that will trip us up while at the same time fight our way out of the snares that Satan tries to throw around us while running toward heaven.   So, what pitfalls has the devil laid before you?—Certain temptations such as lust or greed or envy that you find hard to resist?  Has he hurled at you snares of financial worries and through them doubts about your future?  Have these worries robbed you of your joy and taken away your happiness?  And what’s the way out?  How can you live in the “rest and quietness” we so pray for in the collect for peace?


Of course, the answer is also provided in our lesson.  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Folks, right there we’re told to: Focus on the Gospel and when we do: Worry Be Gone!  Think of what those beautiful words really mean?  Think of the Godly power that lies behind them and causes them to banish worry?  Christ is not only the author, or the One who wrote the book about faith and has given you that book; He is also the perfecter of faith, or the One who has taken your test of faith for you and scored 100%!  He did that on the cross.  He didn’t run away from it.  He embraced all your worries and fears.  He took them on His shoulders.  And when He died, they died.  And then He arose to life, a new life hallmarked by zero tolerance for fear.  And His life is now your life through His gift of faith!

It’s kind of like this:  Suppose you are facing a very hard test which you haven’t studied for and know you’ll flunk.  The test demands 100% accuracy.  If you miss even one question, you’ll fail.  Talk about worry!  Especially if your life hangs in the balance!  But suppose you could pick one person, a life-line, who would take the test for you?  Who would you pick?  Well, I’d pick the person who wrote the test in the first place because that individual would know all the correct answers.  Well, that’s what our lesson is telling us when it says that Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith.  He wrote the book about life (He’s the Creator and Savior) and He has taken our test of life and now lives to tell about it!  He scored 100% and by His gift of faith gives You His perfection!  You’re free from worry!  Free from fear!  Nothing can truly harm you everlastingly!

At this point I want to repeat our theme: Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Worry Be Gone!  That’s the blessing that is yours through the gospel!  So, as you continue to run your life’s race, keep this foremost in your mind.  Yes, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart!”  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox      

July 31, 2022: 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  too often we get so caught up in living the life we humans have created for ourselves that we forget to live the life You have given to us.  Too often we define happiness and contentment in terms of money, property and goods instead of inner peace, appreciation, and a carefree trust in You.  Today teach us anew to reorder our priorities so as to get the most out of this gift of life that You have bestowed.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 12: 13-21

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          I’ve probably made 400 to 500 hundred hospital calls during my ministry.  Some were “good news” calls in that the person lying in the bed was recovering from successful surgery and together we thanked the Lord for it in prayer.  Some were the joyous calls that stem from a new born baby, full of promise and hope.  But others were what I term “hard calls.”  That is, the member lying there was sick and facing death without much hope of ever going home.  A few of those hard calls stick out in my mind.  After preparing that person to meet their Lord and asking Him to get them through the portal of death into glory, eventually I had to leave.  Walking down hospital corridors knowing I’d never see my faithful member again, alive, here on earth, is a sobering experience.  Their final facial expressions of good-bye still stay with me years later….

          If you’ve never been confined to a hospital bed, say a prayer of thanks to God tonight!  If you have been so confined, you know that life’s events become crystallized.  All those little daily things we take so seriously: getting to work on time, paying the bills, preparing meals, doing the laundry, taking vacations, etc. etc. etc.—Those items of daily life shrink when you’re really sick or facing your mortality.  Suddenly, you’re aware of each breath you take, of each cloud in the sky, of each fond memory.  The simple act of having the sunbeam come across your bed and rest upon your face becomes deliciously all-consuming. 

          I know none of us likes to dwell upon the hard side of life—our physical pain and our mortality.  I know I really don’t like to preach much about it.  You end up sounding much like an aged Solomon who says in today’s OT lesson: “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  And that certainly is not a positive way to live your life.  Nonetheless, occasionally all of us really do need to be reminded of the importance of distilling life down to its vital components.  Today’s gospel does that.  So, we’ll ponder its meaning by considering:



          Did you ever wonder why God gives us two commandments that deal with the sin of coveting?  Yes, both the 9th and 10th commandments warn us against it.  Of course, the reason behind 2 such commandments is that coveting, or being consumed by greed, is especially deadly.  It not only robs us of eternal life, but it also robs us of appreciating our time of grace on earth.  This was the situation we find in our lesson.  A man’s father had died.  He and his brother were the only heirs.  Apparently the division of property either wasn’t happening quickly enough to satisfy him, or somehow he was unhappy with his lot.  So, he pesters Jesus to step into the fray.  But, since Jesus can read his heart, Jesus knew this man wasn’t consumed with justice or equality, but with pure greed.  And so, Christ says to him: “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  And then to drive home His point, Christ tells the parable that follows.

          Most of you are aware of the facts of this earthly story with the heavenly meaning.  A very wealthy man becomes even wealthier in his agribusiness.  He hoards his wealth, his crops, tearing down perfectly good barns in order to build bigger barns to hold it all.  Did you ever think: “Why do such a thing?  Wouldn’t it be easier just to sell some off or perhaps build another smaller barn or two to hold it?”  But, the man doesn’t do that, does he?  Why?  Could it be he wanted to show off?  Could it be that bigger barns would somehow prove his self-worth to others?  Folks, this was all an ego trip based upon valuing one’s life in purely monetary terms. 

          And after he’s fed his ego and become the biggest man in the village, this fellow decides to give himself over to indulgence.  “Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”  I know what you’re thinking.—Some might say: “Well, why not?  He earned it!”  Others might be thinking: “O, here it comes, the Pastor is going to rail against human excess—gluttony, drunkenness or just being lazy.”   Well, you’re wrong.  What’s omitted in this story?  First, there is no thought to God Who provided the wealth to begin with; and second, there is no talk of loving His neighbor and “helping and befriending people in need” even though he could have easily done so.  Those omissions tell us that this wealthy man was totally self-centered and self-absorbed.  He defined life in purely human terms without a thought to God.  I’m reminded of Christ saying: “But seek first, His kingdom and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added to you, as well.” 


          “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  ‘This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.’” 

          Recall when Christ also says:  “Having food and clothing, let us be content.”?  It’s really true.  And even more true are the words that proceed that verse.  “But Godliness with contentment is great gain, for be brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out of it, so having food and clothing, let us be content.” 

          Godliness, or focusing on Jesus’ perfect love and living out His justice and morality, and contentment go hand-in-hand.  I say that because God’s Son says it.  Yes, I know, the super-elites of today with their dream vacations, dream homes, and envied lifestyles seem to have everything.  But, unless they have God, specifically Jesus Christ, in their lives, they have nothing.  They really have no lasting contentment.  They are only a heartbeat away from having it all go up–in the smoke of death.  And never forget, extreme human wealth is usually achieved by taking advantage of another and then conning yourself into thinking: “I did it all.”  It feeds pride.  And pride always goes before the fall. 

          Personally, I’m glad I’m not wealthy.  That’s because acquiring wealth and then keeping it is all-consuming.  You worry a lifetime that you’ll never have enough, and then when you get it, you worry until you die that someone’s going to take it all away.  Where’s the contentment with life in that?  No, it’s better to labor for the Lord, isn’t it?  Everything belongs to Him.  Your life belongs to Him.  He purchased it on the cross when Jesus died for all our sins, including our penchant for being greedy.  Now He puts faith into our hearts so that we can “cast all our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us.”  He’s ultimately in charge of giving us what we need to be truly happy in life.  He knows what it takes to fulfill our lives.  Yes, we work, but we work for God Incorporated knowing we’ll never get laid off by Him or get shorted in our pay stub. 

          What’s really important in life?  Isn’t it: God, family, health, and being grateful for every God-given blessing?  Isn’t it letting God be in control of your life and always giving Him the honor and glory for it?  Isn’t it sharing the merciful heart that He extends to you in Christ with those who are floundering?  So, why not live to show it?  Doing so enriched Jesus’ life.  How can it not do the same for you?   Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

August 7, 2022: 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  today we join to thank You for the gift of saving faith.  How wonderful it is to be able to grasp hold of and live in the eternal reality that You have created for us.  Teach us to value our faith above all else and to never succumb to the temptation to downplay it or to devalue it.  Amen


TEXT:  Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN A SAND CASTLE?  I’m serious in asking that question.  Most of us are aware of sand castles.  Most of us have constructed them on the seashore when we were young.  Some were elaborate.  Some were rather pitiful.  In every case, the ocean tide soon destroyed them.  But, what about those grandiose sand castles they construct on Revere Beach each year?  They are amazing, aren’t they?  And I dare say, sometimes you can almost imagine living in one!

          The modern world looks at Christian faith and calls it a sand castle.  They brand Christians as fanciful fools who construct and base their faith on imaginary images of limited hopes and dreams.   They tell us that our faith has nothing to do with the science god, so it’s all a delusion.  They tell us that unless our beliefs fit their concepts of reality we’re simply living a sand castle, a fairy tale existence. 

          So, are we living in a sand castle?   Well, our lesson says “No”  rather emphatically, and I concur.  Let me tell you why….


          The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek.  Both languages are rather distinctive.  Hebrew uses very concrete, very “see-touch-taste-hear-smell” imagery.  To the ancient Hebrew the word for “earth” didn’t mean some generalized concept but literally the stuff you could stamp your feet upon.  Meanwhile, the Greek language lends itself to mental gymnastics and cogitation.  It lends itself to great thought concepts.  For example, you have the word “ousia.”  It means being, or substance, or essential reality—something that is not quantifiably verifiable, but nonetheless real.  If a person is stripped of “ousia” they are nothing more than a robot.  But, with it they are a real, live human being.  Those concepts come into play in the beginning verses of our lesson where the author of this epistle defines Christian faith.  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.”

          Those words turn mere human logic on its head.  They confound the modern human who bases his life on scientifically verifiable reality.  For the modern world, “hope” is never real.  It is just a vague concept fueled by inflamed emotions.  They would say: “Hoping for $10 million dollars doesn’t make you wealthy.  No, only when you have that amount of dollars in your hand and can see them is it real.  Likewise, being “certain” of an afterlife in heaven, or of the reality of God, is unattainable  because certainty is only achieved when the human senses are engaged.  And since you haven’t actually seen God with your eyes, or smelled the aroma of heaven, or tasted its spring water, or heard angel choirs with your ears, it’s all a self-delusion, or a sand castle.” 


          Are such critics correct?  No.  You see, they limit all existence to their senses and to their limited understanding of human existence.   Their limited brains cannot conceive of a whole universe outside of their understanding.  But, the Christian faith truly is bigger than any human.  God’s universe is bigger than our comprehension.  Our ideas of what’s real and what isn’t, is just a very small sub-slice of this greater world.  Think of a slice of pie.  If you’ve never seen a whole pie, how could you ever know that a much larger whole is out there?  And when told, it would make no sense to you because your experience with pie is limited only to the sliced variety.  Well, that’s the case in this modern world when it comes to God’s world. 

          Another aspect of sand castle theology is this: the critics of our faith protest too much.  In fact, they do so because they are the ones guilty of doing the exact things they accuse us of doing!  That is, they define life by their own  limited knowledge and experience, refusing to even contemplate that there might be something bigger out there.  We call that subjectivism.  So, until 1968 and a human walked upon the moon no one could really know it wasn’t made of green cheese.  I say this, not to be silly, but to make this point: the goalposts for human ideas about reality constantly keep shifting and changing, don’t they?  And they shift and change based upon an individual’s experience.  But since we’re finite beings, how can we ever get a true grasp of the infinite?


Well, that’s exactly where faith comes into play.  To us, faith is more real than human verification because faith is a gift from God.  It is the link that transports us finite creatures into His infinite realm.  Faith fills a void in all people.  The void of inner longing  that “something more is out there” that: “There has to be more to this life than just slogging through your three score and ten and then you die and then nothingness.” 

God grounded our faith, not in mere human emotions, but in earthly reality.  He didn’t just provide some vague promise about freedom from guilt and making us right with His perfect holiness; He delivered upon that promise in time and space.  He sent His Son into our here and now to suffer for sins, to die on a cross to pay for those sins, and to rise from a real grave in order to confirm His promise of eternal life to us.   Thus, Christian faith is really the most “real” thing there is!  For it is the bridge linking the finite (us) with the infinite (God). 

The ancient believers understood all this.  They understood, by and through faith, that when God made a promise to them, He would always deliver upon it.  Yes, sometimes that deliverance seemed to come rather slowly in human terms.  Yes, sometimes it seemed rather impossible—such as when God told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son when they were age 100 and 90 respectively.  Yet, they held onto the reality of those  promises by faith because: “they considered him faithful ( or worthy of trust) who had made the promise.” 

Like all these ancient heroes of faith, we, too, shall all die.  And let’s face it: death is concrete.  It is the ultimate in realness.  But, knowing of the resurrection from the dead through faith, and holding on to that future reality, our “one slice of pie lives” suddenly are enlarged into “whole pie” reality!  Suddenly fear over our smallness, and anxiety over our uncertain futures is replaced with hope, joy, and certainty over our infinite worth to God Almighty.  Worth made possible only through faith in Christ.  Suddenly, the whole cosmos becomes ours.  What we don’t yet know or understand holds no apprehension because of what we do know and understand.—Namely, that “God is not ashamed to be called our God, for He has prepared a city just for us in glory.” 

So, are we living in a sand castle?  No way!  The shifting sands of human understanding are constantly washing away unbelief.  But Christian faith resides safely upon the Rock of Jesus Christ.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox