Pr. Jaynan Clark
June 1, 2015
Summer time is here with all its plans for time outdoors, projects in the yard, boating excursions, picnics, camping trips, vacations. Plans to get away from the regular “school year” ( September through May) schedule usually include planning not to study, not to read, not to go to class, not to do homework. “Give me a break!” ... “I need a break!” Everybody needs a break now and again... students, teachers, workers of every vocation. Vacation is recreation and recreation “breaks” down to re-creation.
In some ways, simply stated, this is how the Sabbath was set up from day one... actually day seven according to Genesis... “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”
God, Our Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth said: “Give me a break!” “Let’s take 24!” So to speak.
A day of rest... a break from it “all”? Is that what the Sabbath is? The absence of work and duty? Play time? Recreation time? Or re-creation time? Yes and it is a “holy day” which in English gave birth to “holiday”; so every week you get a “holiday!” Yahoo! Why spend it in church, especially in the summer when the weather is nice and there are so many other fun things to do J?
The following story seems helpful in a humorous way:
A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. 'I've gone for 30 years now,' he wrote, 'and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons, but for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the preachers are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.' This started a real controversy in the 'Letters to the Editor' column.
Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: 'I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!'
Luther explains in the Small Catechism that the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” means that we are to “fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the preaching of it, but acknowledge it as holy, and gladly hear and learn it.
Luther expands his explanation in the Large Catechism by saying that through the years the Jewish faith interpreted this command so narrowly and grossly that by the time of Jesus, He became the public example of the breaker of this law with His healings and service on the day of “rest.” Jesus was re-creating too much as far as His critics were concerned. (Matt 12:1ff; Mark 2:23ff; Luke 6:1ff; 13:10ff; 14:1ff; John 5:9ff, 7:22ff, 9:14ff). As Christians, free in Christ, we don’t have to be hog-tied by so many legalistic restrictions that take not only the joy out of the Sabbath but the holiness. The on-going turmoil over which exact day and hour to observe is the basis for wars both physical and theological. Ironic at best.
Jesus reminds us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27,28) It’s a gift given to you from the One who first created and re-creates you daily because He knows how you are hard wired. He knows you need to be refreshed or you will grow weary. He knows that you need to assemble and participate in worship to hear and discuss His Word, to praise Him, sing songs and pray. Luther states it this way: “Places, times, persons and the entire outward order of worship is therefore instituted and appointed so that God’s Word may exert its power publicly... the devil neither day nor night relaxes his efforts to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it. However, when we seriously ponder the Word, hear it and put it to use, such as is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, and a new spirit of devotion and it constantly cleanses the heart and its meditations. The Word is not idle but effective and living. Even if no other interest or need drove us to the Word, yet everyone should be spurred on by the realization that in this way the devil is cast out and put to flight, this commandment is fulfilled and God is more pleased than by any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.”