THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to 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. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall 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.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Mark 2:23-28 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
“It’s hard to live on the outside." Years living behind bars can make it hard for some convicts to know what to do with their freedom when they are released. Or so it was in a movie I saw a while ago, but I have heard it before, as I read about it in a novel in High School. Having been caged for so long, some men come to need a cage to live.
What really struck me about our Old Testament Word for today is the connection that the Lord makes between the Sabbath rest that He commands and their former slavery. The Lord commands them to rest on every seventh day so that they can remember how He had set them free with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. They are commanded not to work to remind them that God had saved them from Egypt, where the Egyptians had commanded them to work all the time making bricks without straw. God commanded them to rest, so that they could rejoice in the freedom that He had given to them.
How ironic then, when the Pharisees turned the Sabbath rest into a new work … a new slavery of sorts, that rivalled the harshness of life in Egypt. Such a Sabbath was anything but a reminder of God’s saving grace in delivering them from a life of a hard labour in Egypt. Such a rest was a burden even greater than the one that their fathers had borne as slaves. They beat on themselves and others without any mercy demanding, forcing, that they work hard at this rest, as we see them do with our Lord and the disciples today. The Sabbath was a gift, a time where it was not only okay to do nothing, but where doing nothing was the best service you could give to God, and they turned it into a burden.
“It’s hard to live on the outside.” Indeed. Not just for the Pharisees but for you and me as well. The Son has set us free that we might be free indeed, beloved. He came and suffered and died a slave’s death on the cross, because remember, crucifixion was not a death for Roman citizens, only slaves and the like were crucified, only the lowest of the lows were hung upon a tree, in Rome’s eyes as well as in God’s - “cursed is everyone who is hung upon a tree.” Jesus died as a slave, so that we could be set free to live as children of God in His Kingdom. For freedom we’ve been set free, beloved, which is something that we need to really think about, when it comes to our relationship to God’s law and its role in our lives.
The law should not be a new form of slavery for us as God’s children. It should not be a list of musts, have tos, shoulds, or even must nots, or shall nots. It should not be a great burden that we live under, being beaten into submission under it, a heavy yoke on our necks, exhausting us, causing us to groan, wearing us out by unceasing labour, struggling to make bricks without straw. But that is exactly what it can be for us, and so many others where Christianity becomes all about keeping rules - the golden one any way - “loving your neighbour as yourself”; turning what should be a freedom into iron shackles on our hands and feet; making it all the harder to run in the way of God’s commands because the hearts that the Lord has set at liberty, we have chained up again.
Christ has paid for our freedom with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. His cross stands as proof of the payment. His empty tomb declares that the payment was accepted. Hell has no claim on us. Death no hold. Sin no right over us. As the nails were pounded into Jesus' hands and feet they burst open the shackles on yours and mine. Any doubt about that is chased away by looking back to the font, beloved, to see them lying there in a rusted heap beside your baptismal water - the nails of calvary still wedged in their joints. You don’t need to work for your freedom. You don’t need to earn it. You don’t need to run for it. Christ’s death has given it. Your baptism declares it.
The Lord does not want us, beloved, to take back up the law as a form of slavery under a new name. The law for us is not about earning God’s favour. No, no, you are beloved and well pleasing in His sight in Christ. The law is something Christ has set us free to do, not to earn God’s favour, but because it is good and so good for us. Remembering the Sabbath Day to keep it holy by not despising preaching and God’s Word but holding it sacred and gladly hearing it and learning it, is not something we do to get in good with God but because we are in good with Him in Jesus. God calls us to do it because it is good and good for us.
Coming to Church is not a new form of slavery for us, beloved, or it should not be, as if by doing it somehow we’re making things right with God. God invites us, calls us, beckons us here to this place because this is where He makes things right with us. Here the Lord of the Sabbath waits for each one of us so that we might come to Him and rest. He is here for weary souls like you and me because He wants to be our rest. When we think of the Divine Service as something we have to do then we rob it of it’s joy; making it a burden … a drudgery, but when we look upon it as God’s children as the place where our dear heavenly Father pours out His gifts upon us in Jesus then, O what a blessing it is to be able to come!
So too, beloved, with the rest of the commands as they are summed up in those two words: love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.’ As God’s children, beloved, we are invited into this love for Him and our neighbour, not to earn His favour but because we have His favour in Christ. Such love is not to be some new form of slavery. He invites us into this love because it is to be a reminder of His love for us. When we love God and others then we are reminded of the truth that He loves us. When we forgive and bless others we are reminded of the truth that He forgives and blesses us. When we put Him first we are reminded of the truth that Christ put us first before Himself.
“But it’s hard to live on the outside.” Having been caged for so long, it can be hard for us to live without a cage. How hard it can be as God’s children to look on the Law in this way … to not turn in it back into a form of slavery, a burden, a drudgery, which is why the Lord of the Sabbath comes to us today in His body and blood to renew us in the truth of our freedom, beloved. He not only sets it before us but also delivers the very price He paid to redeem each and every one of; placing it in our mouths with the bread and pressing it to our lips with the wine. “I have set you free,” He says, with every bite. “Free indeed”, He declares, with every sip. “I am your rest. Now, rest in me."
Yes, it’s hard to live on the outside, but in Christ it is not only possible but a joy, which is why He is here for you this morning, beloved, so that you might not only know that you are free, but also be set free to live in that freedom, now and forever. Amen.