the one about sabbath...
June 4, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from June 3, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6


Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, today we get to hear a lot about the Sabbath. How it is holy, alluded to why it was set forth, and unfortunately how it might get in the way of God’s work (because of how humanity views and uses it). As I talked with friends and colleagues about all this during the week, an image popped into our brains to help showcase what Jesus is doing here.

One of my favorite things to do with my daughters is to watch funny videos on the internet. Some of the funniest videos are those of animals, and of those animal videos the most intense and hilarious ones involve cats. Specifically, those videos that involve precious objects (to the human), a table edge, and the indifference of a cat.

Where the cat looks at whatever that object might be – a cup, a plate, a toy, usually something breakable. The human looking at the cat and the object and continually saying, “Don’t do it. You better not do it. Don’t you dare. You know better.”

At each breath, it is as if the cat purposefully nudges that object closer and closer to the edge before one final ‘swat’ and off it tumbles. Perhaps shattering on the floor, while the cat looks up to you with smug indifference.

As I read this story from Mark’s gospel, I can’t help but think that Jesus is that cat, and the religious authorities and elite are the pleading humans, and the sabbath is that precious object.

This gospel begins as Jesus is with his friends as they are traveling on the holy day of rest and his disciples begin picking grain within the field – presumably because they are hungry.

Of course, this riles up the religious elite who appear to be ‘clutching their pearls’ in shock and amazement that they would do such a thing on such a holy day of rest – a day that no work is to be done. At all.

Further still, more shock and awe as Jesus confronts them with the opportunity to help a man in need. A man with a withered and presumably useless hand is in need. Jesus poses the question of whether it is right and good to save a life by doing something for them (or by ‘killing them’ by doing nothing) on the sabbath?

Jesus is angered and deeply saddened by their quiet response. Then, much like that cat continually pushing the precious object right to the edge, the man with the formerly withered hand swats it off to show God’s goodness and grace has been done that day.

Now, the religious elite are besides themselves in anger and seek to finally do something about this man named Jesus.

As we read this I think many of us – of course – side with Jesus. Those dastardly Pharisees don’t know what they’re talking about. How could they not do anything to help themselves live or to give life to another person in need. I mean seriously, bless. Their. Hearts.

Though, if we’re not careful, we’ll begin to think that what Jesus is saying is that the Sabbath is bad. That we shouldn’t follow the sabbath and adhere to the gifted day of rest to creation. I don’t think Jesus is saying that at all.

What I think Jesus is really saying is that we – yes, we – should be careful of our ‘hardened hearts’ that get in the way of helping and caring for others and using ‘religious rules’ as an excuse.

Now that is something that we probably do quite often. I’m guilty of it too.

Where we’ll say, ‘we’d like to help, but… you belong to that group over there and according to this part of scripture or practiced norm in our tradition we just can’t.’

Or, perhaps like the story that was shared across the country this week of a church in South Carolina who voted this month to remove artwork of Jesus from their church because it looked too much like it belonged to another tradition in the Christian faith. We don’t want people to ‘get confused.’

Where their well-being and insecurities was more important than depictions of our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ within their worship space.

There are of course way more examples that I could give that show our hardness of heart in the world when confronted with the opportunity to live into the gospel and model of Jesus for those in the world. It doesn’t take much imagination and thinking to see where we too – individually and as a community – have let ourselves get in the way of helping and caring for others and using religious ‘rules’ as the excuse.

So, about that ‘religious rule’ of Sabbath – what is it for. As a friend wrote this week, when God gives laws – it is not for religious piety. These laws are not designed for us to make a checklist of things to assure ourselves of our righteousness and devotion. On the contrary, the laws given to us by God are designed with the purpose of showing us where we are in ‘right relationship’ with God and neighbor.

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus stated that loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, while the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. On those two hang the ENTIRETY of the law. If we are loving God and loving neighbor, then the rest of the commandments will fall into place.

So, the law of the Sabbath itself falls in line with that mentality and purpose. It is a gift to humanity of an intentional and frequent day to rest – something that was completely foreign to the world at that time. And to be quite honest – it is still a foreign concept to our modern world as well. That day of rest is taken so that one can be refreshed and renewed to live into the work of loving God and loving neighbor. Yes, it is an intentional day of rest and some observe that to more extremes than others (and still do), yet it is not a day to be a detriment to others.

It is a day to soften our hearts because out of love we have been gifted this day of rest to be aware of the fullness and abundance of God’s grace and love. But, we become blind to God’s grace if we live with those hardened hearts and are incapable of living into that kind of love for others in need simply because we have to ‘adhere’ to a rule.

The truth of what Jesus proclaims is that none of our ‘rules’ even the ones written down in scripture supersede our call to care, love, and be in right relationship with those before us. In fact, the ‘rules’ that we have point us to that sort of life lived in love and grace. The whole law of the prophets hangs on loving God and loving our neighbor.

Yet, there will still be moments where our hearts are hardened – it might be because we have been slighted, hurt, or in fear of what could be. The good news is, that in spite of our hardened hearts, eventually – because of God’s persistent love upon us and shown through others towards us – our hardened hearts will crack. They’ll crack wide open and God’s love and grace will fill in and heal those hearts. Those healed hearts are then sent out to continue to live into God’s love and grace.

God is continually working and loving on us so that we might see the fullness of Jesus’ presence and his activity in the world.

Continue to love one another, so that others and even ourselves, can experience and see God’s full and abundant love present already in their life. Even when that love bends or perhaps ‘breaks’ one of those ‘rules’ in our life. Amen.

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