6/3/2018 Second Sunday after Pentecost The text is Mark 2:23-3:6.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Just when you think you have it right, someone comes along and sets you straight. Life can be like that. You can feel good about what you’ve accomplished and then, bam…you find out that you’ve had the wrong set of goals. That’s the type of thing that happened all the time to the Pharisees in the gospels as they encountered Jesus. The Pharisees were good people…people who lived by the rules that were handed down to them. They obeyed the laws and commandments and yet, they still didn’t get it right.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. That was one of the commandments handed to Moses from the Lord God almighty. In order to obey this commandment a list of 39 forbidden activities was developed. If I broke one a year for a life time, I wouldn’t even make it through the list 3 times. But the Pharisee didn’t have to worry about this because they kept the Sabbath. They kept it holy according to the prescribed list of dos and don’ts – without ever realizing that they were not actually keeping it at all.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. This commandment was given, not for the sake of God (who knows who he is and what he has done and will do for his people). The commandment was given for the sake of people like you and me. It was given to help people who are wrapped up in their own lives and what is happening to them to remember all that God has promised, all that God has and will do, and to rejoice in God – to find rest for weary bodies and minds in the Lord God. The commandment was given to a busy people who moan and groan about the bad things in life and then take credit for the good things that come their way. It was given to a people who need time to refocus and re-center their lives. So, the Sabbath was made for man.
We were not made for the Sabbath…for God doesn’t need us…God doesn’t need our worship and praise. God doesn’t need a pat on the back, a day of the week set aside for him like a glorified Memorial Day, or a building adorned with trappings to celebrate his existence. On the other hand, we need all of it. We need to remember that we are not alone. We need to remember that God is with us always wherever we go. We need to remember that God chose us and made us a family. We need to remember and rejoice in all the blessings God has given us and all the good and helpful things that God continues to bless us with each day.
We are not to forget for when we forget we can easily get burned out by the demands of the world. We can get caught up in grief and pain and despair. We can become overburdened and trapped and see no way out, nowhere to go, no help in facing the challenges of daily living. And so, our God in his wisdom sent a commandment to the people. God knows what we need. God tells us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. God wants us to come to him and find rest and renewal.
But just like Eve built a fence around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden – a layer of additional demands, not given by God – in order to prevent her from keeping God’s rule. The people of Israel built a fence, some 39 additional demands, not given by God, in order that they keep this commandment that was meant to help them. And the Pharisees, in their righteous and legalistic way, kept all of them. Then, along came Jesus and right in front of them he challenged what had been done to the commandment that was made for the benefit of the people, and he removed the layer of extra demands that the Pharisees had kept religiously.
Ah – just when you think you have it right, someone comes along and sets you straight. You can feel good about what you’ve accomplished and then, bam…you find out that you’ve had the wrong set of goals. That’s what happened to the Pharisees as they challenged the behavior of Jesus’ disciples who were gathering the food they needed to sustain life. Gleaning a farmer’s field was lawful, but doing any kind of work on the Sabbath was not. No cooking, no cleaning, no going to the grocery store; no gardening, no mowing, no traveling more than 3/5 of a mile – all these things and so much more were forbidden – not by God, but by the fences put around the day that was meant to give rest to the weary and help them re-center their lives on the graciousness of God.
“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” that was the question posed by Jesus when he saw a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. The Pharisee watched Jesus closely as it was the Sabbath and healing was also forbidden as it was considered to be work. But Jesus could not ignore the needs of any. While being grieved at the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees who couldn’t see past their legalistic understanding of the commandment, Jesus reached out and restored the man to wholeness.
Maybe that is what the Sabbath is all about. It is about going to God to have our needs met, knowing that we will not be turned away empty handed. Maybe that is what the Sabbath is all about. It is about remembering what God has done for us through Jesus Christ and the salvation and new life in store for us. Maybe that is what the Sabbath is all about. It is about finding our rest, restoration and rejuvenation in God.
We may not keep the Sabbath as the Pharisees. We may not refrain from all work. We may travel more than 3/5 of a mile to get here to remember God, to worship and sing praises, to pray for our needs and the needs of others, to gather as a family and rejoice in our blessings. We may not keep the Sabbath for a whole day, but we can set aside time each day for Sabbath moments in which we remember and give thanks to the God of our salvation.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Give praise and honor to God in your daily lives. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.