August 27th, 2023: 14th Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, inspire us today to willingly walk in Your footsteps.  Move our hearts so that we embrace Your example of unselfish love which serves others by serving Your kingdom.  And then give us the inner fulfillment that such loving labor creates.  Amen


TEXT:  Romans 12: 1-8

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

         Do you know what a paradox is?  It’s something that seems self-contradictory, but isn’t.  In New England some people like to couple together the words: “wicked” and “good” to describe things that amaze and excite them.  If you call something: “wicked good” it’s actually self-contradictory.  Yet, people seem to understand it anyway.   Then there are the times when you have a fever, yet your body experiences “chills.”  How can you be hot but feel cold at the same moment?  And yet, we do. 

         A few of years ago on Christmas Eve I preached a sermon about the Christmas paradox.  That is, the infinite, boundless, limitless God agreed to be contained in the confines of a baby’s flesh and to lie in a manger.   How could that occur?  It seems impossible.  But, it’s a paradox because with God all things are possible.

         Today St. Paul lays before each of us a paradox in which we are the chief subjects.  He begins by saying: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”  That is an amazing statement!  Because it lays before you and me:



         What’s a sacrifice?  Isn’t it something you willingly give to another and then it’s gone?  If you sacrifice money to support someone, once you hand it over, it’s gone.  If you sacrifice time to help at a youth center, once you give those hours, you can never retrieve them.  If you sacrifice emotional energy on another, that reserve gets used.  In OT times God’s people were required to sacrifice time, talent, money, and even animals (the currency of the time) to God.  In every case, once the animals were killed and burned, they were gone.  Such sacrifices were by their very nature dead, unclaimable and irretrievable.  So, the paradox here is how St. Paul couples together those two words: living and sacrifice.  They seem in total opposition to each other. 

         So, what does all this mean?  Ah, did you catch the phrase: “in view of God’s mercy”?  God’s mercy is found and revealed only in Jesus Christ.  Jesus, Who gave Himself up on the cross as the complete sacrifice for all human sin.  Jesus, Who raised Himself from His grave and now lives.—Jesus is our living sacrifice, isn’t He?  He’s the One Who makes us holy, clean, and perfect in God’s sight.  He’s the One Who makes true worship, true honoring of God Almighty possible—out of faith and gratitude for Him.  So, just as His worship of His Father was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for us, so now our worship should be to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him.  Such service, born of faith alone, is the essence of being a Christian. 


         So, how does this paradox occur in our everyday lives?  Listen and learn.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

         In the church we have another word for transformation and renewal.  It is: repentance.  It is learning about human inner evil and how it pulls us down.  It is about learning of God’s forgiveness in Christ and how such love uplifts us.  It is about feeding your faith, attending Sunday services, pondering the truths taught, and seeking to follow them because now you know God’s “better way to live.”  The world can only guess at what God wants from them and they always guess wrongly.  We know what God expects from us because every week He tells us—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

         But, the playing out of this living sacrifice paradox doesn’t end with that.  No, once begun in your soul it starts to spin around and generate more and more power and more and more avenues to show itself.  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  In other words, “don’t get a big head, but stay humble.”  “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Folks, this is a wonderful paradox!  Your sacrifices offered to God don’t just belong to you, they belong to each other.  Everything fellow Christians do for God helps honor other believers, support other believers, uplift other believers, and motivate other believers.  Christianity is not a selfish religion.  Just as Christ offered Himself up for all, so everything we offer Him benefits the whole body of believers.  This is very comforting, too, in that it means we’re never alone in our faith or in our Christian life. 


         And now comes the practical application of how each of you can benefit each other while serving your Savior as a “living sacrifice.”  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift if prophesying (sharing God’s Word of truth) let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, (helping to the needs of families and church), let him serve;  if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

         As I look at this congregation I see all those gifts within us.  I see some of you using your gifts, some of you sitting upon them, some of you scared to use them, some of you not sure how to use them,  and others not aware of how many gifts they have.  So what are you and I going to do about it?  Well, the best answer to that question is the same one that Christians of every generation have ultimately arrived at.  That is, in view of God’s mercy we’re going to live out the Christian paradox of offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices.  We’re going to surrender our all to Him because He surrendered  His all to us on a cross and lived to tell about it!  We’re going to walk by faith, not by sight or by fear.  We’re going to accept what comes our way—either bane or blessing—and by faith seek to turn it into a blessing that will further honor God and benefit the body of Christ.  And we get to do all this with our lives knowing at each moment the inner peace of true fulfillment that such living sacrifice brings.   Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

August 20, 2023: 12th Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, whenever we cry to You: “Lord, help me,”—whether it be out loud or in our hearts, always listen, always hear, and always grant our petition in the very best way possible.  Lord, we don’t know the future, we aren’t all-knowing, but You are.  So, take our requests to Your Father, reword and rework them as You see fit, and then truly our heart’s requests will be fulfilled.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 15: 21-28

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

         Isn’t it amazing that many people reject the reality of a personal God, but almost everyone acknowledges that evil exists in the world?  Ask them: “Where does evil come from?” and they’ll give you a shrug and respond: “It just is.”  And yet, these same people scoff at the Christian truth that Satan and demons exist.  Talk about the big lie! 

         Evil is real.  Demonic possession is real.  We confront it today in our lesson as a simple fact of human existence.  I’ve preached on it at various times and know people who have seen it.  I have been exposed to it directly and indirectly and so have all of you.  People don’t have to directly bow to Satan in order to be possessed.  Instead, the devil and his allies often infuse hearts and minds with hatred thus controlling and inciting evil acts upon others.  Wars are one such example.  Or, as our Savior says: “By their fruits you will know them.”


         I’ve always loved our lesson.  It reveals the huge, loving heart of God in complete contrast to evil.  It shows how Christ is willing to work with all people to lead them into His truth and ultimately to save their souls.  It also gives us that lasting comfort that only the Triune God is all-powerful and evil is vanquished by Him alone.  We know that occurred on Good Friday when He died for the sins, the collective evil,  of the world.  We know He publicly announced His victory with His physical resurrection on Easter.  And in this lesson we are re-reminded that He engages in mini-victories even in the personal lives of hurting souls today.

         Tyre and Sidon were ancient Phonecian port cities.  They were not Christian and the OT faith was generally scorned by their inhabitants.  But, Jesus goes there.  Why?  Because He knows this woman is hurting.  He wants to uplift her and show the ignorant unbelievers where real strength and help reside.  This mother’s greeting is very instructive.  “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”   Those are titles taken from the Hebrew Bible.  They are code word for: the Messiah.  Obviously, this woman has heard both about Jesus and is familiar with the ancient prophesies of the Savior.  Yes, God’s Word has worked saving faith into her heart and now she is exercising it.—Foreign mission work went on in Christ’s day, too!

         “Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’”  At first blush, Jesus appears quite heartless.  He ignores her.  He doesn’t run to her rescue.  Doesn’t He care?  Likewise, the disciples are embarrassed by it all and just want to get rid of the problem.

         When He finally does answer her, you’d think she would run in the opposite direction.  Taken at face value, He’s not Mr. Nice Guy.  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  She’s not a Jew.  She seems to be excluded here.  But, she is undeterred.  Faith is like that, isn’t it?  Christian faith never takes “No” for an answer.—Not when a soul is hurting and needs salvation and clings to God’s promised help. 


         Then, the picture seems to get even bleaker.  “He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’”  What a put-down!  In that culture this was almost the ultimate insult.  But, she comes back with an astonishing answer: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 

         What’s going on here?  It’s all about Christ, Who can read hearts, testing her faith, eliciting a confession of sins from her, and in the process leading her to a knowledge of what repentance really means so that ultimate strength and forgiveness may result.  Every step of the way she continually humbles herself before the Lord.  She never gets her back up.  She never takes issue with Him.  She never second-guesses Him.  She is just accepting of the outcome because she knows by personal observation that Satan feeds on pride, while God exalts the totally humble.  Is this a picture of you and me when we confess our sins each Sunday before the Lord?  Is this same attitude prevalent in our hearts? 

         And then comes the clincher.  “Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.’  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”  Clinging to Christ in total faith and trust, even amid a life where our faith gets hammered—such belief ultimately comes out on top.  No evil, no demon, no terrorist can stand against it.  And why is that?  You know why.  It’s because the object of our faith is the eternal Son of God, Who gave His life for ours already and now in love hands out to us the fruits of His victory.  Christian faith is great because Christ is great.  And blessings, in this case a healed daughter, always result.

         Whenever bad things happen in this life, almost everyone immediately responds by asking: “Where is God?”  and then getting angry with Him.  People did that in every generation and still do it today.  But few, if any, of those folks thank God daily when things go smoothly.  Fewer still are content with eating a few crumbs of goodness that fall from God’s table.  We always want the whole dinner and think it rude when we don’t automatically receive it.  But the amazing thing is this: when we actually do content ourselves with the crumbs, it is only then that we’ll truly appreciate the whole meal and it is only then that God reveals the profound nature of that meal to us.—That is, eternal forgiveness and heavenly peace can truly be ours forever simply by trusting in Jesus.  Amid a world of demonic evil run roughshod, there and only there is your oasis of peace and rest.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

August 13, 2023: 11th Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, keep our faith strong and vibrant.  Keep our eyes focused on You and Your kind heart directed at us.  For then our problems will recede, overwhelmed by Your tender goodness and loving care.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 14: 22-33

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

         Have you ever noticed all the parallels between the Children of Israel in the Old Testament and the various disciples in the New Testament?  Both groups are God’s visible church here on earth.  Both groups contain the truly faithful and also some unbelieving hypocrites—think Judas.  Both groups are treated to powerful manifestations of God’s glory in the form of miracles and various signs and wonders.—The pillar of cloud and fire, Christ’s transfiguration, the signs accompanying His death, and healing the sick and even raising dead people.  Both groups are filled with faith as a result of such wonders.  And both groups usually fall into doubt soon thereafter.  We mortals just cannot seem to maintain our faith in God’s goodness and His intimate care of us.  Our lesson is one such example.

         Right before this lesson where Jesus walks on the water, we find our Savior and the disciples feeding the 5000 plus.  I include the disciples in this as they distributed the 5 loaves of bread and the 2 small fish and then picked up more leftovers than they began with!  It was an obvious miracle.  It showed Jesus care for the human body after caring for the human soul all day as He preached and applied to everyone the Bread of eternal life, His good news of forgiveness.  Then nightfall comes.  Christ sends the 12 off across the lake in their boat.  He dismisses the crowd and climbs up the mountainside in order to commune with His Father, to pray.  In the twilight hours He can observe the disciples’ progress and also sees the storm that had blown up and was tossing them around.  Since Jesus can read our hearts, even across time and space, He knew they were afraid.  He knew they were thinking dark thoughts about their safety.  And so, He resolves to walk out to them and comfort them.  All this leads to His interchange with St. Peter which we’re going to ponder under this heading:



         “During the 4th watch of the night (about 3-4 in the morning) Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.’  ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

         Have you ever come to church on Easter, left exhilarated and feeling very strong, and by late afternoon some personal problem erupted and you were left feeling that God had forgotten about you?  Let’s be honest.  Our faith, and the strength of it, is kind of like a yo-yo.  It is constantly fluctuating between the zenith of heavenly certainty and the wane of mud-puddle doubt.  It might be a bad doctor’s report that throws you.  It might be an unwanted, unexpected bill.  It might be an accident that claims a loved one.  It might be a hurricane that raises your blood pressure to new heights and ruins all the food in the freezer via a power outage.  The point is: when our comfort zone is invaded we almost always think the worst and focus on anything but God’s care for us.  The Children of Israel did it.  The disciples did it here.  And so do we.

         And then when God actually does come to assist us, we usually don’t pay attention and recognize His coming.  Here they thought He was a ghost—kind of like the dead coming to claim the soon-to-be dead from the storm raging around them.  In our case today, God often works through people that care about us and try to help us.  Christians should show God’s love to and for each other.  But very often we don’t trust the motives of such people.  Very often we think they must have an agenda.  We often project our faulty motives upon them and therefore don’t trust them. 


         Do you know why Pastors make their confirmation kids learn certain Bible passages from memory?  No, we’re not trying to be mean.  Instead, we’re trying to prepare them in advance for moments like the one Peter went through in our lesson.  You see, we don’t have the physical, visible Savior here today.  But, we do have His voice and the same powerful words of truth used to comfort Peter and save him.  God’s Word is God’s Word no matter the time, or place, or even who utters it.  Godly truth is still Godly truth.  So, just as Christ comforted Peter, so He comforts us and uplifts our spirits when daily doubt descends.  And that, my friends is the glorious truth of the second half of this lesson. 

         “Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

         Lord, deliver us from daily doubt!  This lesson fits that headline in many ways.  First, as long as Peter fixed his gaze upon Christ, he was actually able to walk on the water!  No doubt is evident when Christ is our sole focus.  But, when he allows his gaze to stray, oops!  He begins to sink.  Second, note well that Peter doesn’t sink right away.  God never allows us to fall without some advanced inkling it is occurring. Thus giving us time to repent. Third, a weak faith is still a saving faith because it clings to Christ Who is always strong.  By crying for help to Jesus, Peter showed his weak faith and asked Jesus to strengthen it.  And He did, didn’t He!  Immediately Christ catches him.  Fourth, doubt and “little faith” go hand in hand.  Peter was chided for it and we need to be, too, at times.  For we can grow our faith by God’s grace the more we expose ourselves to His Word of forgiving truth and love and pay attention to it!  Fifth,  when they climb into the boat and the storm is stilled, they all worship Christ as the Son of God.  Well, isn’t that the point?  He is!  He’s all powerful, all loving, and centers His love upon you and me every day.  All we have to do is open our eyes to His blessings.  And then we really need to give Him thanks and praise.  For when we center our eyes upon Him the storm swirling around us always seems to recede, doesn’t it?  So, today we pray: Lord, Deliver Us From Daily Doubt.  Thereby we’ll not only sleep better, we’ll live and breathe better, too.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

August 6, 2023: 10th Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for conquering all our fears.  Thank You for freeing us from guilt, pain, sin, and death.  Thank You for providing us with a better life, a wonderful life in which we can embrace all Your blessings.  Yes, thank You  for loving us more than You loved Yourself.  Amen


TEXT:  Romans 8: 35-39

Dearly Beloved by Christ: 

         Go home and fire up your computer.  Go on the internet and Google the words: greatest fears.  You’ll be amazed at the things that come up on the screen.  You will find articles about: fear of failure, dementia, lack of retirement income, loss of a child, terrorism, snakes, and literally anything else you can imagine.  Type in “10 greatest fears” and you’ll find that there are people who actually catalogue such things!  And what are the top 10 fears of the average human being?  They might surprise you.  Here they are from first to last.  1. Spiders!  2. Crowds.  3. Flying. 4. Open spaces, or being alone. 5. Claustrophobia or fear of closed spaces. 6. Vomiting. 7. Fear of high places. 8. Cancer. 9. Thunder storms. And 10. Fear of death.  That surprised me a bit.  I thought death would rank higher.  I also thought that evil and demonic powers would come into play.  I guess it goes to show how little most people think about the spiritual realm….

         Today we have before us one of the most uplifting of all passages from the Bible.  And no matter what your fears may be, right here God tells us via St. Paul to:



         One thing my Google search did was to inform me just how much fear impacts people’s lives.  Literally every aspect of daily life is crowded and stunted by fear.  Businessmen fear computer viruses which will paralyze them.  Moms fear terrorism and the effect upon their kids.  People fear identity theft.  The list literally is endless.  But right here in this text, Paul, who was no stranger to terrorism, physical abuse, torture, or even poisonous snakes, reminds us that in Christ and because of what He has done—we really don’t have to live in fear!

         “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  That’s a mouthful!  For His love for us is boundless.  He proved He loves us more than He loved life itself.  He proved that by dying our death on a cross and rising to a new, fear-free life in our place.  “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  St. Paul faced all these issues.  He lived through them.  His life was the ultimate “fear factor”—not the silly Hollywood version with life-lines and paramedics on hand.  And now by referring to the martyrdom faced by Old Testament Christians as touched on in Psalm 44, he links our lives and our fears with theirs. “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.”  This is an honest picture of life.  Experiencing fears and facing up to them is a condition all humans must face.  The question is: how will you face it?  Will you cave, crumble, and shake your fist at God?  Will you become angry that it happened to you?  Will fear take over your life? 


          “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Notice that Paul doesn’t say: “We are conquerors.”  That’s because we’re not.  Christ is the conqueror.  He has vanquished all foes eternally.  And He gives us His laurel wreath, the gold medal of heaven through faith.  So, according to Paul that makes us “more than conquerors!”  For we don’t have to save ourselves all on our own.  No, it is a gift from God Almighty!

         “For I am convinced the neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

         As you listened to that list, did you pay close attention?  Think back on the 10 most greatest fears poll that I discovered in my Google search.  Notice that every single one of them and more is covered in Paul’s list.  Absolutely nothing on this earth or outside of it can thwart, block, or diminish God’s love for us in Christ.  Nothing can subtract from the joy and confidence that He has won for you.  What’s the worst that can ever occur to you?  Sickness, failure, universal scorn, being reduced to poverty, death?  Christ has conquered all of them and more!  So Live in Christ’s Fear-Free Zone!  Hold your head up with confidence.  He has made you a hero.  Yes, you are the sons and daughters of the King of Creation!

         One last thought.  Sometimes you hear of a person who lived like a hermit in poverty and loneliness but in death they were discovered to be the opposite.  Growing up in a small town in Minnesota I recall a couple of such people who were universally laughed at, shunned, and pitied because we all thought they were weird and scary.  One such lady, who we called the “cat lady” lived in a huge, run-down house that should have been condemned, took in hundreds of stray cats, and when you walked by it stunk so bad you had to hold your breath!  But, when she died, we discovered she has a millionaire!  She could have lived like a queen in luxury.  But she didn’t because some sort of fear paralyzed her into inaction and robbed her of the joy of life. 

         Don’t let that happen to you!  Live in Christ’s Fear-Free Zone!  Hold on to His boundless love and forgiveness for you.  And always remember when fear comes calling that you are “more than conquerors” of it through your Savior!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox