READ: Mark 2:23-3:6
During the Sundays of my youth, my family didn’t ever use the word “sabbath” to describe the seventh day of the week.
But make no mistake: We sure did observe it.
For an 8-year-old boy, the last thing I wanted to do on Sunday — one of the two precious days off of the week — was to spend it first at church and then resting.
My parents had strict rules —
Well, maybe just one:
Sunday was a family day.
First church. Then sitting around the table for a big brunch. And being together with family.
That meant no friends and certainly no leaving the house or yard.
Sabbath, coming from the Hebrew word šabbāṯ — which simply means “to rest.”
No, as a young boy, Sundays were no friend of mine.
In fact, I almost — almost — began looking forward to Mondays.
Maybe some of you grew up like this or something akin to it, too.
But those days seem long, long gone.
I say long gone because we look around today, and not only has the word “sabbath” pretty much been eradicated from our culture,
but what it stands for has been, too.
I point no fingers here or pass any judgment, but consider how many sports tournaments are on Sunday mornings these days.
And what about employment?
A whole lot of employers think nothing at all of demanding their people work on Sunday mornings.
How ever will people get their McMuffins, coffee, TVs or pillow-top mattresses?
It’s a busy, busy world.
Not to give too much credit, but if that’s Satan’s plan to keep us distracted and away from family — which includes Sunday morning worship — well…
The pharisees point out to Jesus that it’s a sin to work on the Sabbath — according to the Law, given to Moses by God.
That includes plucking heads of grain to nibble on while walking through a wheat field with his disciples as we learn in Mark 2.23 and following.
That’s just silly, Jesus says.
The sabbath is made for people; the people are not made for the sabbath (verse 27).
Now, if you’re engaged in what I’m saying this morning, it might sound contradictory.
As a child, I hated resting.
And here, Jesus isn’t proclaiming that we should rest.
What’s the issue?
Doesn’t that mean I should have been able to go out and at least PLAY with my friends on the Sabbath?
We weren’t working, and if my parents wanted to sit and sip coffee and read the Sunday paper all day, that was up to them… Have at it…
And so when I used to read this passage, I felt somewhat vindicated by Jesus that we didn’t have to just “rest.”
In fact, if he wanted to help someone with a health problem — like the man with the shriveled-up hand as it says in Chapter 3, verse 2, that wasn’t against the Law.
But that’s not really what Jesus is saying, he?
Then what is Jesus saying?
Let’s go back to creation…
ALL the way back…
We read earlier in Deuteronomy today this reminder: Keep the Sabbath. God brought you out of slavery and commanded we keep the sabbath, so keep it. (Dt. 5.15, paraphrased…)
God certainly is a God of justice, no doubt.
And God wants not just those who can afford to rest to rest, but everyone — aliens and servants and workers…
But more importantly, because in the Creation Account in Genesis, God rested:
Genesis 2.3: “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.” (CEB)
But think about this: Creation doesn’t stop after the Creation Account.
Creation continues once humans are set into action.
To be fruitful and multiply and be good stewards over all that God has given us.
That doesn’t sound like rest;
and you’re right: It’s certainly not.
But how on earth would we ever enjoy what was created and what we’re creating if we never rest long enough to actually appreciate it?
When we don’t do that, we’re saying two important things here:
We believe our time is more valuable than what God has created for us to enjoy; and
Let God rest, but we won’t because we’ve gone ahead and made ourselves more important than God, what with our jobs, our schedules and making our ridiculous mortgages, let alone worship or family time… Who needs that?
Let me put it a different way:
Today, we just rededicated this wonderful pipe organ.
You may not appreciate organ music, but after listening to Karen talk about how intricate this machine is …
The water, and air pumps, and switches and tuned pipes and bladders and the million other moving parts…
You have to appreciate at least that!
Think about all the work that went into making such an instrument!
That’s a lot of work!
But what if we never really sat down to listen to it or to learn about it or to enjoy it?
See, that’s the difference here.
If we never rest to enjoy it, what does it matter all the work that was put into it?
This is how we treat the Sabbath in our own lives.
We just keep occupying our time with more and more things to do and less and less time to actually enjoy them.
You know, I spent so much time in Washington, DC, these past four years, attending seminary.
It’s a lot different than Bellefonte…
And my school was in a pretty affluent section of the city called Spring Valley.
And I’d walk down to the coffee shop or the delicatessen, and I’d always see nannies walking other people’s babies in strollers.
And guys walking other people’s dogs on leashes — a dozen dogs at a time!
I’d see drivers, driving other people’s cars — given them rides in the back seats.
And mowing other people’s lawns.
Cleaning other people’s houses.
Raising other people’s children.
Why have such an expensive house or car if it means having to sacrifice all our time working to have to pay for them?
Why have dogs if we’re not ever going to play with them or walk them?
Why have children at all if we’re not going to be the ones raising them?
God made the sabbath after the work of creating was done.
So that God could enjoy the creation.
Why don’t we?
We must think we know something more than God does…
“I’ll rest when I’m dead,” to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin…
God’s saying — commanding, actually, because it’s that important — that we are to stop and rest and enjoy all that has been created, and even that which we create through the gifts and talents that God gave us in the first place.
Otherwise, what is the point?
Well, the pharisees were certainly right in pointing out to Jesus that plucking grain is work just as is healing someone’s hand…
But Jesus says the gift of Sabbath was to make our lives FULL.
It was to continue the goodness of our lives.
That’s the TRUE sabbath!
The sabbath, Jesus tells the Pharisees, was made for humans; humans weren’t made for the sabbath” Verse 27.
Sabbath means turning our attention to God.
that’s the whole point, and Jesus is saying “Let’s return to that.”
We have to actually stop and look around to notice what God has created for us, and what God continues to create through us.
That’s an important way to glorify God, and God wants us to do just that.
When Jesus enters the picture, we can then anticipate yet another Sabbath: The Great Sabbath.
Redemption. Eternal life.
That which Jesus makes possible for us through his resurrection.
We honor the anticipation of the Great Sabbath by celebrating it now!
Don’t forget: This sabbath belongs to God, not us, as a part of God’s creation…
Therefore, as God’s creation, it is God’s property and therefore, we cannot violate it.
That’s why it’s a sin…
Keeping it holy keeps us blessed.
Some might point a finger toward me and every other pastor in the pulpit and including anyone helping to create this worship service today and say “Aren’t you working, pastor?”
Jesus allows his disciples to pluck wheat.
And he heals a man with a crippled hand.
Helping others so that they will be able to rest?
That’s creating, and that honors creation, which honors God.
So, the people hearing this message today are not the people who are working in department stores or restaurants or the convenience stores today.
I’m not picking on them.
But we do have choices to make.
We can re-evaluate our lives and see just where those places are that we can better honor God.
I happen to believe in Sunday worship.
I happen to believe that when two or three of us come together in agreement, God is present.
And I happen to believe that when the world tells us we have to not honor creation, it’s not a good thing.
God forgives us and gives us more chances.
Pluck a few heads of wheat, but don’t waste the day harvesting the fields.
Take time to appreciate the gifts God has given to us and others and honor them.
Use them to God’s glory.
Work will always be there.
And, yes, we will surely rest when we’re six feet under…
But that’s not the point.
The point is to enjoy what God has given us — created for us and in us — now.
Like family… Turns out my parents were right…
Never miss that opportunity to honor God by enjoying all that God has given.
And that means today.