December 01, 2019: 1st Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, as we begin a new church year, focus our attention on what awaits us—not only this coming Christmas and new year, but the larger issues having to do with the eternal future that awaits us.  Equip us to cast aside the deeds of darkness and its attendant temptations and walk into the Light of your grace and mercy.  Yes, sweep our hearts clean of sin so that we have room for your forgiving love.  Amen


TEXT:  Romans 13: 11-14

Dearly Beloved in Our Coming Lord Christ: 

          About 10 years ago our country’s Secretary of State was the point person for a new campaign to improve relations between Russia and America.  That official met with the Russian government in a televised press conference and spoke about a new “reset” of relations.  She even pulled out a giant “reset” button as a prop—kind of like you might see in a Staples ad.  Then she hit the button, expecting it to light up.  Nothing happened!  It was a dud.  It didn’t work.—And so we still find ourselves today at odds with Russia.

          Advent is a Godly time for us to hit a “reset” button in our own lives.  Hopefully, peace and harmony with God and ourselves will come out of it.  And today’s lesson gives us a blueprint to accomplish this, otherwise your life will turn into a dud….


          Advent is our “present time.”  Advent 2019 foretells snow storms on the horizon, a cold winter, people spending far more than they can afford, superpowers squaring off against each other, superbugs which will lay many low, and basically more problems than we can count.  It will feature evil’s intrusion into our lives and cause us to question the meaning of life.  So what are any of us going to do about it?  Listen to Paul: “And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.”

          Most would say that the Christian Church is outmoded and time has passed it by.  Most would say it is comprised of stodgy, boring people who live in the past and cling to ancient ideas of right and wrong, along with a morality that doesn’t fit our fast-paced world.  Most would say that the Church is an anachronism, a concept that time has left behind.  Paul tells us to throw off your blanket of accepting this view, to rouse yourself from the slumber of complacency you often indulge in, and to get ready for big things, cosmic events leading up to Christ’s 2nd coming and the end of the world.  Can you imagine eating a big turkey dinner, engaging in self-congratulations around the table, shuffling off and going to sleep—right through the evening news—and missing out on the “breaking news headline” which announces the end of the world?! Christ is coming.  The future of God’s power and judgement is very close by.  And Christmas, in 24 days, will inaugurate His 1st coming in preparation for His 2nd coming.


          It’s time to reset ourselves.  “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

          The word: holiday means “holy day.”  Anything holy is associated with God, isn’t it?  And yet the holidays, including Christmas, usually revolve around selfishness, greed, drunkenness, illicit sex, and generally almost anything that isn’t “holy.”  Because it is the modern American way, even Christians get caught up in this web of evil.  From now until Christ’s birthday the headlines will scream about how holiday sales are up.  It will reek of materialism.  The vast majority will spend most waking hours “thinking how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  And then in the hard, cold light of January, the bills will come due with a thud.  Likewise, God’s bill will someday soon come due, too, concerning our life and the future of our soul.

          And so we are to ponder all these issues during Advent and hit our own reset button!  Elsewhere, Paul tells us this: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  If you do that, these days leading up to Christmas will be full of meaning, none of which will cause you a sleepless night.  And you can do that by focusing on the Baby Jesus Who is coming to win your freedom from the inroads of evil by triumphing over it on a cross and by handing you His victory—all wrapped up and lying in a simple manger.  Most would call that a quaint, delusional dream; but by His grace, we call it: a promise of God!  So hit your reset button starting today and see the beauty and timelessness of that promise fulfilled in your life this very year!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

Dec. 1, 2019 

November 24, 2019: Christ The King Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You alone are the King of all creation.  You alone know everything and shape and mold everything so that Your name will be hallowed and Your kingdom of grace may flourish.  Today give us a glimpse into Your greater truth that surrounds and protects us.  Amen


TEXT:  John 18: 34-38

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          I watched a little bit of the spectacle in Washington over the past 2 weeks.  I watched various witnesses being sworn in, declaring they would recount: “The truth, the whole truth.”  And it brought to mind the question of Pilate to Christ: “What is truth?”  Let’s ponder it.


          Is it the truth to declare “the sun is shining?”  Well, not today in Burlington, MA.  But somewhere in the world it is.  So, that truth is therefore dependent on where you live and what time of day it is.  Such truth is relative.  How about: “Today is November 24, 2019.”  Is that true?  Again, it depends on the calendar you’re following.  Here’s another one: “I love you.”  How?  In what way?  Does your love ever waver or fade?  Such truths are relative.  Some will say: What about the truths of science?  I answer: How do you know gravity exists throughout the universe in the exact same way we understand it?  Maybe there’s an alternate universe where it doesn’t exist?  By now you’re a bit exasperated.  Truth, human truth, is relative, dependent upon our understanding of something at that time and in that situation.  Is it any wonder Pilate was a cynic and mockingly asked Jesus: “What is truth?” 

          What precipitated this exchange between the Roman governor and Christ, the King of all creation?  It was Jesus saying: “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

          This whole exchange brings up a reality-jarring problem all humans face.  That is the difference between subjective truth vs. objective truth.  Subjective truth is whatever is true for you.  So, color blind people see red whenever most others see green or blue.  What is “true” for one may not be “true for the other.”  Likewise, a sociopath may adopt a murderous lifestyle as “truth” whereas most others would say: “That’s horrible and wrong!”  If you boil it down, most of what is called: “truth” in this life, is utterly subjective.  That is, it’s right for me but not necessarily right for anyone else.  And of course, this breeds chaos, so we try to ignore the problem and sort of let the majority rule. 

          Then there’s objective truth, or “it’s true whether you believe it or not.”  Or, it’s true and correct even though you may not understand or grasp its correctness.  Let me ask you this: “What happens when you die?  Where do you go?  What do you do?  Do the same rules of earthly life apply in the hereafter?  And how and from what source do you know anything about this?”   By definition time isn’t timeless.  So, is truth timeless? 

          Pilate was what we’d call a modern man.  He was a cynic.  He questioned everything and believed only in what he had experienced: The power of might makes right and money buys anything.  His question: “What is truth?” stems from all that he could not quantify.


          Jesus’ answer to Pilate is intriguing.  “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  That’s a stunning statement.  It presupposes that Jesus knows real truth.  He presupposes that Jesus possesses knowledge far beyond mere human comprehension.  It presupposes that He possesses knowledge, wisdom and understanding which is timeless and infinite.  Pilate was a smart cynic and he grasped a portion of what Christ was saying.  No wonder he responds with: “What is truth?” 

          Jesus’ response is grounded in the truth that God exists, that He alone knows truth, and that Jesus is God in human flesh.  Recall Him saying: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  That would make Him the King of the universe, answerable to no one.  And because Jesus is God’s Son and there’s unity in the Trinity, all this is True! 

          Jesus tells us about Himself in the Bible.  Here’s another passage: “God Word is truth!”  So, whatever the Bible says is correct across all ages and stands the test of time and human relativity.  So, when Scripture tells us not to: cheat, steal, lie, murder, or commit adultery—those truths are always in force.  Thus, whoever breaks those rules sins against God and “the soul that sins it shall die.”  Such truth is black and white with no extenuating circumstances.  Otherwise God’s truth isn’t true.

          But there’s another great truth in the Bible.  It is this: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them anymore.”  That truth is the Gospel.  It is encapsulated in Jesus’ own words from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  God is light and him dwells no darkness at all.  God is love.  Those truths show and tell us how He conquered the untruth of Satan’s lies.  They tell us that Godly truth won an eternal victory over sin and evil on the cross and confirmed it by rising from the dead.  So, even that commonly accepted truth: “When you die, you die” is false!  For Christ died but came back to life!  He did it for you and me.  And when we believe in Him, or as Jesus says here: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me” well, God’s truth trumps human relativity. 

          My friends, Christ is our King!  He knows the truth, gives it to us through faith, and it sets us free!  It sets us free from the silliness of human understanding about all the great issues of this life and the one beyond.  It provides us a paradigm for living: “If you continue in My words, then you are my disciples; and then you shall know the truth and that truth shall set you free!” 

          Truth is a beautiful thing in that it is never wrong and never goes out of style. So  listen to Christ the Purveyor of real truth and no matter what occurs in this life you WILL live happily ever after!  Our King has made it so and nothing and no one can change that fact!


Welcome to Pinewood!

IMG_0231Sharing the joyous news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ is our chief purpose. To that end, we seek to nurture everyone we meet.

Join Us For Worship

Sunday Worship

10:45 a.m.

10:00 a.m. Summer Services

Starting June 1, 2019, we will begin our summer schedule with Sunday service beginning at 10:00 a.m. 

Note from the Pastor About Pinewood:

People often say: “The devil is in the details.”  We at Pinewood like to say: “God is in the details!”  It’s true!  God cares about our lives down to the smallest of details.  He never overlooks any of us.  He shows kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love to all from the smallest infant to the most seasoned member.  And along the way He breeds happiness, joy, and inner peace among all His children.  That’s why we’re a contented congregation.  He gives such blessings to each of us—and we share them.  We laugh together, we cry together, we praise God together, and we give thanks together.  We invite you to be  part of such togetherness.   Pastor Thomas H. Fox

May 22, 2022: 5th Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, once long ago, You promised the disciples and Your Holy Church that they would receive power from on high.  At Pentecost You poured out that power upon them and upon us.  Today give us a new dose of that power.  Cause us to recognize its strength.  And move each of us to use it wisely.  Amen


TEXT:  Acts 14: 8-18

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          During the average Sunday sermon pastors talk a lot about humility, love, kindness and compassion.  Hopefully, every pastor especially stresses the forgiveness of sins, which presupposes a humble, repentant heart.  But, we seldom discuss power.  However, the Bible is replete with examples of Godly power.  Think of Elijah hovering over that dead boy in Zarapheth and raising him to life.  That was raw, Godly power in action.  Think of the miracles of Jesus.  Raw power there, too.  Or how about the dying Jesus turning to that thief on the cross and promising him Paradise?  Well, that is a bit different than we might expect, but since that promise came from God’s lips, it was power-filled. 

          We usually view Godly power in human terms.  We see it in terms of externals we can sort of understand.  Miracles, resurrections, physical healings, or the Pentecost ability to speak in tongues come to mind.  But such a narrow view of Godly power would be a mistake.  The exact same God Who created the earth from nothing, caused the Red Sea to part through Moses, and led His people to the promised land in that visible pillar of fire; that God employs His exact same power today in the seemingly mundane.—Causing the rains to fall and the seasons to come and go isn’t flashy, but it breeds life.  And using the simple water of baptism, the humble elements of bread and wine in communion, and the common words of Christians: “I forgive you all your sins”; well, behind the mundane stands the sublime!  Behind such things stands Godly power, even though most refuse to acknowledge it.  In fact, God has chosen to use the mundane of this world to really show forth His power.  We see that especially in the cross, an instrument of torture and death, which through Christ brings eternal life.  Why does God use such things to bring us His power?  The answer is: He’s not into dazzling us or preying on our emotions.  No, He’s into saving us.  To do that, He wants to elicit and work faith into our hearts.  And only humble, rejectible vehicles of His grace which seemingly hide His power, can cause a person to hold onto Christ and His forgiveness, even when the world says: “It’s all rubbish.”

          There’s another reason behind using the  “common and ordinary” to convey His power to us.  It’s to keep us humble.  If we were given the power to hurl lightening bolts at others or zap out miracles, our egos would become inflated rather quickly, we’d become corrupted by our gift of Godly power, and ultimately we’d do what Satan did so long ago in eternity, we’d try to, or at least believe we could supplant God Himself.  Likewise, those viewing such displays might believe, but it would be through fear or coercion rather than through love.  And none of the above would honor God.

          Today, we are confronted with an amazing lesson in Godly power and we see the human dilemma of both faith and dazzled acceptance resulting from it.  One honors God, one does not.  Since you and I have been given the hidden, hooded power of God—the Gospel—to use and employ, this lesson is most instructive.  And it really teaches us to:



          As I’ve stated, most of the time Godly power is unseen.  That’s because it focuses upon changing people from the inside out, whereas our eyes only view the outward appearance.  Here both aspects are combined.  The result is: the townspeople of Lystra are quite jubilant!  They view Paul and Barnabas as greek gods, Zeus and Mercury, the supposed patrons of their city, all because they healed this middle-aged man of his birth defect—the inability to walk.  However, the greater power was found in their preaching of Christ crucified and the forgiveness of sins which implanted and worked faith into that poor beggar’s heart.  That power saved his soul.  That power saved his life eternally.  But the townsfolk are oblivious to that miracle, aren’t they?  The razzle-dazzle, the healing miracle, was but a fruit given to this man on account of his faith.  The faith was all important.  But the townsfolk are blinded to real power because it just doesn’t overly excite their senses.


          When the local priest of Zeus’ temple puts together a parade to honor Paul and Barnabas, brings a couple of laurel-wreathed oxen to sacrifice to them, and calls them: “gods”—well, Paul has had enough!  He refuses to accept their accolades.  He refuses to violate the 1st commandment.  Instead, he launches into a sermon about how they are only men, how they have come to bring something far better than razzle-dazzle, how the living God—Christ—made everything, sustains everything, gives us signs of real power in keeping the rains and seasons going to sustain life, and how like this healed man, God now wants to heal their souls through the blood of Christ.  Luke then adds: “Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.”

          St. Paul knew all about Godly power.  He had experienced it during his conversion on the road to Damascus.  He had used it in many ways during his life—even raising a dead man in one instance.  But most of all, he knew that the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ, was the real dynamite, the real power of God.  In fact, in Romans 1:16 Paul writes about this: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.”  Paul had been humbled by the power of God’s gift of eternal life.  Nothing he did before his conversion had so gripped his heart and changed his life for the better.  Nothing before had worked peace with God into his very soul.  So, Paul here uses that power wisely and humbly to attempt to dose these Lystrians with Godly power.  Through his actions and words, Paul mimics what St. John the Baptist said to his disciples when they asked him about Jesus: “He must increase but I must decrease.”  Yes, Paul is living out what Christ said in John 15:5 when it came to using Godly power: “Without Me, you can do nothing.” 


          I’d like to give you a happy ending to this story.  But I cannot.  For in the verses following our text we see the fickleness of people who focus  on the razzle-dazzle but refuse to listen and experience true Godly power—the power of the Gospel.  Rabble-rousing enemies of Paul and Christ appear in the city.  Within a few days they totally turn the townsfolk against Paul and the entire group is forced to flee from Lystra for their lives.  Kind of reminds you of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, doesn’t it?  Hosanna one day and crucify the next. 

          Baptism, communion, Sunday’s absolution, Sunday school, confirmation classes, Bible studies, sermons—none of them are filled with much razzle-dazzle.  And so, it’s easy to conclude that none of them contains Godly power.  Don’t make that mistake, my friends!  Don’t do what these Lystrians did.  Instead, expose yourself to true power, recognize it, rejoice over it, and use it in humility, awe, and thankfulness.  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

May 8, 2022: 3rd Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, tune our ears to Your voice of comfort and hope.  Tune our hearts toward Your undying kindness and love.  Tune our mouths to speak Your truth in love.  And tune our lives into that blessed equilibrium of knowing that we are Your beloved sheep and You are our beloved Shepherd.  Amen


TEXT:  John 10: 22-30

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          My favorite American tourist story deals with being driven around Siena, Italy.  The car ahead of us was going slow, too slow for our native driver!  He made a passing comment about “American drivers” and pointed out dad driving, mom trying to read the map in the front seat, and the daughter in the back of the car looking about anxiously.  We all had a laugh.  It is true that you can usually pick Americans out of the crowd in a foreign country.  We are physically larger, wear sneakers a lot, and are usually not as fashionable in our dress as the locals.  Our facial features also differ.  On that last point, one of my colleagues who lived for many years in Europe once shared with me an interesting insight.  He said that Europeans can usually pick out the nationality of another person simply by looking at their face.  It seems different languages use different facial muscles, hence the uniqueness of our features.  Since he’s a language major, I’ll differ to his observation.   All of this points to what I call The Recognition Factor.   Since Christians are the most unique people on this planet, today I want to discuss THE RECOGNITION FACTOR with you!


          “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews gathered around him, saying, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’”

          It was December, Hanukkah time.   The time when the Jews celebrated the rededication of the temple under the Maccabees about 160 years before.  The idea behind this celebration paralleled the Psalm verse: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit.”  Unfortunately, from the rather clueless question posed to Christ, it is obvious that although the temple had been renewed, the hearts of the people had not.

          Another item of interest is the forum Jesus employs to teach them exactly Who He really is.  Solomon’s Colonnade was a “porch” outside the temple.  In Greek it is called the “stoa” from which we get the word “stoic.”  The contrast here is that Christ not only changes minds but does something even more important.  He also has concern for the heart and soul of lost humans.  Unlike today when humans define themselves in terms of body and mind, God reminds us that we also have a soul, the very heart of our humanness and that the health of that soul is vital for life.

          The fact of the matter is this: Although they ask Jesus if He is the Messiah, He has already told them, showed them, and proved it to them.  They just didn’t want to listen.  Already He has done countless miracles.  Already He has fulfilled countless prophesies about Himself.  Already He has exhibited amazing understanding of the Bible and dazzled the masses with it.  Already He has fed their souls.  And yet, human unbelief is strong.  Humans hate giving up their preconceived notions about Who God really is and why He came into this world.  Unfortunately humans don’t recognize their need for a Savior because they think they can save themselves by simply going through the motions of external piety.


          So, what does Christ do about this failure to grasp the obvious?  He instructs them, and us, in The Recognition Factor!  “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.’”

          Have you ever been to the grocery, looked for an item, and unable to find it asked for help—and then had it pointed out that you’re standing directly in front of it?!  Well, that’s Christ’s point.  He’s given people countless signs and words of truth about Himself and His plan for our salvation.  He really did miracles.  He really did heal people.  He really did raise people from the dead.  And in every instance He also proclaimed that God’s gift of eternal life is just that—a gift.  A gift earned by Christ for us and given to us freely through faith. 

          In Italy, our driver, Leo, found out that I was a minister.  After quizzing me a bit, he informed me that “He loves Jesus.”  I responded, “That’s wonderful!  But, it’s even better that Jesus loves you!”  That’s the point for God’s sheep.  They focus on, they recognize that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He loves them.  He laid down His life for them—for us.  And we then respond to His voice of comfort and hope through faith.  We recognize Him because He has bought, paid for, and made us His own with His blood.

          Next time you find yourself  traveling in a foreign country, employ the recognition factor in sizing up the crowd around you.  You’ll find it enlightening.  But even more importantly, employ that recognition factor to yourself and to your relationship with Christ and ultimately you’ll find a real home in heaven.  Amen


Pastor Thomas Fox 

May 1, 2022: 2nd Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, love moved You to take a chance on all of us in inviting us to Your heavenly table.  As a result, we have graciously become co-heirs of Your victory and recipients of eternal life.  Prompt us today to take a chance on other hurting souls by inviting, encouraging, and leading them to You through our bold confession of Your Easter triumph!  Amen


TEXT:  Acts 9: 1-19a

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          St. Paul and I were talking in heaven recently about the first time we met.  My name is Ananias and I was Paul’s first pastor.  Our first encounter was not an easy one for either of us.  Paul, or as he was known then as Saul, was a horrible enemy of God’s Church.  He was raised in Tarsus, got a wonderful education by the leading teacher of the day: Dr. Gamaliel; and then went on to rabbi school in Jerusalem.  He was there when Christ was crucified.  This man, Saul, then became active in the early persecution of Christians in that city.  With 480 local synagogues in Jerusalem to choose from, Saul sought out believers everywhere he turned.  In the book of Acts, St. Luke first talks about Saul as the one who “consented” to St. Stephan’s death by stoning from the enemies of the cross.  Some of your modern scholars read this to mean that Saul was now over 30, about Christ’s age, and served as an up-and-coming rabbi on the Jewish ruling council.  I won’t comment on that, but I will tell you that Saul held the cloaks of those men as they beat Stephen to death with rocks. 

          We started to hear stories about how zealous Saul was in his hatred for Christians.  Yes, we had eyes and ears attuned to all this hatred in Jerusalem and we received word of this arch-foe of Christ.  His synagogue roundups of believers and their subsequent torture became legendary.  Then we received word that this awful man was heading our way!  He had received letters from the high priest giving him authority to capture, imprison, and torture us!  Obviously as a leader of one of the Damascus churches, my name was on the list.  A lot of my flock went into hiding.  We all prayed.  Fear stalked our every move.

          Finally, we got news that this fearsome Saul had arrived!  But, it was strange.  He appeared to be blind.  Other men were leading him by the arm into his lodgings.  What was going on? 

          Then after three days of this fearful waiting, God appeared to me in a vision and called out my name: “Ananias!”  I answered as you would when confronted by the Lord Almighty.  I simply said: “Yes, Lord.”  And then He told me directly: “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”  Well, God was pretty direct in His words.  And they made me even more petrified since there could be no mistake that I was that man!  Like you, I laid out my objections which all stemmed from my frail flesh.  “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”  But, God answered those objections with words that still ring in my ears.  “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

          Well, when God gives you a direct command, you obey.  Yes, I did think about those who had ignored such commands of God.  I thought of Jonah and how he was too fearful to preach repentance in Nineveh because it seemed so futile.  I thought about how Jonah tried to get away from it all on that ship and how the great fish swallowed him up, spit him out on dry land, and then how Jonah learned that it was better to trust in God and obey than to hold onto his own fears.  So, I went.  I went to Straight Street, that mile long 100ft wide street that bordered one of the city walls.  I went to Judas’ house, gulped, knocked on the door and found Saul.  Every step of the way I thought about Jesus walking to the cross in my place.  I thought about how fearlessly He allowed His enemies to nail him to it.  And I prayed for Him to be with me and help me. 

          Saul seemed to know I was coming.  He was calm and didn’t seem to want my skin to hang on his trophy wall.  So, I just got to the point.  I placed my hands on him and said: “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here (yes, God had given me that knowledge of Saul’s conversion, but part of me didn’t really believe it was genuine)—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  After this was said, scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again.  He embraced me.  He wanted to be baptized, and I did so.  He ate food and regained his strength.

          In the subsequent days, Saul, now known as Paul, preached Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins throughout the city.  He talked about how the resurrected Jesus had appeared to him and totally changed, converted his heart.  He was dynamic in his preaching and just wouldn’t shut up!  My congregation was amazed at it all and welcomed him into the fold.  For if this wasn’t “fruits of repentance” what was?!  A bit later, Paul’s former allies who hated us and were dazed by his change, plotted to have him killed in order to silence him.  Again, our blessed spies found out about the plot.  We knew they had guards posted at all the city gates in order to arrest him.  So, one night we went to a nondescript hole in the city wall far above the ground, put Paul in a woven basket and let him down by rope.  He escaped certain death!  And he went on for another 30+ years to change the world by preaching and converting people to trust in Christ, Who alone changes hard hearts through self-sacrificing love rather than through fear.  All other religions in your world try to motivate people through coercion and fear.  But Christ alone has made eternal peace with God on our behalf and in love invites us to embrace Him in  the love that He gave to us on the cross. 

          That love of Christ for Paul and for me turned my life around.  It enabled me to overcome my fleshly fear and take a chance (humanly speaking) on Paul.  And as a result, my life’s story could be entitled: BLESSINGS RESULT FROM TAKING A CHANCE FOR CHRIST! 

          St. Luke doesn’t refer to me anywhere else in the book of Acts.  And you don’t need to know anything more about my life other than eventually Christ took me to heaven and my eternal mansion in on the same street where St. Paul now resides.  We’re great friends.  We get together daily.  He tells me stories of how my taking a chance on him for Christ’s sake helped populate a pretty good sized chunk of the Holy City.  It all makes for a festive celebration each day, especially when Christ, Who is the reason for it all comes to visit.  So, dear Christians, don’t be afraid to take a chance at obeying Christ and sharing His salvation with another.  I’m proof, Paul’s proof, that it really does work and blessings really do result!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

April 24, 2022: 1st Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, we have been washed clean of sin and shame by Your precious blood.  We have been given the gift of a heavenly home through faith in Your Easter victory.  We have reaped countless spiritual, physical, and emotional blessings as a result of Your loving triumph over the cross on our behalf.  And yet, because we are still confined to frail flesh and blood, at times we doubt.  At times we are plagued by worry and uncertainty as to whether all of this true and as to whether it is really for us.  At times, we even worry that perhaps you have forgotten about us.  Today dispel those fears and doubts as You once did with the disciples in that locked room.  And as in their case, replace such worry with fearless, unending joy!  Amen


TEXT:  John 20: 19-31

Fellow Redeemed In the Easter King!

          Everywhere you turn, you run into straw men.  That is, you run into people who caricature the Christian faith and then take great delight in crumpling up that caricature and tossing it away into the waste basket of stupidity and unbelief.  One of the favorite straw man arguments used to attack Christianity is called: blind faith.  How often have you read or been told that your faith really is blind?  Some will tell you: “How do you know Christ arose?  Did you see Him?  You weren’t there!”  Others will say: “Why do you think you’re always right?  Has God appeared to you and told you something special?Still others will say: “If God’s really in your corner, than ask Him to do something extraordinary and then perhaps I’ll accept it.”  Try as you might to answer such unbelief, in the end such people will laugh with derision: “Yours is just a blind faith.  You are no different from any other religions of this world.  Marx was right, ‘religion is the opiate for the unthinking masses.’  You’re a weak-willed person who needs an emotional crutch, but I’m better than that!”

          Is our faith really so blind?  Is it really so unproveable and undefendable?  Does our faith have nothing to do with reality, with rationality?  Is our faith based on human subjective whims and emotions?  Is it so totally divorced from reason and the brain?  Is that what Christ had in mind when He said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?”  Of course not!  For does not the Bible say: “Test the spirits to see whether they are of God?”  Have not all things in the Bible been written for our learning and knowledge?  Have not the Scriptures been written so that our faith can rest on more than sin-tainted human emotions and whims?  Did not God act in time and space, in human history, via the cross and the empty tomb to give us a reason for believing?  Indeed He did!  And therefore when unbelief rears its arrogant head with one of those straw man arguments against Christianity, our response can and should be:



          Christ lived and died here on terra firma, planet earth.  That’s a fact.  Granted, maybe we weren’t there to witness it, but countless others were.  And they have given us their eyewitness accounts in Holy Writ.  Isn’t the eyewitness testimony of 2 or 3 or 4 enough for the courts of our land to discern the truth?  Isn’t such eyewitness testimony enough to go forward and operate on?  You certainly do exactly that when 3 different accountants confirm that you owe X amount of taxes.  You do exactly that when 3 different mechanics all diagnose the same problem with your car.  You do exactly that when 3 eyewitnesses confirm to you, the jury, that the defendant really did steal that Lexus they were driving.  We humans weigh evidence and then either accept it or reject it.  So, let’s now weigh our text.

          “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” 

          Here we have a room full of witnesses.  Obviously they were not filled with a great deal of faith in Christ’s resurrection at this point.  They were skeptical.  They were hard to convince.  Even though they had seen His miracles and, heard the reports from the women and Peter that Christ was alive again; even though  the two disciples from Emmaus had just arrived to tell them of their encounter with the resurrected Christ, and even though they surely wanted to believe—they weren’t ready just yet to put their faith in Jesus’ resurrection.  Why?  Because they feared the Jews who had killed Christ.  They feared that a similar fate awaited them.  Self preservation is the greatest of all instincts.  We see here that self-preservation was their chief motivator—not belief in the resurrection.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have been hiding in that locked room.

          Next, the unexpected happens.  Christ appears!  He miraculously is just there in their midst!  He doesn’t have to walk through the door.  After all, it’s locked.  And yet, He appears because He’s God.  And not some ghostly form of God, but a physical reality that they can touch and feel.  Note how He shows them His hands and feet.  Luke’s account says that Jesus told them to touch Him, too.  But here we hear that the first words from His mouth were: “Peace be with you!”  Christ came to give inner peace instead of turmoil and emotional chaos.  Indeed, the Christian faith is all about peace.  Peace of conscience and peace of soul.  It worked, here, too.  For we’re told: “They were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”  Christ’s resurrection banishes fear and the uncertainty that it  breeds.

          Next, He empower them, and through them all Christians, to do the very same thing—to banish fear.  He empowers them to give the blessings of Easter peace and forgiveness of sins to sinners who acknowledge their need of it.  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.  And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’”

          Christ’s physical resurrection proved that He is God.  It proves that His victory over sin and death is a definite reality.  It proves that He has the power to forgive sins—for only God can do that.  Thus, any and every time that we forgive sins, the power of His cross and His empty tomb is transferred through us to that sorrowful sinner who longs for it.  And even though Christ may not be physically present here this morning, His Word and the peace it conveys is!  Peace Be With You!


          So far we’ve seen that Jesus’ resurrection created confidence among those fearful followers.  But if their testimony isn’t enough for it to create confidence in you, then listen up!  “Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

          Obviously Thomas was not easily convinced.  He was a thoroughly modern man.  He wanted to scientifically test their claims with his eyes, his hands, and his senses.  He wanted to put the Lord God to the test.  That Thomas is exactly like every other Thomas out there—including you.  We want to believe.  We want to trust.  We want to be strong in the faith.  But often we are o so weak.  Often we worry that God doesn’t really love us, or that He’s forgotten about us, or that He can’t help us with a certain problem.  God’s Word may tell us one thing, and our heart goes and tells us something else.—But God is greater than our hearts and right here He proves it!

          “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.  Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.’”

          When Thomas is off alone, worried, doubting, on edge—Christ still remembers him.  Christ cares for the individual.  And Christ will always seek us out and find us when we least expect it.  And although Christ may be physically absent from this earth today, His Word of comfort still comes!  He still bids you not to worry or fear.  He still gives you peace.—In the Word of absolution, in the waters of Baptism, and in His Holy Supper.  What’s your response to all this?

          Thomas’ response was: “My Lord and my God!”   That is to be the echo of every believer, too.  It is our confession.  It is our faith.  But it isn’t blind.  It was and still is based on reality.  The reality that Christ lived and died for us.  The reality that Christ still lives in heavenly glory—ready to come again to judge the living and the dead.  The reality that heaven really is our home.

          My friends, blind faith is a belief that has no basis in history.  Blind faith is based merely on an individual’s whims or personal prejudices.  Blind faith says: Me, me, me.  Blind faith is not the Christian faith!  For our faith is based on historical reality.  It is based on what God says instead of what I may think.  It comes from Him as a gift.  It focuses on Him.  It bows to Him, alone.  It doesn’t say: “My Lord and My God.”  Instead, it says: “My Lord and my God!

          Often we Christians are discontented because we cannot yet physically see Christ.  Somehow we think that if we were present, like Thomas, in that upper room that night we would possess an extra-special faith.  That we would then be blest in a extra-special way.  But instead of feeling sorry for yourself and thinking less of your faith, you need to heed the closing words of Christ to Thomas.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!”  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox