Sermon for August 21, 2022 Eleventh after Pentecost “Sabbath, rest or law?”
Speaking truth in the roar of public opinion has been the realm of prophets and prophetesses since the dawn of time. A common trait is resistance to being a spokesperson for God. Jeremiah wept. Elijah ran and hid. Hosea was discouraged and fed up. Nehemiah left the comfort of his job. Moses stuttered and Jeremiah was a boy. It’s tough! Yet, there is something that can get us through. In fact, there are three things that we might want to recall this Sunday.
The first is, God did not make a mistake in calling us to this ministry. God did thorough research and examination, even before we came into being. We were made for this work. God’s promise to not abandon us never fails. We all feel inadequate to do what God asks us to do. We give God the list of reasons why selecting us is not a good idea. Nevertheless, God does not give up on us.
Second, God handles those who stand in the way of God’s work being done. God tells Jeremiah to not let them get in the way of him doing what God told him to do. To be a prophet is to stand, no matter what. Stand in fatigue. Stand in loss. Stand in the conviction that God’s voice can shake the foundations and remind the people of God’s ways.
Third, you must trust what you see. Fatigue often gives us a sense of doubt and cowardice. God asked Jeremiah and Amos the same question? “What do you see?” He asked Jeremiah thrice, “What do you see?” Jeremiah saw a branch of an almond tree, a boiling pot, and figs, some very good and some very bad. Amos saw a plumb line and a basket of fruit. Zachariah was another prophet given the same question. He saw a lampstand of gold with its bowl for oil on top of it and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts. On another occasion, he saw a flying scroll with a length of twenty cubits and its width of ten cubits.
Like those who journeyed before we often wonder what to say when it comes to God, Jesus and faith. We wonder what will happen to the church and worship and will the church continue into another generation or two. I am not a prophet or a seer into what the future might hold. I am one who delights in the teachings of Jesus, the exploration of faith and a gentle persuader to others to faith a change. To look past the mistakes of the past and even the rigid grip on orthodoxy and see what is new for our generation in the teachings of Jesus.
In the Gospel teaching, Jesus is once again in trouble. But only because there are several understandings of what is acceptable on the Sabbath. In Genesis God ends the creation story with a Holy day of rest. In Exodus we hear ‘The Lord rests from the work of creation to bless and consecrate the Sabbath, therefore the people of Israel shall not work on the Sabbath. And in Deuteronomy the Sabbath commandment commands the people of the covenant to observe the day and keep it holy in recognition of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In this latter meaning the people take the Sabbath as an intentional time to practice Holiness and to undertake holy work.
The rigid Rabbis and church leaders stuck in rigid orthodoxy will use law and perceived rightness, with the notation that ‘the bible says so’ to keep people under control. Jesus stance and teaching is I think, to lead people to joy. Healing a woman on the Sabbath brought on the wrath of the established Rabbis and great joy to the woman and her family and community. I wonder where Jesus would be moments after this healing?
It is a reminder on this day that we have choices. Jesus teaches us to look to this day as a day set aside to practice holiness. To experience joy. To share a meal with family and friends, to witness children playing, to nestle into creation, to lend some flour or sugar to a neighbour and to know God loves you and nudges you to holiness.
Maybe it’s time for church to learn a lesson from the fitness app folks. We try to cram in all our holiness into an hour on Sunday. My fitbit app, although it does use church language like prayer and meditation, uses words like mindfulness and stillness. And what it prompts me to do is regularly throughout the day pause for a time of mindfulness. What I find delightful even joyful is that in any workplace if you were to say ‘time for three minutes of prayer’ you would be the church freak, but if you said ‘time for three minutes of mindfulness’ you would get a thumbs up and praise. So I will not tell them the two are the same. And let God do the nudging. After all God has called, redeemed and named us to be here right now, in this time and God does not make mistakes.