February 12, 2023: 7th Sunday of Epiphany

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in the midst of winter both our bodies and our souls tell us that we’re not infallible, nor immortal.  We all suffer with pain—physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual pain.  And because of that we’re all tempted to transfer our pain to those around us and take our pain out on them.  But, You have a better way!  You are the Great Physician Who heals all pain.  So, today empower us to give You our pain and have it replaced with healing, love, compassion, and forgiveness.  Amen


TEXT:  Mark 1: 29-39

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          There was a small town in New Mexico that decided to host a community auction to raise funds for a new community center.  The townsfolk were excited and rummaged around in their attics for items to donate.  All sorts of stuff, from white elephants to trinkets, were donated.  On the day of the auction the auctioneer would hold them up and ask for bids.  Toward the end of the auction, one last item remained.  It was a dirty, dusty violin that had been in the back of someone’s garage for years.  The auctioneer yelled out: “What’s your bid?”  The answer was: silence.  “Come on,” he said, “Bid something.”  Finally one person said: “Fifty cents.”  And everyone laughed.  Then the auctioneer asked an old man sitting in the front row whom he knew played the violin to come up and try it out.  The old man did and soon wonderful, melodious sounds came forth.  He handed the violin back and when the auctioneer resumed bidding, it soon went from $100 to $200 to $400 on up.

          The point is: we’re all a lot like that old violin.  What becomes of us depends on who plays us.  And what becomes of our sickness depends on who plays it, too.  For some, sickness (either their own or another’s) is only a tragedy without purpose or meaning.  But when Christ plays our life, not only our health, but our sickness has a different sound to it.  Such is the tone of this prayer by the famous philosopher, Blaise Pascal: “I ask Thee for neither health nor sickness, neither life nor death, but that Thou may dispose of my health and sickness for Thy glory, for my salvation, and for the good of the Church, and of all Thy saints.”  So, today, I ask each of you:



          Our lesson takes place at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  Although it is recorded by Mark, remember that Simon Peter dictated to Mark what to write.  So, this is a first-hand account of what happened to his mother-in-law.  “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the  home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever (a serious thing in the days of no antibiotics), and they told Jesus about it.  So, he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

          We’re not told here that Christ said anything, as in some other cases.  No, in this case there was only a touch.  A loving touch.  A healing touch.  And it took her fever away instantaneously because it was the Savior’s touch–the touch of God’s eternal Son.  Jesus heals.  He came to take away pain, just as He does right here.  I’m reminded of the verse of the Bible—from 1st Peter: “Cast all your anxieties upon Christ, because He cares for you.”  How true! 

          Later that evening, more people brought others to Jesus who were either sick or demon possessed.  We’re told the entire town gathered at the door—Word spread quickly of Christ’s healing power.  And Mark/Peter tells us: “Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”—Yes, He wasn’t there to solicit demonic praise.  He wasn’t there to whip the crowd into an emotional frenzy.  He was there to compassionately heal.  To play those hearts and souls and create Godly music.


          So, what about you?  Do you think these various sick people looked their best when meeting God’s Son?  Do you think the demon-possessed were externally handsome or beautiful?  Of course not.  Their faces and their bodies showed the inner pain they all felt.  Just like them, you and I show the ravages of sin, as well. 

          One of the things that comes with experience in the ministry is the ability to look at people and see their pain.  Usually I can tell on Sunday morning how you feel without even asking.  The strain of an illness, the heart-ache of a upset marriage, the pain of children who disappoint, the anguish of financial worries, the inner guilt over unloading on someone near and dear—all that is visible if you are attuned to it.  In fact, I saw aspects of those kinds of hurts when you walked in this morning.

          Of course, the problem is: more often than not we let those pains play us.  In psychological terms we call it: transference.  Kind of like: if you’re upset with your wife you take it out on your dog.  We let our pain play us to the point that we never really deal with the source of it, nor seek help to really solve the problem.  Like all good Americans we’re proud and we think we can “tough it out” alone.  But, in doing so we’re really relying on our frail flesh which as Christians we know will always fail.  So, who plays you?  Yourself?  Someone else?  Circumstances?  Or, Christ?   

          One of the most vital reasons for attending church each week is to alleviate your inner pain.  That takes place when we confess our hurts, pains, and the “woe is me” attitude that accompanies them.  Yes, after the confession of sins, something stupendous takes place!  Christ heals you!  Christ forgives you!  Christ reminds you that He has carried Your pains to the cross and when He died there, so did your pain!  Yes, His voice touches your heart.

          O, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking: “Yes, Pastor, that sounds good but my joints still hurt, my bills still remain, and my kids are still doing lousy in school.”  Ah, you’re forgetting something!  Christians have the wonderful privilege of confessing this truth from the heart: “Thy will be done!”  and meaning it!  We know that God will not test us in life beyond what we can bear.  We know that all things work for good to those who love God.  We know that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  We know that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.  So when we know that we’re forgiven, or right with God, everything else will fall into place.  It’s that simple and that profound.

          Instead of crying about your inner pain, let the Savior heal you.  Take His words to heart when He says: “Son, be of good cheer!  Your sins are forgiven.”  And then get up, like Peter’s mother-in-law, and serve the Lord with gladness.  Let Him play you and you really will make melodious tunes of joy and thankfulness.  After all, if you’re busy being thankful over what He provides, you won’t have time to think about your pain any more!!!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

February 5, 2023: 6th Sunday of Epiphany

Let us pray: Dear Savior, reorder our hearts so that we begin to focus on what is truly important in life and leave behind human foolishness.  Focus our attention on eternal truths, eternal wisdom, eternal forgiveness from Your gracious hand, and eternal life.  Enable us to see the timelessness of self-sacrificial love and experience the joy that it brings.  And thereby bring lasting peace to each of our lives.  Amen


TEXT:  I Cor. 2: 6-13

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Does turning 18 or 21 make you into an adult?  If you’re under those ages, you might well say: “Yes.”  If you’re well-advanced beyond those ages, I’m guessing you’d say: “No.”  So, who’s right?  For the past 50+ years America has been on a youth kick.  Spawned by the huge demographic of the baby-boomers, we celebrated being youthful.  Advertisers played to that crowd.  Music, art, and clothing reflected it.  Now, being young does have its advantages.  Generally it means you’re healthier, more carefree, and live in the moment.  You possess more energy.  You dream big dreams and think the sky is the limit.  However, with age, you change.  Each ache, each death in the family, each job loss, each personal hurt begins to take its toll.  You begin to realize that this world is really not a very nice place, that people are out to take advantage of you, and dreaming pie-in-the-sky thoughts doesn’t really change those facts.  Such recognition of reality is called: growing up.  And it ushers in adulthood.  I’ll admit, some 50 year olds haven’t learned it yet, and some 18 year olds have.  But generally speaking: with age comes maturity.  And hopefully maturity leads to wisdom, or the ability to not repeat past mistakes. 

          If you really study all of human history, you’ll find that every culture looked up to and valued such maturity—until our modern culture arrived.  The parents of the baby boomers spoiled their children.  This bred a sense of entitlement, or the “I deserve it” attitude.  The boomers have done the same thing to most of their children, too.  And so we arrive at today, where hard work is to be avoided not embraced; where self-sacrifice is considered not having the newest I-phone; and where escapism from life has made the entertainment industry the biggest one in the nation. 

          Back in the late 60’s a hot singing group was the “5th Dimension.”  Their sugary, self-centered music reflected the time.—That life is all about “making me feel good.”  They had superficial answers, the superficiality of youth, to the huge problems facing modern man.  This is seen in their top song: “What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love.”  It’s as if doe-eyed 17 year olds could change the world and combat all evil simply by wishing it were so.  And then we arrive at today.  Suddenly people cannot live in fantasy land but must face reality.  Suddenly our credit card economy is out of money.  Suddenly people have to exert self-discipline and embrace hard work and hard choices.  Suddenly America must grow up and become mature.  We must strip aside anything frivolous and get back to basics.  We must, as Christ says: “become wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.”  Yes, today, in the year 2023:



          Human wisdom is all about: how to survive.  It is about being stronger, smarter, tougher, and more cut-throat than your competition.   I suppose human wisdom is exemplified pretty well by Pontius Pilate.  In sentencing Christ to death he thought he was protecting himself from Rome’s wrath and placating the crowd at the same time.—A win-win, right?  But, in the end it was a lose-lose as he lost his governorship and seething rebellion consumed the land.  My point is: human wisdom and Godly wisdom are poles apart.

          “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.  However, as it is written (In Is. 64) “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

          The timeless wisdom of God is His own sacrificial love extended to us in and through Jesus Christ.  His wisdom was to forgive us lost, rebellious sinners.  His wisdom was to send His one and only Son to bear our eternal guilt and shame.  His wisdom was to appease His anger over our abuses of His caring nature, to appease it by putting Christ to death in our place.  His wisdom was to raise Jesus from His grave and transfer all of His holiness and perfection to us through faith.  His wisdom was to thereby provide us with real maturity via the fruits of faith: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.”   His wisdom was to shower such timeless gifts upon us through the power of the Spirit Who implanted and waters and nourishes the seed of faith in our hearts.  His wisdom was to provide us with mature introspection of these gifts so that we could apply them to ourselves and to others for the benefit of all people.  And thus, such wisdom would last literally forever.


          “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” 

          Wise humans become wise when they say “No” to themselves and follow God instead of their emotions or whims.  Wise adults become adults when they are willing to say: “No” to their children for the good of the family.  Maturity and self-denial go hand-in-hand.  Maturity and self-sacrifice for others goes hand-in-hand.  And the only example of total self-sacrifice is seen in Jesus hanging on the cross for us. 

          What the world needs now is Godly wisdom.   It doesn’t need pious human thoughts about God.  It doesn’t need the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” attitude, either.   And it doesn’t need youthful idealism that loves to hear itself talk and talk and accomplish nothing.  No, we need to focus on God’s love for us and what that love means: the self-sacrifice of Christ’s very life.  We need to focus on how He has remade our hearts and put that same spirit within us.  And then we need to apply it every daily to all our actions and all our decisions.  If we do, God will manage our problems and also give us joy along the way.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox