Pentecost 2 – Proper 4
3 June 2018
Eternal God, Your Son Jesus Christ is our true Sabbath rest. Help us to keep each day holy by receiving His Word of comfort that we may find our rest in Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The Sabbath was made for humanity. Not humanity for the Sabbath. The Law of Moses was given for us. To help us grow us in faith. They were not given as rock-set, unchanging restrictions to life. You are not defined by rules. But by a connection with the Divine. Your union with Jesus Christ.
Doctrine and custom are not scripture. They are, however, necessary, helpful and essential. Doctrines are a summation of Scripture. Practices are how these doctrines are applied to our lives personally. They are a short hand for powerful and productive ways to live a life of faith.
Today, many claim to be walking a journey of faith. They reason, “As long as I am seeking God. The path I take will be of my own choosing.” This logic is uniquely American. It’s marketing at its best. When Jesus is advertised as a product. When everything is done for effect. And the brand is what’s important.
As we have become consumers of spirituality in our culture; so the argument goes: “Since I’m on this journey. If I don’t like what I see. If I desire a different outcome. If I want a different result. I’ll shop elsewhere. To find a better deal. Because. After all. It’s my journey.”
If we are ever tempted to try on a new path. - We might just want to slow down. And pause. To take care. It may not be as helpful as we might think.
Doctrines and practices are well worn paths. On which we may safely travel. Boundaries protect. They let us feel safe. Well marked paths are good. Helping us in our life.
To do the opposite is a challenge just as well. Instead of looking for the new road to travel. Most folk want a safe place to park. This is where our story begins.
The Pharisees present a contrast to the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels. They keep the rules. While Jesus discards rules. In favor of humanity. The Pharisees are the main opposition to Jesus. They were a first century conservative sect of Jews. (Might we say, The Tea Party movement?) The Pharisees were popular on a grass roots level. Jesus encountered Pharisees often. Because His ministry occurred among the people.
Jesus is confronted with resistance. Why don't Jesus' disciples fast? John's disciples. They fast. The Pharisees’ disciples. They fast. This is a picky, critical, fearful question. "Why don't you do what we do?"
This happened as Jesus’ disciples were discovered picking and chewing on grain heads on the Sabbath. Jesus’ answer to this criticism comes as He takes the serious example of David eating the Bread of the Presence. Even in Scripture the Law was "broken," He says, because the law is made for man. Not the other way around.
It is easier to follow the letter of the Law than it is to exercise the thought required by love. The priest fed David and his men because he recognized that his moral obligation superseded the ceremonial regulation.
Today, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach us regarding God’s rest.
The Sabbath is intended for physical and spiritual blessing. Certain work is permissible. Even on the Sabbath. Especially works of mercy. And work which is necessity. And these Pharisees. They knew the Scriptures well. “If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.” (See Deuteronomy 23:25)
Jesus’ guiding principle is simple. The Sabbath is made for man. Not the other way around. At issue for us is this question. Do you rightly keep the Sabbath? Or is the Sabbath keeping you?
1. We can enslave ourselves to the Sabbath if we regard the letter of the Law as sacred and sacrosanct at the expense of the Father’s intention.
A. The Pharisees tried to hold Jesus’ disciples to an interpretation of the Law that went way beyond God’s intent. “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Mark 2:24
B. Sometimes we concern ourselves more with “right” doctrine or “right” liturgy than with true worship. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6;6)
C. We can misuse the Sabbath on weekdays too.
1. When we are more concerned with our own needs than with the community or the hurting in our world. If we do so. We deny Christ.
To that end. We have been intentional in our outreach into our community. We focus on two acts of mercy. We partner with Pack Away Hunger TM distributing 80,000 meals to food banks in our county the week-end before Holy Week.
We also reach out to families who have lost children due to stillbirth, early death or sudden infant death syndrome. We partner with three area hospitals who serve these families. Does this get butts in the seats? No.But that’s not the point. Our aim is to serve our neighbor in love as Christ has served us. Our aim is to be merciful. As Christ has shown mercy.
2. We can misuse the Sabbath when we insist on our rights but neglect our responsibilities. If so. We deny Christ. And that involves your attitude. So wrestle with that.
3. We can misuse the Sabbath when we are more interested in being loved than in loving. If so. We deny Christ. And that involves your motives. So consider your motives. And if your motives have not been rooted in Christ - bring it to the mercy seat of Christ!
2. The Father’s intention is for the Sabbath to keep you.
A. Jesus reaffirmed that “the Sabbath was made for man.” –Mark 2:38
1. Jesus served His disciples by defending them. Notice. Jesus does not condemn His disciples as the wander through the field. He never scolds them. He doesn’t tell them to knock it off, or to stop.
2. Instead, He used David as an example to explain two points.
a. The Sabbath is made to serve people.
b. Certain work is more important than regulations.
B. The Sabbath is intended for our physical and spiritual blessing.
1. Our bodies need a period of daily and weekly rest. “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. “(Genesis 2:2-3)
2. Weary souls need rest, too. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
3. We remember the Sabbath day when we do necessary work on the Sabbath. Such as police fire, or medical work. This work is necessary. As it becomes work in a manner that glorifies God. Jesus said, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11)
4. We also remember the Sabbath when we do works motivated by love. Even if it is done on the Sabbath itself. “Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. “ (Matthew 12:12)
C. The Sabbath serves us when we celebrate sins forgiven. We “rest” in the forgiveness that is ours for the sake of the “Son of Man, who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Passive Sentences – 9%
Reading Level -4.4
 Lectionary Preaching Resources Series B Edited by Francis Rossow and Gerhard Aho © 1987 Concordia Publishing, St. Louis