Septemeber 4, 2022: 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You must always come first in our lives.  We know that nothing and no one can ever compare with You.  We know that without You we are lost, forlorn, desolate human beings who have no hope for a better tomorrow.  Today we ask that You reenergize us so that we truly do put You first in all we think, say, and do.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 14: 25-33

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Until about 25  years ago, people never talked about “hate speech.”  Now, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t such a thing.  We simply had more descriptive terms with which to label it.—We called people who harangued on an issue to foster ill-will, we called them a “nut” or a “crank.”  Sometimes we labeled them as “uninformed and stupid.”  Occasionally, if they were extremely blatant and offensive, we even called what they said: evil. 

          As a child we would sometimes throw around the word “hate” when we were upset.  “I hate that outfit and I’m not wearing it to school!”  Or, when big sister was particularly nasty about something, we’d hurl out those words: “I hate you!” just before we ran in the opposite direction!  Of course, we really didn’t “hate” them in the sense that we wanted evil to rain down upon their head.  In our hearts we still loved and cared about each other.  It’s just that the word “hate” was used much more loosely.

          I suppose the term “hate speech” came into vogue in an attempt to more properly define unacceptable speech.  And the result has been the ultimate label branding of people with whom you disagree.  Just use the word “hate” in conversation and people immediately stiffen.  You cannot even say something like: “Don’t you just hate it when that happens” without people looking sideways at you!  I guess I’m a dinosaur.  For even though we would throw around the word “hate” in those “olden days” people were much more civil.

          As I looked at this text, I was struck by Christ’s use of the word “hate.”  And I wondered: how do people today relate to and regard this very pointed lesson?  So, I did a word search of the Greek word “miseo” translated here as “hate.”  It means: to hate, despise, disregard, or be indifferent to.”  Obviously Jesus knew that.  He knew it was a strong word.  And yet He still uses it.  What’s He trying to teach us?  Well, today we’ll find out as we ponder this question:



          Remember when Christ talked about “a house that is divided against itself cannot stand”?  His point there was that a household, a family unit, that is quarrelsome cannot and will not be united.  Its atmosphere is poisonous.  And then He compares that attitude to the visible church.—Christians who cannot treat each other civilly and don’t agree on the basics of the faith can never walk as one. 

          As individual Christians the most important Person we can ever walk together with is: Jesus Christ.  All true unity of purpose, of direction, and of meaning to our lives begins and ends with Jesus.  That’s because Jesus is the eternal Son of God.  He’s the One Who laid His life on the line to purchase our souls from sin, Satan, death, and evil.  He died, taking all that evil baggage with Him to the cross.  And then He arose to a new life.  A pure life.  A life in which His love for our souls could be applied to us literally forever.  Moreover, all this shiny newness and oneness with Him is made our possession through His imparting of faith into our hearts. 

          As God’s all-knowing Son, Jesus could read hearts.  He knew human nature better than we humans do.  So, to get people to really examine their allegiance to Him, He poses His question about it in the most graphic of terms.—“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”


          Certainly those words are jarring—especially to our modern ears.  They are an “all or nothing” proposition, aren’t they?  But, isn’t that the point?  Isn’t true allegiance to God’s Son an “all or nothing” proposition?  Isn’t He supposed to be more important to us than our closest relatives?  Isn’t He more vital to us than our own earthly existence?  After all, doesn’t He now own our lives?  Aren’t we totally under the umbrella of His grace-filled control?  And isn’t discipleship the willingness and the celebration of that fact? 

          Still, our modern ears have been conditioned to shy away from that word “hate.”  And even our faithful study of Scripture has told us we’re not to allow hatred into our hearts.  After all, doesn’t Jesus tell us: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer?”  Yes, that’s all true.  But, His point of comparison here isn’t about mere human relationships.  It is really about our timeless relationship with God Almighty.  Nothing dare divide our loyalties to Him.  Nothing dare come between our Savior’s love for our souls and our faith-filled souls.  And if and when we are tempted to allow such a thing to occur, we need to recognize it and literally “hate” it.  For separating a Christian from his or her Savior is downright evil….


          The next two paragraphs of this lesson both focus on how we must continually “count this cost” of our discipleship.  The first deals with a foolish builder who cannot complete his tower because he runs out of money.  As a result he turns into a laughingstock.  The second deals with a headstrong king who wants to build a name for himself by going to war against an enemy.  But then, when it is obvious his enemy will crush him, that king swallows his pride and sues for peace to avoid destruction.  Again, the point is: always count the cost of what you’re about to do.  “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

          Historically, what’s the most hated position any human being can ever find themselves in?  Isn’t it slavery?  And what sane human being would ever willingly submit to complete slavery?  That’s right, none.  So, when Christ says: “Any of you who does not give up everything cannot be my disciple” isn’t that whole concept repulsive to our nature?  Of course it is!  So, why would we ever do so?  Simply because God’s own Son became a slave to us in order to save us from the slavery of sin.  He became the ultimate object of human hatred in order to have that hatred shifted from us to Him. 

          So, back to our original question: Is Jesus Guilty of Hate Speech?  Well, the answer is: Yes He is!  But His guilt all stems from His love toward lost, double-minded sinners like us.  So, learn to hate your sinful side.  Learn to hate evil when it knocks at the door of your heart no matter the form it may take.  For it is only then that His forgiving love will find a place to rest within you.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

August 28, 2022: 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  open our ears and our minds to Your eternal truths!  Cause us literally to: read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.  Indeed, give us the wisdom of the ages and also the inner fortitude to follow it!  Amen


TEXT: Hebrews 13: 1-8

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Perusing my “Wall Street Journal”  I came across and interesting article.  It was about how younger people are increasingly not listening to the advice of older people.  They view it as archaic and out of touch.  The demographers have dubbed my generation the “baby boomers.”  The next generation, basically running from their mid 30’s to mid 40’s is called Generation X.  Then you also have the Gen Y group from 18 to 32.  It is this Gen Y group that turns to their peers and the advice they receive on social networking sites for wisdom.  To them older folks are just that—old and out of touch with modern life.  My first thought, as I read the article was: “Thank you very much!”  My second thought was: “What does this mean for preaching and teaching in the church?”  My third thought was: My generation has done a lousy job when it comes to their kids and grandkids.  We gloried in tearing down social structures in the 60’s and 70’s and those chickens have now come to roost upon our own heads!

          It wasn’t always so.  Yes, as they grow up younger people of every generation chaff under the constraints of their elders.  Yes, they think they are smarter than any one else who has ever lived and they believe they feel their emotions far deeper.  Such is the nature of youth—you just don’t have as many life experiences to draw upon as older folks.  However, throughout history all societies respected the wisdom that comes with age.  We even have a word for it: sage advice.  A sage is someone who is old and wise.  Put the two together and you’ve got wisdom, which avoids mistakes and frustration.  About 75 years ago, modern man began warehousing the elderly in what used to be called: “Old folks homes” and are now called: “retirement communities.”  Until then, when you got older you lived with your kids and grandkids, dispensing your wisdom to them on a daily basis.  I surmise that this modern generational disconnect can be traced directly to that change.  Anyway, it is a tremendous waste of wisdom.

          Well, our lesson doesn’t waste any of God’s wisdom.  It gives us directives that are timely, practical, and always pertinent to how we should live in order to have blessed lives.  And so, today, let’s discuss some of its:



          In our day of political correctness where most people talk the talk, but few walk the walk, the writer begins by taking us back in time.  He takes us back to Abraham openly welcoming strangers to his tent and giving them a feast fit for a king—not knowing at the time that 2 of those strangers were angels and the third one was Jesus Christ Himself.  And so, with this as a backdrop, the writer tells Christians to: “Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

          Obviously these words apply to all our social interactions, but especially to our treatment of fellow Christians.  In the age they were written, Christians were under attack from many quarters and persecuted beyond our imagination.  Many of the first readers of these words knew of friends or relatives in the hell-hole prisons of that age.  Suffering people need our prayers, our words of encouragement, and also our actions backing them up.  As Christ says: “whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do unto me.”  The first life lesson is that Christians should always treat others with love and respect because those people have a soul that Christ has died for.  Do you look at unknown people that way?  If not, why not?  


          Here comes another timeless life lesson: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  Every parent looks upon their newborn for the first time and exclaims: “It’s a miracle!”  They’re right.  And how did that miracle occur?  Well, one sperm cell and one egg cell came together—just right—and a human being was created.  And just as a man and a woman were needed to achieve that miracle, so the newborn continues to need a father and mother to foster their development.  This is one of the great fruits of marriage.  The other great blessing of marriage is the togetherness, the closeness, the unity of purpose that become intertwined between a man and a woman.  Human sexuality is a beautiful gift from God that has beautiful results when His wise guidance is followed.  When it is not followed huge heartache results.  Yes, sex can and does bring people together.  But it also tears people apart.  It destroys a persons inner self and rips out their heart—when God’s way isn’t followed.  The “free love” baby boomers forgot this truth, the divorce rate surged, and now their kids and grandkids are reaping their whirlwind.  Perhaps more of them need to say to their sexuality liberated kids: “I was a fool.  I was wrong.  Dabbling with sex before marriage has hurt all of us.  Follow God and keep yourself pure until its time for the marriage bed.”


          Then there’s this: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’”

          All the wealthy people I knew as a child are now all dead.  And none of them took even one dime with them to the beyond.  Some of them, who were Christians didn’t live beyond their means, weren’t showy with their wealth, and appeared quite happy with life.  But I recall others who were never content with anything and always chased after more, more, and more until the day they died.  It’s almost as if they believed they could outrun death if they had enough money.  Well, we cannot outrun death.  So why let our fear of it ruin our lives?  Better to trust in God’s goodness—revealed to us especially upon the cross.  Better to cling to Christ and His promise to never leave us all alone.  Better to let Him order our lives—especially those parts beyond any human control—and walk by faith and not by sight.  It may sound corny to the modern ear, but wise people have repeated this truism for eons: “You can’t buy happiness.”  And the Christian knows that we can’t and don’t have to because Christ already bought it for us on the cross!


          Here’s the final Life Lesson: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Heroes of faith:  Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, Dr. Martin Luther, even your beloved Christian grandparents in glory today—their faith, their wisdom speaks to us this very day.  None of them adopted the modern mindset of the Generation Y or Z which is: “I’m special because I’m me.”  No, instead they all were a lot more humble than that.  The hard lessons of life kicked their selfish little pride out of them so that God could replace it with the wealth of Christ’s forgiveness.  And so, all of them teach us: “I’m special because Christ loves me.  Moreover because Christ is the same forever, so is His love for me, and that’s why I’ll always be special.”  No matter your age, each of you can learn much from God’s life lessons.  And that learning experience will never cease.  Meanwhile, above them all, inscribe this motto from St. Paul: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

August 21, 2022: 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we approach You with awe, wonder, and even some trepidation, cause us to gaze upon Your outstretched arms.  Fix our vision upon the fact that You left heaven to meet us here on earth.  Refasten our focus on how You come to meet us today with love and forgiveness and welcome—via Your word and the sacraments.  And then our eyes will be opened to the joys and the peace of heaven—resting in Your embrace.  Amen


TEXT:  Hebrews 12: 18-24

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          Road trip.  Those words sound magical to American ears.  Just getting into the car and driving to destination unknown is cathartic.—It gets rid of stress and replaces it with delicious adventure.  By now, most of you have taken some sort of summer vacation.  Hopefully it was restful and stress-free.  And I’ll bet that you’ve already given some thought to another trip, perhaps that ultimate “trip of a lifetime” we all dream about.  So, where would you go?  What would you like to see?  What kind of food would you treat yourself to?   Would it be an adventure trip of climbing mountains and engaging in “extreme” sports?  Would it be more laid back—nice hotels, a chauffer driven car for sight-seeing, and 4 star restaurants?  Well, hopefully, some day you’ll actually take it!

          You and I have a lifetime to plan such adventures.  And quite frankly, it’s fun to daydream about them.  Meanwhile, don’t overlook the trip you’re already on.  Because you see, it is your lifetime!  And today that’s what I want to talk to you about:



          When the Israelites hurriedly left Egypt to escape from their slavery to Pharoah, they were excited.  They knew they were going back to God’s promised land.  What they didn’t know is that for almost all of them it would be the last trip they ever took.  It should have taken 6 months or so to go across the Sinai desert.  But, because they became apathetic in their faith and allegiance to God, it ended up taking 40 long years. 

          Now, when they started out, God, in a visible form, accompanied them.  It must have been comforting to have God, hidden in the pillar of fire, out front leading the way, and also to have Him switch positions and serve as a rear guard when enemies pursued them.  It certainly would make a huge impact upon me!  But, over time, they began to take His awesome presence for granted.  Then they arrived at Mt. Sinai where that visible fiery presence of God descended upon the mountain.  God in perfect awesome majesty graced that granite mountain with Himself.  Suddenly it was holy, so holy that no animal was allowed to even touch it, or it would die.  Only Moses was permitted to go up to the summit and there God gave him the 10 commandments, written in stone by God’s almighty finger.  It was scary stuff, that giving of the Law.  Meanwhile, down below they became anxious, forgetful of God’s goodness is delivering them from slavery and they began to complain about it all.  Finally comes their demand for a golden calf, an Egyptian symbol of their god Apis, and their orgy around that calf—all this while heavenly, fiery Perfection swirled above their heads from the mountaintop.  You know the rest of the story.  Human hubris, human pride and arrogance turned this ultimate road trip into a disaster.  Many died then and there, many more perished along the way, and then when they reached the promised land and didn’t trust God to make good  on His promise to actually give them that land, God sent them off into the desert for almost 40 years of wandering.  With a couple of exceptions, everyone who left Egypt full of hope and promise, died during those wanderings.  And they brought it all upon themselves because they gave themselves over to open, flagrant sin. 

          The writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers of all this in our lesson.  “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’”

          This picture is a reminder of how life is without faith in God’s love and forgiveness.  It is a reminder of how terrifying Your Trip of a Lifetime is without knowing that God’s Son has come to save you.  Without God’s goodness to protect us; cancer, disease, anxiety and death stalk our steps.  All this happens when we try to live apart from Him.  We get lost on the way because our sinful pride prevents us from asking for, listening to, and following His directions.


          Did you notice how that terrifying description began?  The Hebrew’s writer really is doing a 180 degree turn from that ancient reality in this lesson.  He begins: “You have not come.”  Ah, so for the Christian that isn’t our fate in our lifelong journey.  But, what is?  Well, he goes on to tell us: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

          “You have come.”  Right now, present reality.  You’ve come, you’ve entered the dwelling of God—the holy Christian Church.  You and I look around throughout our lifelong journey and often wonder: “Where is God?  Where is heaven?  I just don’t see it!  So, how can this writer say: “You have come.”?”  Ah, that is the wondrous mystery of our faith!  You see, God’s heavenly reality, the reality of blessed fellow saints, of angels, of sights beyond human words to describe, that reality is but the blink of an eye away from us this very day!  No, we don’t physically see it yet, as our journey isn’t completed.  But, from God’s vantage point we’re already in it.  For you see, Christ has opened that portal for us.  He was the mediator between us and God, between heaven and earth.  And His blood, sprinkled down from the cross upon us for our sins has permanently marked the path.  It has permanently paved the pathway into glory.  Thus, it “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  Abel was the first person killed by another human, his brother Cain.  From Abel’s grave his blood cried out for justice and retribution.  But Christ’s blood is far more weighty.  It is the blood of God’s Son!  And it cries out for mercy and forgiveness and peace! 

          Right this moment, all of us are embarked on a singular trip, the Trip of Your Lifetime.  Will you get bored with it all?  Will you stumble along the way?  Will you walk off that pathway paved in blood because you think you know a shortcut?  Will you take a few side trips and  get yourself in trouble as a result?  Folks, stick to the path.  Trust your Savior.  Enjoy the tranquil times and learn from whatever obstacles you might find along the way. Go forth with renewed confidence, too!  Jesus is better than GPS!  And most of all never forget: you’re almost there!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox