June 13, 2021: Pentecost 3 Confirmation Sunday

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE LIVE, MOVE, AND HAVE OUR VERY BEING!

TEXT: Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who works in you to will and act accordingly to his good purpose.”

Dearly Beloved and Especially You Five Confirmands:

This has been a trying last 2 years. We’ve had the pandemic botching up our class time. We’ve had Zoom confirmation—a first for me. Yet you persisted, learned, and here we are today, despite the distractions.

In some respects you’ve all had to grow up quickly when it comes to life and to your faith. You all now know the tough issues to life a bit more personally.—Tough stuff that your parents have always tried to shield you from. Now you can directly relate to the tough times that some of the older folks here also went through—world war, the great depression, the polio epidemic, and general unease over the future of the world and your life in it. Confirmation is learning how God gets you through those scary times and the loneliness and depression that such sin brings. That’s why such religious training is invaluable—and as the years go by, you’ll learn anew just how invaluable it is!

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Humans have 2 pathways they can follow. You can live your life by ignoring, and/or walking away from God; or you can walk with Him. Today is about you choosing to walk with Him. Most people view our faith as quaint, old-fashioned, and constricting. Those commandments seem to crimp our style. Examining the heart and being truly sorry for hurting God, others, and ourselves by our head-strong behavior is something no human enjoys doing. So most ignore their guilty conscience and do whatever they can to build up their ego and thereby feel stronger and more in control of their lives. But human beings are not God. All humans get sick, some lose their homes and possessions, and eventually everyone dies. Covid proves that. And then what?

Right now all of you are a bit apprehensive of your future. You don’t know the future of your health. You don’t know what you will be when you grow up—fully. You don’t know who you will meet and someday spend your life with. You don’t know whether you’ll be rich or poor, happy or sad, or fulfilled by your future. Ah, but as a Christian you do know! You all

will have a blest life if you continue to walk in Christ’s footsteps along the pathway He has in mind for you! “For it is God who works in you to will and to act accordingly to his good purpose.”

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You’ve spent 2 years together learning what God’s good purpose is. It is learning that we cannot find true happiness apart from His love. That love is made crystal clear by Christ Who carried the burden of our yucky sins to the cross and died for them so that we could escape their eternal burden. It is about Him rising from the grave, your grave, so that you can and will experience heaven, life, joy that has no end. It is about discovering the amazing potential that He has put into each of you by the Spirit when you were baptized. Don’t you think our Maker knows far more about our lives than we do? Don’t you think He knows exactly how to make us happy and provide true meaning and purpose for our lives? Here St. Paul gives us God’s promise for a good purpose, not a bad one or an evil one, when it comes to each of us.

My confirmation class numbered 13. A few are now dead. A few are wayward, they feel lost because they gave up on God and walked away from Christ. I’m pretty sure one is in hell—so sad. But others are blest by God, by His grace act like it, and now possess the joy of knowing that they are right with God and always will be. This is the legacy, our Savior’s legacy to each of you, today. Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

June 6, 2021: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Lord, everything about us is frail and fragile except our egos. O how our ego enjoys taking credit for successes in life that rightly belong to You! Lord, forgive such sin and through the humbleness of faith enable us to give all glory and honor only to You! Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SOURCE OF THE MOST PERFECT OF GIFTS: THE GOSPEL!

TEXT: 2 Cor. 4: 5-12

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

When I was installed as your Pastor many years ago, the preacher wrote his sermon on this text. It was honest and forthright. It was also a bit sobering being compared to a clay pot—fragile and breakable.

It’s especially sobering considering it was penned by St. Paul, the great NT hero who all Christians adore and admire. For everything he mentions here is something he lived through and experienced directly. In fact, all Christians, if they are honest, experience such “clay pot” times. “We are hard pressed on every side”—think of how Paul was hounded across the Roman empire for simply preaching Christ crucified. Yet, it didn’t crush him. “Perplexed”—Recall his lament from Romans: “The good that I would, I don’t do, and the evil that I don’t want to do, that I keep on doing.” ”but not in despair.” Then there’s this one: “Persecuted, but not abandoned.” “Struck down”—recall him being stoned—“but not destroyed.” This is what preachers and all believers suffer, either physically and/or emotionally throughout their lives. It comes through second-guessing ourselves; from failure to visually “see” the fruits of our labors. And from Satan’s constant meddling into the affairs of God that we seek to carry out. Being a clay pot is not flattering to our ego, is it? But it is honest.

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So, why do we keep on working to save souls in God’s kingdom? Why do any of us hold on to Christ and the forgiveness wrought by His cross? It’s certainly not to build our ego, to get rich, or to amass personal power or glory. Why do any of us, in word or by our actions, preach and lead people to Christ? Well, Paul tells us why: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’”

Life alone, without Christ and the light of His love, breeds dark thoughts, dark times, and a darkened soul. But knowing Him as our Savior breeds the opposite. Once you experience and taste just a small morsel of His love, you’ll brave anything to taste it some more. Why are we Christians so addicted to Him? Because He alone gives us hope that does not disappoint! Hope for the future. Hope for the present. Hope that never dies and culminates in heaven!

So, we may be “clay pots” who are fragile and seemingly worthless to human senses. But in us God conceals a hidden treasure which contradicts our outward shell. Thereby God shows the awesomeness of His love. He reveals thereby “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”

We know that as believers. We relate to Paul’s words: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Then to expand on this Godly condition we all struggle with, he is very honest but also very uplifting: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

Ah, here is the paradox of Christianity. Death brings life! Sadness brings joy! Humility brings power! And clay pots like us can contain and hold the richness of His love! The human ego rejects all those truths. But the Spirit, through His gift of honesty, brings them alive within us. And thereby He fills us with the richness of God’s amazing grace. Wow! What a God! That’s exactly why we all hold our heads up and rejoice! Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

May 30, 2021: Trinity Sunday

Let us pray: O blessed Trinity, how awesome is Your name in all the earth!  How amazing that You have loved us enough to save our souls.  How blest we are to know You and be empowered to praise You.  In You we live, move, and have our very being.  Continue to uplift our hearts to praise You for Your goodness unceasingly.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE ALMIGHTY TRINITY!

TEXT:  Romans 8: 14-17

Dearly Beloved By the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:

          Memorial Day is profound in that it isn’t about us, but our departed loved ones, especially soldiers who fought to keep us free.  My father always called it: decoration day.  The day we went to the cemetery and decorated the graves of loved ones.  It is poignant to stand at the grave of someone special and remember them long after they are gone.

          One such loved one was my grandfather Willard.  To me, he was larger than life.  He could do almost anything.  I think of him constructing 2 homes, all on his own.  He was the architect, the general contractor, the cement specialist, the carpenter, the electrician, the plumber, and the general finisher—all on his own.  And those 3 bedroom homes still stand today!   Few people have such over-arching skills today.

          So, what does this have to with our unsearchable God, the Holy Trinity?  Well, first off, He deserves special honor from us for planning, creating, saving, and continuing to keep this world, and us, running.  And secondly, He has no rival in the profundity and tenacity of His labors of love. 

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          In adult class, I always remind the student that God has no rival and that no mere human could dream up anything so out-of-this-world  as the doctrine of the Trinity.  We have one God in three Persons.  Each is fully God.  And yet God’s power and majesty are not divided up in 3rds.  No, each is 100% God and possesses 100% of the Divine nature.  No mere human could ever dream up such a truth on their own.  To me, that speaks volumes as to the Trinity’s divine essence.   Likewise, this God, our God, is eternal and timeless.  He is infinite, filling all things.  He wasn’t created, He just is—before time began.  He is almighty, all-knowing, and most of all loves the crown of His creation—us.

          Additionally, when He dreamed up the universe and then created it out of nothing by simply calling it into existence, His entire being was involved.  The Father ordained it all, the Son was the active force, the Word, used to make it so, and the Spirit gave it all life and animation.  The same is true when we think of how we’re saved from the evil we brought upon ourselves.  The Father was the architect of the Son’s accomplishing our salvation and the Spirit was, and is, in charge of making our rebirth in God’s love our reality.  Hence, in you and me, God is the Ultimate Builder of life.

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          St. Paul outlines this situation in our lesson and applies its Trinitarian truths to us today.  He says: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (a term of loving endearment).  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs  of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

          Elsewhere Paul says of believers: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works.”  So, our Builder God remade us, changing us from sinners into saints.  Such was Jesus’ work—a carpenter—and accomplished on the wood of the cross.  But without the Spirit instilling within us the gift of faith, triumph over fear and the slavery of sin, it would have been all for nothing.  However, our living God creates living works of goodness. The Spirit instills God’s goodness within us.  Thus, we become His children and Christ’s co-heirs of the ultimate home of heaven.  Yes, we still share in his sufferings—persecution, mockery, rejection, and even death—but because God is our Builder,  nothing can totally destroy the love and joy He has placed into our hearts.  So, on this memorial day weekend, we adorn the grave of His Son with our whole being.  You and I, dear Christians, are living proof of the Holy Trinity’s power, love, wisdom, and total goodness.  To God alone be all glory!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH SURPASSES….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

May 23, 2021: Pentecost

Let us pray: O Spirit from on high, come and pour out Your gifts of  love and peace upon us!  Give us a calm demeanor and a joyous heart!  Inspire us to do works of great service in Your kingdom.  And banish heartache and sadness from our lives forevermore!  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE GIVER OF ETERNAL PEACE!

TEXT:  John 14: 25-27

Dearly Beloved By the Power of the Holy Spirit!

          We’ve waited and waited and waited.  It’s been a long haul.  Our inner spirit’s have been depressed and heartache—literally—has set in.  Our joy over life has been diminished.  But now that lead weight has been removed!  Pentecost is here!

          It’s fitting that we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Church at this time.  Everything I just described fits today.  Covid restrictions are rapidly coming to an end.  All the lethargy and angst they have bred for 15 months has built up within us, just as the frustration of sin has built up within us.  But now it is going away, its plug has been pulled,  and comfort and joy are beginning to rush into that newly created void. 

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          I’ve noticed and felt a joyless heaviness of spirit for the last year and a half.  I’ve seen it in all of you, too.  We couldn’t enjoy our usual fellowship.  We were weighed down by unease  over the future.  Our usual carefree natures were forgotten memories.  Waking or sleeping, that “lightness  of being” was gone.  But now it is coming out of its cocoon.  And that beautiful butterfly of the Christian heart is beginning to flap its wings once more. 

          So it is with the yearly coming of Pentecost!  The disciples awaited the Spirit’s outpouring upon them, and us, for 10 days after Ascension.  They had all been through the down days of Holy Week.  They had had their emotional security blanket ripped away on Good Friday when they saw  their Savior die on a tree.  They had tearfully laid Him in the grave.  They had awakened on Easter morn with heavy hearts.  The Lord of joy was dead…..

          But then great news had stirred their hearts once more!  The Lord is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  They even saw Him, touched Him, and spoke to Him.  For those 40 days they had bathed in the glow of His love and His eternal truths.  Now, after Ascension they had to wait some more—10 long expectant days.  And on Pentecost the culmination of their joy and confidence arrived.  The 3rd member of the Eternal Trinity, the Comforter from on High, came into the upper room and rushed into their hearts.  He visibly sent His fiery truth of love and joyousness to alight on their heads.  He gave them gifts that have no comparison: gifts of tongues, gifts of healing, gifts of insight, gifts of joyous confidence—all to bolster their faith.  Those same gifts have filtered down to us today, since believers like you are the modern-day Church.  Yes, Pentecost lives on in and through you!

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          Jesus always keeps His promises.  He did with them and He still does with us.  Listen to His promise: “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

          By now everyone should know that the peace the world promises is a lie.  It changes almost daily.  It keeps going through the wash/spin cycle again and again and again.  This is what has weighed so heavily on our consciences and hearts.  This is what has prompted so many to give up their good cheer.  But no more!  For God remembers His promises and always keeps them.  In baptism the Spirit implanted the good cheer of faith within us.  Through His word of power:  “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven!” He gives us hopeful joy.  And through the Holy Supper, He also comes and ignites a spirit  of confidence within.  These are the Spirit’s vehicles whereby our souls find peace and rest.

          Physically and spiritually, the darkness of our slumbering spirits is now gone.  The warm light of God’s grace envelopes us.  And the gentle breeze of His Spirit propels each of us and the whole Christian Church ever upward.  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox