Hello podcast listeners,
You are all podcast READERS for this week’s sermon. We suffered a user-error this past Sunday, February 12, when recording the sermon. (My error, not the sound tech’s. He’s doing great.) The recorder was set up with the built-in microphones instead of the cables running from the sound board. It’s the first of this kind of mistake, and I’m confident it won’t happen again.
The sermon transcript is available below, or download here as a pdf.
Thank you. Tune in again for Feb 19 sermon, titled “The Extraordinary Ordinary”.
Lord of Sabbath. Erik Kamp. Faith Community Fellowship.
I can recall with surprising clarity the Sunday in which I without a doubt broke the 4th commandment of working only 6 days and resting on the Sabbath (or 7th day.) I recently shared how I grew up working in a family owned concrete company in Illinois. And to explain what happened I need to explain the concept rain in the Midwest. Now people in Mount Vernon talk about the rain frequently. Any day in which 2 drops fall out of the sky there seems to be a comment about how much it rains in the Pacific Northwest. Well in the Midwest we use many different terms for precipitation: it can mist, sprinkle, you can have light showers, heavy showers, then rain, and finally pouring (real hard rain). We would not call what happens most days here “rain.” Well on Saturday morning it “poured” for hours. It poured so much that our 5 foot foundation hole was completely filled with water and all the boards and stakes which were set – was floating on this newly formed pool. (20 hours lost; 10 hours of pumping needed before going back to work) And I hope you can understand my Father’s dilemma as he stares at a thousands of gallons of rain water. Monday morning 7 workers are coming and all they will do is stare at a pump for 5 hours. (already lost 20 hours, don’t want to waste 35 more – don’t want to cancel). So I receive a call Sunday early afternoon – we need to go pump the hole today (on Sunday). To hear these words from my Christian Father who had faithfully followed Sabbath (in many similar situations) was a surprise – I was so shocked I actually didn’t answer -there was a long pause – and he had to ask again. And I complied – and I remember the feeling as I set down that phone – “fury.” I was so angry that he would take my Sabbath (this was my day of rest – and no rest was to be found). And I did everything I possibly could at the job sight with body language, tone, and silence – to make him aware. This caused a rift for weeks between us. (Both tend towards passive aggressive – so it takes a long time to resolve anything).
Now it is very easy for Christians, especially those who are used to the weekly routine of Sunday is a day for rest from work, to the say the request was unbiblical (A Christian business person should never ask anyone to work on Sabbath), and to find fault in my decision to comply and work (Christian should refuse any compromise on Sabbath). These are easy answers and they may have been the correct answers that day.
But I perceive the way Jesus acts in these two Sabbath stories and the way Jesus lives within Sabbath yet also outside of traditional Sabbath practices reveals something deeper and more significant to Sabbath than just following the rules for rest. And I wish to break it down into 2 sections with each point focused in one story: First – Sabbath is God’s gift for Humanity. Second – Sabbath is an opportunity for God’s blessing.
And as we turn to these two stories it is important to search for the heart of the issue which is being taking place between Jesus and the Pharisees. For both stories on the surface deal with the rules of Sabbath. In both stories the religious authorities perceive Jesus disregarding the 4th commandment to “obverse the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Now it is important to note in neither story does Jesus actually break the law (he does break Sabbath elsewhere, but not here)
- The disciples according to the Old Testament were allowed to glean in fields they were walking through as long as they did not use the sickle (no break)
- And Jesus in healing the man’s hand actually does no work as defined by scripture. Jesus speaks and a healing take place. No work done – and yet the Pharisees leave angry and prepared to conspire with their bitter enemies (Herods family) to kill Jesus.
Sabbath/Rest as God’s Gift: (authority/rules) (How) – remember creator God
The first Sabbath controversy takes place as the Pharisees witness Jesus’ disciples failing to adhere to law of Sabbath. And as mentioned earlier this is not Old Testament law which is being broken, but rather it is rabbinic interpretation or tradition of the commandment which was being broken. Israel was commanded to keep the Sabbath day holy by doing “no work.” Now such a general command will quickly lead to the question “what constitutes work?” “How do we obey this command?”
This is a very easy and natural step which the Pharisees take – if we wish to be good Israelites it’s important to understand how to follow these laws. And so they generated 39 principles and provided 1000 examples of how to live within Sabbath regulations of work. (For example if a roof collapses, you cannot fix it. But if a person is stuck under the rubble you clean out as much as possible to determine if they are alive or dead. If alive you may rescue, but if dead leave them until Sabbath is over.)
Now we may laugh at these little nuisances but we can be just as technical with our rights and laws. Each American has the “freedom of speech.” So can I say whatever I want wherever I want? I can say bomb to my friends but not in an Airport. I can say gun on a hunting trip but not while waiting for previews at a theater (even when gun is on screen). I can share all my prejudice thoughts through insult and accusation on the internet and in my home, but not in a park. We easily live within a world working out the details. We easily inhabit a world that is constantly arguing and debating the application of law – where may I carry my lawful side arm (and who are you to tell me otherwise). This is Jesus world, these are the conversations and debates taking place as Jesus enters ministry.
The clash is not over the rules, but who rules. That’s why there can be a dispute when no law is actually broken, because the Pharisees have already “ruled” that to pick wheat from a field on the Sabbaths is to break the command of no work on Sabbath. Who has the authority to interpret and explain how and when the people may rest. And the Pharisees – likely for a pious purpose – to protect God’s holiness – took it upon themselves to regulate and define rest. Well Jesus turns their program sideways as he does not adhere to their interpretation; and more importantly as he describes himself as the authority, or Lord, over the Sabbath.
- This is why Jesus argument in response has nothing to do with proper Sabbath law or practice, but instead talks about David’s as Israel’s proper king possess the authority to interpret and even exceed law when necessary. Jesus argument is that he possesses this authority – that he is the Lord of Sabbath.
This is the important quest raised by the first story: Who is Lord of your Sabbath? Who or what defines rest for us? Because Jesus’ response provides the essential 2 answers. Either rest is gift given to us (something we receive), or rest is a task required of us (and is something we must do.) Now most people today do not think of rest as a task that must be done, yet I’m guessing many people regularly practice rest as a task to accomplish.
(Show of hands)How many here have recently struggled to sleep at night. You lay awake on your bed with a mind racing – your frustrated when you see the 11 on the clock, angry to see the 12, depressed at 1, and upset and guilty when the 2 and 3 roll around. Now what are most people upset and feeling guilty about – it’s not that we can’t enjoy rest (I wasted this gift): rather it’s the thought that tomorrow is going to be a terrible day.
- I will not have the patience to deal with my children – I will likely snap out of exhaustion
- I have a big test tomorrow and I’m going to be tired – I will not be able to focus, gunna fail
- I am scheduled to work a 10 hour shift tomorrow – I don’t know how I can do it
What’s the problem with each of these thoughts and scenarios: It is that rest is a necessary task in pursuit of our real purpose. None of these people have exited their working world. Their rest is ruled by someone else or something else – it has become law (you must rest because…). And in such an environment true rest is impossible. This time (Sabbath) cannot be received as a gift when it is perceived a necessity. A recent study found 76% of American workers are tired many days of the week: most common thing keeping people awake stress and worry: (family), deadline, bad work day, and missing tomorrow’s alarm. The things we need rest from – rule our rest. And our failure to rest only strengthens their control. Rest is reinforcing their rule; not stepping outside of it. “This is what it’s like for man to be made for Sabbath – man and women require rest – so that they might…..)
But Jesus responds to the authorities saying this is not your time to rule, it is not your place to legislate rest. This is uniquely my time – I am the authority, I am Lord here – and I choose to gift my time as rest for my people. Do you realize how amazing this is – what other authority gifts rest within their time and rule? Others send you away off their clock to rest so that you might work on return. Jesus, however, calls people who are tired and exhausted; “Come to me you who are weary and heavy burdened and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-9).
Now maybe you hear those words and you almost want to weep because they sound too good to be true. You are within 76% of Americans who are regularly weary and tired – and rest seems impossible. Well the answer sounds counter-intuitive – but take up Jesus yoke – make Jesus the Lord of your Sabbath – and receive rest it as a gift rather than a necessity. Realize it’s a gift to remember. The 4th commandment to “honoring the Sabbath” is the only one that explains WHY? And is the only commandment that changes between Exodus and Deuteronomy:
- Exodus 20 – Remember the Sabbath and Keep Holy – why – for the Lord your God worked 6 days and rested and made the 7th holy
- Deuteronomy 5 – Observe the Sabbath and keep holy – why – remember you were slaves and God brought you out with a mighty hand.
The Sabbath is gifted time so that we might remember. Remember your God and how he has created beautiful world we so casually inhabit. Take time to marvel at the wonder and beauty of your God and all he’s created (remember). But also, remember your story (salvation) – you were a slave but the Lord your God brought you out mightily. You were a slave you were dead in your sin, but your God took upon himself that curse in order that you might live. Sabbath time gives us the opportunity to remember our God and to remember our salvation (yet so few take such an easy burden; but rather carry much heavier ones like what am I going to accomplish tomorrow, where am I going, how shall I?)
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” (Blaise Pascal)
or to paraphrase – humanity cannot rest, we struggle with Sabbath. This line which seems so appropriate today in a world of cell phones, TVs, and mass advertising was actually written in 1654 by the mathematician Blaise Pascal. For even in the slower, less connected, non-technological world – rest as gift for remembrance – was often returned for a task, for a distraction, or another authority to worry and stress under. Whoever is Lord of your Sabbath shall define your Sabbath: Gift or Task; Rest or Work.
Sabbath/Rest as God’s blessing: (purpose) (Why) – remembered saved people
The second story in our text this morning is the natural result of the first story. Jesus had rejected their authority to legislate the Sabbath; claiming his authority not only exceeds theirs but also supersedes the very laws agreed upon. This Jesus acts as if he stands over Torah, not under it. We cannot have such a person teaching freely, we cannot have crowds listening to this man argue against us. And so, they lie in wait, watching closely, for Jesus to break the law so that they might accuse and discredit Jesus.
Look at how the Pharisees in this story plan to use the Sabbath laws. For them the Sabbath shall become their weapon, a means of destroying Jesus while simultaneously affirming their authority to legislate the Sabbath. “If we can catch this Jesus messing up the Sabbath – well then we can prove to everyone we know what we’re talking about – proves our authority.” The angry generated in the story is not Jesus is dishonoring God with his Sabbath practices. No, Jesus is dishonoring us by questing our right to regulate Sabbath. Again, this foremost is not about the rules, but who rules.
And I’m guessing Jesus could sense the anger and bitterness the Pharisees held (could see them staring intently and watching for failure). Through the Spirit Jesus could discern how they intended to use God’s righteous law for evil. God’s law which was meant to guide Israel to love God and to love neighbor is being taken here to kill God and kill neighbor. In Romans Paul affirms that God’s law is good, righteous and holy, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be manipulated for evil. The very commandment which was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Rom 7:10-11) The good twisted for evil.
The Pharisees are blind to what they are doing – and that is why Jesus blatantly asks them to assess their hearts. And too assess the heart of the Law. “Which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil, to save life or to kill.” Its such an easy answer – could probably ask every kid in here and they’d answer, but the Pharisees, experts of the law, remain silent. We will not have this conversation with you Jesus – we shall not open our hearts to you. We will not risk another embarrassing conversation with Jesus. We will not risk our authority – better to be silent. And while their mouths stay silent – their actions answer as they plot to kill Jesus. They controlled their tongue (few do); but they cannot control their heart (in that they are no different form us)
Who is Lord of our Sabbath is important because it determines how it shall be used. Is the Sabbath for blessing or cursing? (My father had an easy way to determine Sabbath practices as child – if it’s fun you can’t do it – that’s a curse.) The Pharisee’s desiring to maintain their authority over proper Sabbath practices have no difficulty using it completely outside of purpose. This is the law of life, love, and reconciliation yet it is being used to kill, hate, and divide – it has been turned a curse.
I fear this is one of the major difficulties with the American churches today. I think it an issue for Christian culture in the West. I think it a major problem for individual Christians, including myself: – is we desire to maintain our authority to rule society. We wish to remain the proper interpreters of how to live life (after all, we know better – so did the Pharisees). But my fear is that much of our fighting, much of my arguing: is not about what rules, but who rules (ME). And in doing so I may turn divine blessing into mortal curse.
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it form religious conviction.” That too could so describe our times – I can think of many Christians who should just make that their electronic signature for everything they write in social media. We should ask Jesus question of everything we say and write: is this for good or evil; for life or death. Are these blessings or curses. Is this about Jesus lordship or ours? The quote was written in 1654 (Blaise Pascal again in “Pensees”) our Sabbath struggles are not new, but ancient
Jesus used the Sabbath to bless. Jesus used his time to heal and bring life to those who struggled and were heavy burdened. He promised to rest to those who submitted to him. And if we truly have taken up his burden – than we too can offer rest to a tired, worried, and stress filled culture. We can bless people wherever we go – but if we seek to strengthen our rule, our authority – than we shall only add to their burden – and plot silently and secretively plot kill.
In conclusion, I wish to return to my opening story in which I was asked to WORK on the Sabbath. How I was asked to transgress God’s law, for I see it so very differently today than when I set that phone down in anger so many years ago. Let us think back through the scenario once more: My Father who for some 24 years I can remember, for the first time broke his Sabbath and asked his son for help, who was angered as he accepted the request.
- What is the scenario: what do we actually see (you know hindsight is 20/20 if you reflect:
- A father who felt desperate and an angry son who had not the sight to see
I was not angry because I sensed God’s glory being diminished, but mine. This wasn’t about losing God’s time, but my time. I didn’t have an evening of reflection, worship, and thanksgiving planned, it was glorious football? This was not about God being Lord of Sabbath, but Erik being Lord of his Sabbath. And for the insult:
- I could not see someone in desperate need (there was a healing needed)
- I could not be a blessing (I was going to make the offence known one way or another)
If Jesus was Lord of my Sabbath – I can’t say whether or not I would have worked (not even sure it’s the issue). But I could have heard a desperate heart – and I could have sought how to be a blessing – I could have sought to share a real Sabbath (to one who had lost it).
“Come to me you who are weary and heavy burdened and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest,he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.