“The “Three R’s” of the Sabbath: Rest, Remember, and Receive”
Text: Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Mark 2:23-28; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Sabbath Day is not about rest. It’s about holiness. “Observe the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,” we heard from Moses in Deuteronomy. Rest is involved with that for us, because holiness is not our work. No matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, we cannot make ourselves, this day, or anything else holy. We’re sinners, and can only make things sinful. Holiness comes only from outside of us. Holiness belongs to God. Holy, holy, holy we sing of God in the Communion liturgy. Only He is holy and only He can give holy and make us holy.
The good news is that this is the very thing He wants to do. For this reason God sends His Holy Spirit. To holy us. To give us the gift of holiness. And so that we might stop and let holy happen; that we might rest and let someone else do this work; that we might come before our holy God and let Him serve us – that is why we are here. That is what the Divine Service is all about. And that is why the Sabbath Day. For though there is a commandment about it, the Sabbath is not a commandment, but a gift.
And that we might understand that, Moses points out
what the children of God are to do as they rest on the Sabbath – they are to
remember. They are to remember the great
working of God in bringing them “out of
But not only that, for as I said before, the Sabbath
is not about rest, but about holiness.
And holiness is also what God gave to His people out of
But it seems that God’s people always have trouble
receiving His gifts! We want to
be the doers and the givers, not the receivers.
Which is to say, we want to be the
gods. And so Adam and Eve, not
satisfied with receiving the gift of all
the trees of the Garden except one, take and eat from the one that the devil
promises “will make them like God.” The children of
And we do it too. Many people. Thinking that coming to church on Sunday is what we do for God; our service to Him, instead of His service to us. Our praise, our prayers, our thanks, our worship. That is why you will so often hear the phrase: I don’t have to go to church to serve God. I can do those things anywhere. And while that’s true, is that why we come to church? To serve God? Is this our doing or is it God’s doing? Do we here give or receive? Are we here to serve or to be served?
Well God gave us the answer through Moses: out of
And so it is in this way that Luther explains this commandment in the Small Catechism: We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. For Luther knew this commandment is about the Word of God, for it is the Word of God that brings us out of Egypt and takes Egypt out of us. It is the Word of God that puts us in God and God in us. And so the Word of God in the water of Holy Baptism puts us in Christ. The Word of God in the bread and wine of Holy Communion puts Christ’s body and blood in us. The preaching of the Word of God puts us in the story of God’s people and the story in us, that all the promises of God are His promises to us. And in all these ways, through all these means, the Holy Spirit comes to us, with forgiveness and faith, with life and salvation, and gives us the gift of holy. All we need do is rest. To come before God and let Him serve us. The Word of God, the Word made flesh, once crucified but now risen from the dead, here bringing us out of Egypt. Here living and giving, saving and serving. You can’t do it. As Paul said, “this surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Holiness belongs to God. And He is here to give it to you.
Because God is not about rules – He’s about life. He gives the Law to kill us and bring us low, so that the Gospel can give us life and raise us. Too often we get that upside down and backwards, and so we wind up trying to serve God and rest before our neighbors instead of resting before God and serving our neighbors! We confuse the commandment with the gift! You see, that was the Pharisees’ problem. When it came to the Sabbath, they focused on what they did, their work, instead of what God was doing, His work. And so Jesus reorients them, and us. The Sabbath was made for man, for our benefit; not man for the Sabbath, to enslave us to God.
Which is good, because quite frankly, you’ve got enough to do in this life! With job and family and friends and home and health and worries and everything else in life that wears us down and wears us out. The Son of God didn’t come to increase your burden, but to take your burden away. Not to give you more to do, but to give you the strength you need. Not to run you around, but to give you rest. To give His life for the life of the world. So that, as Paul wrote: you be afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.
And so David and his men came into the house of God and ate, the bread of the presence, that they might have life. Jesus and His disciples picked and ate the heads of grain, their daily bread, that they might have life. And we too come into the house of God and eat, the bread of life, that we might have life.
For just as for Old Testament
In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.