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Who Will You Serve? “Made For You”

Sharing God's Word, Living His Love
Who Will You Serve 1

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 & Mark 2:23-3:6

June 2, 2024

Let’s see, I’ve got 3 meetings tomorrow, the children have soccer practice tonight; one has a band performance at school tomorrow and then dance practice tomorrow night.  I have to go out of town on Wednesday, which means that I need to get my reports in on Tuesday; I should be back in town by noon on Friday, which will give me enough time to pick up my parents at the airport and then get everyone to graduation before 6:00pm; but somehow I have to get the grass cut before the graduation party on Saturday and I have to figure out a way to get my parents back to the airport on Monday, which means I will have to reschedule my dental appointment.  There is no way we will have time for church on Sunday, we’ll be exhausted from our Saturday activities, and I need time this weekend to get ready for my Monday meetings.

Do you ever get tired just thinking about all the things you have to do?  It’s interesting to note that God has more to say about taking a day off in His commandments than He does about murder, adultery, or stealing.  The 3rd Commandment, on the back of your bulletins from Deuteronomy 5:12-15, is the longest of the 10 Commandments.  Deuteronomy 5:17 says, “You will not murder.”  Verse 18 says, “You shall not commit adultery.”  And Verse 19 says, “You shall not steal.”  Commandments 5,6,&7 are very simple.  God did not provide any explanation with those commandments.  But the 3rd Commandment also seems to be very simple, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  That seems pretty simple, pretty clear, but God must have known that we would lead busy lives and would have great difficulty following this command to the point that we would make all kinds of excuses to justify our inability to follow this command as He intended.  The fact that God had to give a long explanation to the meaning of this commandment suggests that He must be pretty serious about having us take a day off every week.  In fact, the word “Sabbath” means “rest,” and God chose to make the Sabbath a unique gift to us.

The Jews in the days of the Old Testament highly revered the Sabbath.  Knowing this was a  command of God, they tried very hard to keep this day holy by fencing it in with all kinds of rules and regulations that they believed applied to all people.  The problem, though was determining what was “work.”  Therefore, religious leaders identified 39 different forms of labor that they said people could not do on the Sabbath if they were to keep this commandment.  But many of their rules were absolutely ridiculous.

For example, people were not permitted to build a fire for cooking on the Sabbath, that was considered “work,” but it was permissible to keep a fire going.  A person could not untie a knot in a rope with both hands, that was considered “work,” but you were allowed to untie a knot with just one hand on the Sabbath.  There was even a debate as to whether or not it was proper to eat an egg that a hen had laid on the Sabbath, because the chicken had “worked” to bring it forth.

Now, knowing this, we can easily see why Jesus’ disciples were accused by the Pharisees in our Gospel lesson from Mark 2 of breaking the 3rd Commandment.  Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, picking grain and rubbing it between their fingers, which was considered “work,” so they could eat a few kernels of wheat.  Jesus answers His accusers by reminding them of some Jewish history, asking them if they remembered what their great hero David did, in the Old Testament, when he and his men were in need of food.  David and his friends had gone into the house of God and eaten bread that God had set aside only for priests.  David and his friends had broken a rule and eaten out of hunger, out of necessity, which apparently did not bother the Pharisees; but that is precisely what Jesus’ disciples had just done as well.  What Jesus is saying here to the Pharisees is that meeting a human need, namely hunger, is of greater importance to God than religious rituals, so stop being legalistic.  The Pharisees had added so many restrictions to the Sabbath that it ended up being a burden to the people. That was not God’s intention. The purpose of the Sabbath was to give rest and spiritual refreshment, but in their desire to protect the Sabbath the Pharisees turned a wonderful gift of God into a burden.  So when Jesus came along, He restored its true meaning as a day of spiritual renewal and worship.

As a pastor, it would be great if no one had to work on Sundays and everyone could be in church praising God.  But our lives today depend on many who work on Sunday.  If I need to travel on Sunday, it’s good to know that gas stations and restaurants are open along the way.  If any of your children have gotten sick or been injured on a Sunday, I’m sure you were very thankful the hospital was open for emergencies.  Knowing that police officers and fire fighters are on duty on Sunday mornings is a great feeling of comfort to all of us.

So what Jesus is telling us in our Gospel lesson when He says that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” is that we all need a day of rest.  Physically, mentally, and spiritually, we must have at least one day a week for a change of pace.  We need a day for worship and for fellowship with family and friends.  We need a day for eating together and sharing our joys and challenges.

Sadly, though, many people take the Sabbath day off.  They use it to take care of their physical and emotional needs, but they ignore their most important need – that being spiritual.  I find it very interesting that we live in a culture that appears to be obsessed with leisure and recreation, but very few people seem to be rested.  In fact, I see more exhaustion, fatigue, and burnout than ever before.  I think we have lost a biblical view of rest.  Rest that includes a recognition and appreciation of God.  Rest that includes a spiritual rejuvenation that only comes through worshiping our God and fellowship with His people.  For many people, worship has lost its place on their list of priorities.  While there are certainly some legitimate reasons for not being able to attend church, there is still an essential need for God’s people to worship because it is here that we step out of our busy daily routines and we let God confront us about where we are going and what we are doing.  It is here that we celebrate family – both biological and spiritual.  The Sabbath was intended to restore those bonds of love and care that we need in order to cope with the ups and downs of life.  The Sabbath was intended as a day to share with and pray for each other.  It was intended to be a day that we restore our spirit and feed our soul with God’s Word that give us strength and guidance, and with His Sacraments of baptism and communion, which grant us forgiveness we so desperately need.

In other words, this day was made for us, for our benefit, not for God’s.  God did not give us the 3rd Commandment as a demand on our time for the purpose of making Him happy.  If you think that coming to worship is something you have to do to please God, then you are just like the Pharisees who thought that people were made for the Sabbath, not the other way around.

However, I realize in today’s world honoring the Sabbath is becoming more and more difficult.  The tug of war between the church and extracurricular activities has intensified and I see families who are constantly exhausted from the work and activities they are involved in throughout the week.  But we have been blessed with social media today which allows us stream our worship services so you can view them at any time.  Our website and other online resources  provide Bible readings, prayers, and devotionals that can be used by families and individuals.  With our technology today our ways of helping people enjoy and experience the Sabbath are endless, as I’m sure God really looks forward to that Sabbath day every week so that He can bless us as we worship Him.  But the real question is: Do we look forward to this Sabbath day?  The Christian understanding of the Sabbath shifts the emphasis from the day to the purpose of the day.  It’s a day to worship our God, to rest in Him, and refocus.  It’s not an option.  Let’s do what we can to keep it holy for our own benefit, because the Sabbath was made for us.

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