Year B; Proper 4; 6.3.2018
Good morning and thank you for coming through the “obstacle course” of street closures to get here! The workers are digging down under the street to update the Brunswick water system. You should have heard them this morning during Morning Prayer in the Celtic Tradition “with long periods of silence!” The building shook like a Tyrannosaurus Rex was walking slowly in our direction. They are digging a huge hole just outside the Pleasant Street door and couldn’t guarantee that the building wouldn’t shake during our worship this morning.
I went out to introduce myself to the street construction flagger who was to flag people down the street to the parking lot. I said, “Hi! I’m Carolyn the pastor. And my theme this morning is ‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy!’ And you are working on the Sabbath! He laughed and said his name was Terrence and he held out his arms for a hug because he said that he approved of my sermon!
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Today’s gospel lesson zeroes in on the Fourth of the Ten Commandments. It’s the one that says “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” It doesn’t say any more than that, except that in Deuteronomy there is specific Sabbath non-work listed – like the resident alien, your ox and your donkey. But over the years, the enforcement of the religious officials became rigid so that the point of Sabbath rest to love God and neighbor became Sabbath Rest for the sake of upholding a law.
So, Jesus came to reform the law and refresh the people’s understanding of the Fourth Commandment. And the religious officials didn’t like his interpretation AT ALL. They wanted more rigidity and control. But Jesus came to show the people that God wanted more freedom and compassion.
Learning the Ten Commandments is something as important for Christians as learning the Lord’s Prayer. We learn them so they help us live godly lives.
Did you know that the Ten Commandments appear three times in the Book of Common Prayer? Go ahead. Look them up. On page 318, there is the “Thou shalt not” version. And on page 350 there is a more contemporary version of them.
And in the Outline of the Faith, in the back of the prayer book on page 847 there is an entire section called, “The Ten Commandments.” “What are the Ten Commandments?” “…they are the laws given to Moses and the people of Israel. What do we learn from these commandments? We learn two things: our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbors.”
So, this morning in honor of the gospel reading, I thought I would lead a review of the Ten Commandments in a “call and response” very simplified version of the Ten Commandments:
Ready for the “call and response”?
“I am the LORD your God.
The only one who can save you.”
- Do not put anything before me.
- Do not make fake gods.
- Do not treat my name badly.
- Keep the Sabbath day special.
- Give your parents honor.
- Do not kill people.
- Do not treat someone like you are married when you are not.
- Do not steal things.
- Do not lie about people.
- Do not go crazy about other people’s things.
So, the gospel reading this morning is about Jesus breaking the Fourth Commandment. The religious authorities had a fit that ON THE SABBATH Jesus and his followers ate ripe, sweet heads of wheat on their way to the next town. This they said this was forbidden because it was “work” on the Sabbath. It was forbidden to do any kind of “work” on the Sabbath.
Later in the gospel story Jesus went to the synagogue and healed the man with the withered hand. He did it right in front of the authorities who were already angry, crouching in the corner just to “see what he was going to do.” They wanted to catch him and plot to destroy him. Again, Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath by healing the man’s withered hand. They began to plot to kill Jesus. That’s how ridiculously angry they were!
But Jesus wanted the authorities and the people to get away from the rigid interpretation of the law. It was binding them and forcing them away from God and their neighbor.
Jesus wanted the people to learn that wandering through a field and snacking on some sweet grain was considered rest. I know I’m resting when I take a walk or a hike and eat a snack.
Jesus wanted the people to learn that an act of healing on the day of rest was a form of compassion for their neighbor. Maybe the healing could have waited. But Jesus really wanted the people to know that he had come from God to reform how the Sabbath law would be interpreted. And that compassion for his neighbor was a very important part of the law.
Jesus wants his followers to understand that the Ten Commandments are a path to freedom in loving God and treating our neighbor justly. God gave us the seventh day to rest because God rested after created the universe and declared it was “good.”
We rest because God longs for us to rest in God. God is not about to punish us for neglecting to rest on the Sabbath. But failing to rest and always striving, striving, striving, over the long haul of our lives – now that drives us away from God and has its own negative consequences. A lifetime of striving without rest – well that would be a violation of the Fourth Commandment!
Today, this parish celebrates our graduates. One of our St. Paul’s grandchildren had the honor of being the salutatorian, the one who delivered the student address at her high school graduation. One of our own graduates, Rachel Eramo earned Student of the Year, National Technical Honor Society, Skills USA awards and a scholarship from the Enforcers for being an EMT. Congratulations to high school graduate Anna Ruprecht. Emily Baer has achieved a Masters in nonfiction creative writing. Congratulations!
What if today was “Graduate Sunday” not only for our loved ones and friends who celebrate their academic achievements. What if today was a ‘graduation” of sorts for us all? What if we say we are graduating into Sabbath-keeping? What if we “Remembered the Sabbath and kept it holy” in the spirit of Jesus and his reforms? What if we “commenced” to fully delight in the presence of God and God’s people, forsaking for a moment all the things not of God and our neighbor?
Imagine if we “remembered the Sabbath and kept it holy.” What would our lives look like in that kind of sacred rest? We have a good beginning today by coming to worship through the “obstacle course!” What if, for the rest of day, we said, “I consecrate this time to God?”