Lesson of the Week
This Week’s Message
Sermon Pentecost 2 – June 3, 2018 LSB: Series B Green
Texts: Deut. 5:12-15; 2 Cor. 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-28
Title: “Toward Peace-filled Rest”
Prayer: You have drawn us into Your holy and merciful presence this day, O gracious LORD, open our ears to hear Your voice in Your holy Word. Open our minds to understand what we hear with our ears. Open our lives to receive in faith Your wisdom and truth, that our worship this day and always may honor and praise You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you…Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
What a wonderful time for these Scripture texts to come up in our Sunday readings concerning the Sabbath day. I think every congregation has to deal with a downturn in attendance during the summer months. And I don’t think it has anything to do with people being away on vacation, unless they vacation every weekend. I will talk more about this later. If you think that summer is the time to take a vacation from church I want to set you straight today.
For some reason this Commandment of God does not seem as important to most people as His other Commandments. This is the last Commandment of the first Table of the Commandments that teach us about loving God. Most of us seem to disregard these first and seem to think that the second table of Commandments, those that have to do with loving our neighbor are more serious and more important. But let me ask you this question: “How can I truly love my neighbor, if I haven’t learned to love God?” My answer to you is that you cannot love your neighbor without having the love of God in you. And so what does this Commandment teach us about this?
I love the hymns we are singing today that speak about our time together on the Sabbath day. Our LORD Himself taught us the importance of this day by resting on the Seventh day after creating the world. He did not need to rest, being God Almighty, but He showed us a holy pattern of weekly living that is for our good and welfare. Part of this has to do with knowing our weak human physical and mental natures. About six months ago in the news there was a true account of a woman in Japan who died from overwork. Seven days a week she worked, week after week, until her body could no longer take it. She truly worked herself to death. God has set aside this day so that our minds and bodies can get some physical rest. See what He commands in our text for today? He commands we give our children, our farm animals, visitors, and though most of us don’t have house servants, God commands that they be given this day of rest each week. We live in a world where there is so much to do. You may have said this yourself, lamenting the negative changes we are seeing in society, “Sunday has become like every other day of the week.” This day that God Himself set aside to be different than the other days of the week, to bring needed rest and revitalization to us needy people, we neglect and make unholy.
It is true that our bodies and minds need rest each week, and that when we don’t get these things we bring unwanted troubles upon ourselves like anxieties, worries, even physical and mental sickness and disease. But God set aside this day for an even more important aspect of rest that many never consider as important. He set aside the Sabbath day for spiritual rest in Him. In His Word that we heard this day, at the end of the Deuteronomy reading, God reminds His people of His work that brought them freedom and a new life. He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. On the Sabbath day we are reminded of God’s regular work in our daily lives. We started off our service today with the realization of His greatest ongoing work in our lives, the work of forgiveness. While slaves in Egypt the people of God were not given a day off from their hard labor. Their physical slavery kept them from having the opportunity to worship their Lord and God. Now in this time of freedom that they were given by His powerful hand God reminds them that they will get their best rest in Him.
When the burden of our sins is taken from us each week in the presence of our Lord here in church what freedom we are given to rejoice in. Battered by the constant battling against our bodies and spirits and being overcome by our sins we are given the chance for healing and renewal through God’s own gift of forgiveness. He reminds us as repentant sinners that the burden of our sin has been dealt with. We have been freed by the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus. Yes, the people of God were freed from their physical slavery, but God had a greater freedom to give to them. He did this through His Son, the very Passover Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world.
As we consider our Lord’s Command concerning the Sabbath Day we hear Martin Luther’s teaching in His Large Catechism:
“Therefore this Commandment is violated not only by
those who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day,
like those who in their greed and frivolity neglect to
hear God’s Word or lie around in taverns dead drunk
like swine, but also by the multitude of others who
listen to God’s Word as they would to any other
entertainment, who only from force of habit go to hear
preaching and depart again with as little knowledge of
the Word at the end of the year as at the beginning. It
used to be thought that Sunday had been properly
hallowed if one heard a Mass or the reading of the
Gospel; no one asked about God’s Word, and no one
taught it either. Now that we have God’s Word, we still
fail to remove the abuse of the holy day, for we permit
ourselves to be preached to and admonished but we
listen without serious concern.”
Luther centers this Commandment of God in the Word of God. In the Small Catechism he writes that we break this Commandment of God when we “despise preaching and the Word of God.” Rather than seeing this day as a day to receive God’s good gifts of mercy and wisdom through hearing His Word we may convince ourselves that we really have no need of this. We go to church out of a sense of duty and habit rather than with a heart of great expectations. God Himself is present in worship. And He has wonderful, gracious presents to give us to give us daily and eternal rest.
The Sabbath day is not mostly about what we have to give to God, but rather expectantly seeking the gifts He has to give to us.
In the epistle lesson we are described as clay pots. Such are very fragile. If you drop one it will break into pieces. Knowing our fragility when it comes to the daily pressures of life He offers to uphold us through His Word so that we don’t break. He fills us clay jars with heavenly gifts that give us life and beauty through the Gospel. We should think about time in God’s house on the Sabbath day as time in which fills us empty clay jars with the beauty of the flowers of His mercy, His transforming Word, His Word of healing and life, His Word that holds certain promises that will see us through all the crushing, perplexing afflictions of life. He draws us into His living presence through our Savior Jesus. In His living presence Jesus offers Himself to us at the Holy table of the blessed Sacrament. He says, “Take eat, take drink, as He offers His very body and blood, a heavenly gift that feeds us now and draws us into eternity.
This day of rest is a day to be drawn to see the eternal rest we have in Him. It is a day to give ourselves and remind ourselves of a spiritual perspective not bound by the passing pleasures and promises of this world. It reminds us as children of heaven that the ultimate rest we seek and towards which our Lord wants to lead us is the eternal rest we will have with Him in heaven. Gathered together as brothers and sisters in Christ here in God’s house these gifts are brought into focus for us who have had our spiritual vision clouded by the anxieties and cares of life, by the pressures of our sinful flesh, of Satan, and of the world that have beaten us down. This Sabbath day is not a day of rest and sadness, but of rest in Christ and gladness through Him. Filled with the power of God in Jesus who gives us the freedom through forgiveness and in His living presence we come together on this day seeking God’s wondrous gifts for life, praising and honoring Him with lives that are ready to receive and by the Spirit’s power ready to serve. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy! Help us, O loving Lord to do this. Amen.