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June 2, 2024

Sabbath

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary Category: Biblical Scripture: Mark 2:23– 3:6

The Second Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 2:23-3:6

June 2, 2024

 “Sabbath”

It’s coincidental that today, just as Jennifer Hills, our Director of Discipleship, begins her 3-month summer sabbatical, we have the Gospel lesson that we do. It’s all about the Sabbath, the Hebrew word for “rest” (שַׁבָּת), which is the root word for sabbatical. As Jennifer begins her sabbatical, we certainly wish her well and pray the Lord’s rich blessing on this time away for her and her family. We all are called to find our rest in Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). This is a very timely subject for us to consider, and not just as the summer season gets underway and people start to go on vacation. No, it goes much deeper than that. In the stress-filled, overly busy, 24/7 world that we live in, where is the Sabbath in our lives today? As we consider the Word of God, both in today’s Old Testament lesson (Deuteronomy 5:12-15) and the appointed Gospel lesson (Mark 2:23-3:6), God’s call to remember and keep the Sabbath day is before us, with Jesus at the center. The message for today is entitled, “Sabbath.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

It's time for Catechism review! There are two times the Commandments are stated in Scripture. First, when God gave the Commandments to his people through Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17), and once more, just before God’s people crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Moses again instructed the people in all that God had commanded them (Deuteronomy 5:1-21). Notice that the first word used in today’s Old Testament lesson is not “remember” (זָכַר) but “observe” (שָׁמַר). To remember what God has commanded leads us to observe – to do – what he has commanded. “Remember [Observe] the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This is the Third Commandment for us as Lutheran Christians. Together with the First and Second Commandments, these three Commandments speak of the vertical dimension of our faith; namely, our relationship with God. The first table of the Law then flows into the second table of the Law (Commandments 4-10), which speak of the horizontal dimension of our faith; namely, our relationship with our neighbor. It’s interesting to note that Luther’s explanation of the Third Commandment says nothing about rest; only that “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Gathering for worship around God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament is, of course, central to our faith growth and development. But rest is at the heart of this commandment, as today’s Old Testament lesson makes clear.

Originally the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, in remembrance that God himself rested from the work of his creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3), and so God hallowed this day to be a day of rest. By the time of Jesus, in order to keep people from transgressing the Sabbath, all kinds rules and regulations had come about to prevent people from transgressing the Sabbath. For example, you could only walk as far as from your house to the synagogue and back home again. You could not light a fire. And as today’s Gospel lesson makes clear, you certainly could not engage in anything remotely resembling harvesting, like plucking heads of grain in the wheat field. The Sabbath police were out and about, and confronted Jesus about what his disciples were doing. The Sabbath, Jesus makes clear, was intended for our use and benefit – not the other way around. It all boils down to Jesus’ question: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). No answer is given by Jesus’ opponents – just stoney silence. Jesus, who is Lord of the Sabbath, brought healing and new life to that man with the withered hand. And Jesus invites us to find our wholeness, our peace, our rest in him today. Sabbath – a ceasing from the demands of the workaday world – invites us into God’s own rest. More than just recreation, it is a re-creation. It is something that we need in our lives.

When is the Sabbath? Originally it was the seventh day, or Saturday, and still is among our Jewish friends and neighbors. But already in the New Testament, we are told that believers began to gather on Sunday, the first day of the week, for worship because this is the day when Christ rose from the dead (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). And so over time, Sabbath as the seventh day for Christians gradually gave way to Sabbath as the first day of the week. Our own day and age is the polar opposite of Jesus’ day and age. Instead of having heavy restrictions about what we can and cannot do on the Sabbath, we have no restrictions. Sunday has become just another day. It’s the busiest day of the week for grocery shopping. Sporting events for our children take place on Sunday morning. Stores are open and ready for business. It’s a different world from when Jesus walked this earth. It’s a different world from that of our parents and grandparents with new demands and different challenges. Some people long for the old “blue laws,” as they were called, which restricted or banned some or all activities on Sunday. It is very easy to substitute one form of legalism for another. So how do we navigate these challenges? How do we honor Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath? How do we find Sabbath rest when everything around us is running at full throttle?

Jesus invites us to himself with these words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When all is said and done, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In Jesus, all the laws and regulations have been abolished because Jesus has fulfilled all that is written of him in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). He himself is our righteousness and our peace. He invites us to step into his yoke and let him do the heavy lifting. Interesting thing about this image: when only one ox is in the yoke, whatever the ox is pulling doesn’t go anywhere. It just goes around and around in a circle. Two are needed for forward movement. How often in life we try to be that one ox. We try to do the heavy lifting on our own. We try to make our own way. We try to do it ourselves, and the result is that we become exhausted and frustrated. “Step into my yoke,” Jesus says, “and let me do the heavy lifting.” Our Sabbath rest begins by accepting Jesus’ invitation, and in faith, stepping into his easy yoke. He already has borne the burden of the cross for us. He has shed his blood and given his life as payment for all our sins. If Jesus has so loved us that he has laid down his life for us, won’t he now give us strength for each day? Won’t he supply what is needed day by day?

Because of all that God in Christ has done for us, we can only say the psalmist: “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). This is why we come together week by week here in the Lord’s house: to be refreshed in our journey of faith. We come together on the Sabbath, the Lord’s day, knowing this to be a blessing, not a burden. We gather together to receive the assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, to offer our prayers and praises, to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, all through Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. Amen.

 

other sermons in this series

Jul 14

2024

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 6:14–29 Series: Lectionary

Jun 23

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Do I Know You?

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 4:35–41 Series: Lectionary

Jun 16

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The Automatic Seed

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Scripture: Mark 4:26–34 Series: Lectionary