Deuteronomy 5:12-15 God’s provision of rest in the third commandment
12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” And Paul encourages us with the words: “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’ (Col 2:16–18 NIV)
Let’s join in a word of prayer:
Loving God our Father, we join with our fellow Christians around the world on this Lord’s Day to celebrate your son, Jesus Christ, to witness his life and ministry, and to worship You. Guide our time together that we may receive the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son. Gracious heavenly Father, in you we have life. Hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Christ Jesus, Amen.
There was a story I once watched on a reality TV program about a sweet-natured and friendly older couple with a strange habit. They never seemed to discard anything. They had completely filled their front yard and driveway full of trash, bags of plastic bags, broken refrigerators, stoves, worn out sofas, lawn mowers and a car they never drove.
And then one morning a sign was posted on the entrance to their front yard that read, ‘Moved Next Door.’ And they had–they had moved literally next door! It seems the inside of their house was just as full of clutter and trash as the yard and so they had no choice but to move.
It’s sad that sometimes people’s lives can be that way–so cluttered with unnecessary and useless stuff that a full normal life seems impossible. They may even talk about needing a fresh start or a clean break. Just like that couple who picked up and moved ‘next’ door. They moved, but you know they took some of their old stuff with them, and it wasn’t long until their new house was as trashy as the old one!! Moving ‘next’ door–wanting a fresh start or a clean break with the past–is sometimes just what we need. But unless some deep change takes place at the level of our very being, we end up cluttering up our lives with the same sort of stuff as before.
When God freed the Israelite people to begin a new life in freedom from slavery in Egypt, God gave them a new way of living. Trusting God completely, and caring for each other.
Through Moses, in the first books of the Bible, God shared with the Israelites what that new way of living was all about. The Ten Commandments have at the heart, a way of meaningful, joyous, loving and faith-filled living. In the reading from Deuteronomy, Moses was preaching his last sermon. Advice to those who would be entering the promised land. Advice about staying in touch with the God of their salvation from slavery.
But like that sweet-natured older couple, the people of Jesus day seem to have overlooked the new way of living, in favour of returning to slavery. They instituting the Ten Commandments as a matter of rules. And turned the festivals established by God to remind the them of their relationship with Him, into a burden of observances.
In the reading from the Gospel today, Jesus our Saviour, in his simple, compassionate way, tried to point out something important. That observing the Sabbath, as an ordinance rather than a connection with a wonderous and majestic God, was returning to slavery, rather than expressing freedom to worship.
“The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Then Jesus replied again to the Pharisees, in the Synagogue, but with a bit more sternness “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” I am convinced that Jesus wasn’t just speaking about the miracle he was about to perform. I believe he was talking about the difference of trusting God for good and for spiritual life. Rather than denying the one God sent, and turning to harm and spiritual death.
We sometimes go through life looking inside of ourselves for some ray of light and some ray of goodness by which we could make ourselves acceptable to God. But then, by the Holy Spirit working in our spirits through Word and Sacrament and Intuition, God shines in our hearts. He shows us the light of his glory in the face of Jesus. He lets us see with our ‘eyes of faith’ the face of Jesus which reminds us that his promises and work for us is real. As Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians, ‘For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone his light in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’
1st Corinthians 2 says, “as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, now ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”
As we gather each Lord’s Day for worship, praying together, singing together, sharing the Word of God together, and receiving the Lord’s Supper together, we are reminded that this is not a matter of slavery to observance, but freedom to worship. As Paul writes to us in Colossians, “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’
There are days when our lives seem so cluttered and cracked and broken, that we just can’t add one more thing to it. Yet, we still have this treasure of Christ Jesus in jars of clay. We can resonate with what Paul describes in our reading today, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” In the most difficult days we ever face in life, the treasure we have in Christ shines brightest. And we join together, honouring the Lord’s Day, remembering the Sabbath, to be strengthened for the day to day challenges of living in a broken world.
As Scripture reminds us from Hebrews, ‘ let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.’ (Heb 10:19–25 NIV)
By the miracle of God’s grace we possess the greatest treasure in the world. We have the riches of forgiveness and peace with God and the hope of eternal life found only in Christ. We have this treasure in jars of clay not just to cherish, but pass on to other people.
Listen now to these words of Paul and think of the high honour and privilege that is given to each of us. “We always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” Why does God use jars of clay to bring the treasures of Christ to our dying world? It is simply because he loves us so much. He loves us by bringing these treasures to us, and he loves us by asking us to pass these treasures on to other people. By our attitudes, actions and words we use in our everyday living.
We struggle every day to live for Jesus. As we struggle, people watch. By the fruit and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives they will see the greatest treasure in the world. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest treasure in the world!
We are alive in Christ. And so our daily lives, under Christ, give witness to this new reality and hope that now lives within us. Especially as we honour the Lord’s Day and gather faithfully in worship and fellowship.
May the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Rev. David Thompson.