First Sunday of Trinity Season, June 3rd, 2018.
Main passage Mark 2:23- 3:9
We are now in a time of year, that is called Ordinary time or Trinity Season. It runs until the end of October. During these weeks, we will focus in our preaching primarily upon our gospel reading which will mostly be Mark but sometimes John. Also our first bible reading will be from OT until end of the summer covering the great events surrounding Samuel, David and Solomon.
A helpful tool in bible study, is to read the chapters before the passage you study. You can see ongoing themes across many verse. Where Jesus is now, is yet again in controversy. As we read Mark 2, we see Jesus getting into controversy after controversy. There is the paralysed man healed and Jesus declaring his forgiveness, we have Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. We have the disagreement why his followers do not fast when others do. And now, more controversies over the Sabbath.
Two issues. Disciples walking through fields on the sabbath who pluck off heads of grain and eat them. Man with withered hand in synagogue, is healed by Jesus. The Pharisees and Jesus are in two different places on what can and should not be done on the sabbath. Jesus says basic needs can be met, as the high priest allowed in the day of David. And it is more important to do good, than to neglect it. The vision of sabbath seems to have been lost in Jesus eyes. A key line is
‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’
Let’s look at the Sabbath command. Exodus 20 and draw out some principles. Sabbath is a huge topic and I will only touch on a few ideas.
8 ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The command says it is ‘a sabbath to the Lord your God’. it does not stipulate worship but the phrasing to the Lord your God – suggests that worship is a very suitable part of any sabbath, a day where the Lord is focused upon. But as the fourth commandment indicates, for Israel it was a day of worship and of rest. Of course, our lives are to be acts of daily hourly worship to the Lord. We are not to be SunMos – Sunday morning only people. Monday to Saturday – all we do, act and say are to be acts of worship.
To focus more upon the command to ‘rest’
Sabbath derives from the verb stop. So the sabbath day is the stopping day.
Someone said, ”the sabbath is a sanctuary of time”. A day set apart from the other six. God’s words challenge us. Our lives are not to lived as if all time is ours and we can do with it as we desire. ”The God of all time retains the right to determine how one day shall or shall not be used, ” (both quotes from Fretheim, Exodus, p.229).
It is, as someone said, a ”fundamentally egalitarian institution.” (Fretheim, Exodus, p. 230). No one does work – not you, not your children, nor your servant, not any migrants working for you, and even the animals do not work. All equal in that moment, all resting on that day of the week. As another writer said:
”Sabbath is a day of revolutionary equality in society. On that day all rest equally, regardless of wealth or power or need,” (Brueggemann, Genesis, pp35-36).
This command to Israel applied to the harvesting season, the ploughing season, the sowing season. No work. Pressure to do these activities. But no… they were to rest, be still… It meant an act of trust in God. That all would be well. ”The world will not disintegrate if we stop our efforts.” (Brueggemann, Genesis, p.35). We can keep on keeping on. There is more to do. But if we do not do it? Does our stopping, mean we let go and let God?
Now the rationale for such a day is, as we heard, from Genesis 1 and 2. In six days all is made. Seventh day the Lord rests. It can be read – it is the end of God’s creating. But I suggest the divine rest is the completion of creation.
”God’s resting is a divine act that builds into the very created order of things a working / resting rhythm.” (Fretheim, Exodus, p.230).
There is a rhythm and when that rhythm is honoured by all, the creation is what God intended it to be. To keep the sabbath is to participate in God’s intention for creation. Note how this is not just for Israelites to keep – but also foreigners. And not just humans to keep it – but the animals who work for you. All of creation is to rest.
Genesis 1 presents how the Lord God brings order out of chaos – the Lord who teaches on sabbath is the one through whom and for whom all was created. To not keep sabbath is to go against the divine created order. To not keep it, is like returning one aspect of the creation to chaos once more.
Now that sounds a bit crazy. Not keeping sabbath means chaos. Or is it? What is happening emotionally, physically, spiritually – when people do not have a day of rest – that weekday oasis. We are in a culture, where it seems correct to say ‘I’m busy’. Workaholism is a modern Western disease and the Sabbath is its antidote.
”When God took a day off at the end of the week’s creation work, it was not because God was weary, but it did become a pattern for human beings to follow so that we would not grow weary. We become more human if we follow God’s pattern.” (Goldingay, Genesis, p. 25).
Remember humanity’s creation in the divine image on day six. They are commissioned to be workers. Then next day is – day 7 – rest. Rest first. Work follows. It suggests a rhythm that we ‘work from our rest, than rest from our work’, (Breen, Passionate Church, p.67).
Jesus says Sabbath was made for man. Remember where this comes. In the 10 commandments. ‘Do not have any other gods, do not make any carved images of other gods, do not use wrongly the name of the Lord God, honour your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do no steal, don’t lie about your neighbour, don’t covet – lust / desire after anything your neighour has’. And in the midst of this. ‘Remember to keep a day of rest’. This suggests – the commandment to keep the Sabbath is right up there with not murdering, not lying, not worshipping other gods. James 2: 11 –
”For he who said do not commit adultery also said do not commit murder. If you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder you have become a law breaker.”
James, in his letter, says all of God’s laws are equal. You cannot keep some and not keep others. A sabbath is not an optional extra for a disciple of Jesus. You could say that rest is in God’s top ten things for you to do, he tells Israel and us.
Sabbath is a divine gift to you. The Pharisees seemed to have forgotten this in concerns about doing things that could break the sabbath – hence Jesus words – ‘man was not made for the sabbath’ – to fit into a long list of dos and don’t. Rather ‘sabbath was for man and woman’. A divine gift.
Rest. But what can this look like. Some real practical ideas. Does it have to be a Sunday? I would say the focus is upon the need for a day of rest for there are some due to their work – for example paramedics, firecrews, police – who are unable to have a Sunday off due to work patterns / requirements. The key is for such people to have a day off in the seven if it cannot be on a Sunday.
For you what is rest? This is God’s divine gift to you. But you are unique. There are ways you will find rest that others do not. What is it? Are you an extrovert? Maybe that means rest of spending time with friends, doing lots of stuff, watching the upcoming World Cup Finals and supporting England! But maybe all that tires you out. You are more introverted – and there are other ways, time by yourself, perhaps quietness, space. How do you rest? Not how others rest but how do you find rest?
Now in a marriage this means some interesting issues.
Men how can you help your wife rest – you may say – you do the washing up! Ok maybe. But men, think what ways restore, what things are an oasis for her. And that is the challenge. What can you give or do so she finds or enjoys that oasis.
But wives, same again, how can you help your husband to rest? to be restored? Married life is sacrificial in all its beauty, as we make choices to help the other, the one we love to be restored, to thrive…
And finally how can you find rest together – what restores you together? God wants us to enjoy his divine gift. It is for our benefit. Jesus declares himself Lord of the Sabbath affirming the value of such a day.
How can you enjoy his gift to you? How can you protect it? Your day off has fallen through – you can say – ”ah well” – or say, ”no this is part of my thriving, restoration, so I will find the space where it can happen very soon.” Protect your sabbath from intrusions. Some folks here have near photographic memories – you see that whatsapp / text message and it is there, in your head, it ain’t going. You go up on Sunday opened your work phone, and saw it. And that work question will rattle around in your head. You have had your rest disturbed. Know yourself. if you can’t look at the phone messages, don’t. Or don’t even switch on your work phone. Build protection.
At university when I tried this out, it was hard, I decided to keep sabbath meant I would not study that day. It was an oasis. Seeing friends. At church couple of times a day. But hey it was hard once the essays came in. I had to make decisions to protect that day. And since then, there are always things to break into a day off – always something that could be done, that wasn’t finished, or to do it now gets the ball rolling…
Can I add something in this. A writer noted – the events in the evenings in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day. They knew his sound, knew his voice, knew because he had visited them talked with before. It doesn’t suggest this is God interrupting them in their work. Rather each day had for Adam and Eve, and has a natural end, a winding down, a resting at the end of the day. To use the idea. A sabbath at the end of the day. Where is your rest in your working day? There is a sabbath principle I’d suggest – to find places or points of rest in the day as it appears Adam and Eve did, in addition to the sabbath, the day when we stop. (Thanks to Mike Breen, in Passionate Church, for ideas on sabbath principles, pp69-76).
This is a broad topic. Many things raised. Many not. But the key – this is a divine gift for rest as well as worship. A gift for you for your marriage for your family. The Sabbath was made for humanity.
Shall we pray…