1st Sunday after Trinity Mark 2:23 - 3:6
One of the most common threads amongst both young and old and the in-betweens is that there is just too much going on these days. We are too busy. Our lives are too full of commitments and too much responsibility. The refrain is repeated by our young people going to school and trying to do the homework assigned, and then keeping up with all the activities available for them today. Young adults early in their careers live rushed lives with the same refrain – too busy. Like it or not, we live in a busy society. We are constantly bombarded with information, with depressing news, with decisions to make, with advertising at every turn that tells us we need more of what-ever they are pushing, with children who need our attention, or with parents who are asking more of us, and with the church asking you to serve on another important committee or engage in more fundraising.
But I don’t need to stand here and tell you that we’re too busy. What I am called to stand here and say is that God didn’t intend for us to live this way. These hectic days and rushed lives are not what God created us to be. God desires that we slow down, and realize that life wasn’t designed to be rushed through. The Sabbath, a day to REST, was made for us. Jesus tells the Pharisees and us through the pages of Scripture – The Sabbath was made for our well-being.
The Pharisees, who were the religious professionals of the day, caught Jesus’ disciples “working” on the Sabbath by picking grain. Sabbath practice demanded that you only eat food prepared the previous day, and that separating the wheat from the chaff was considered work. Jesus defends his disciples with a Scriptural reference to King David, but more importantly Jesus points them and points us to the deep and holy intention of Sabbath. The command to pause and rest, was made for our wellbeing and to make our lives more whole and complete, it is not some rule to burden our lives with. The Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath.
There is a glaring difference between the Pharisees who attempt enforce the letter the law while blatantly ignoring the vulnerable man in front of them with his withered hand, and Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, who clearly brings forth life and wholeness and healing.
Jesus enters the synagogue and you get the ideas the Pharisees are in the dark corner watching to see if they can trap him. Jesus invites the man with the withered hand to come to the front before the whole community. Jesus asked them. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Jesus looked at each one of them with anger, and he was grieved at their hard hearts. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and the man was healed and made whole. And immediately, the Pharisees rushed out and conspired how to kill Jesus.
Clearly, God’s intentions for the Sabbath are for healing, wholeness, restoration, renewal, and life-giving rest. The Pharisees were over-protective of the Sabbath regulations, following the letter of the law while missing the whole spirit of the law, but most folk today are just as bad – neither following the letter nor the spirit of the commandment to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy - because we are just too busy. There’s just too much going on and too many responsibilities. We have fallen into the trap of productivity that has convinced us that our value is in what we acquire, or what we produce, or in what we accomplish. The idea of pausing to rest and simply enjoy almost carries guilt that we’re not being productive – we’re not accomplishing anything. But my friends, that is the whole point of Sabbath – to be completely free of the need to accomplish or produce something.
God didn’t create us so that we would accomplish tasks and produce things – even good things like food or books or sermons. We were created to delight in God, to enjoy creation, to develop and celebrate relationships. “Stretch out your hand” Jesus says to the man with the withered hand on that Sabbath day two thousand years ago. God says the same thing to us.
Stretch out your clinched hand and let go of your need to do, to accomplish, to produce and to consume. Stretch out both hands of control and fear and just be – one day a week or one hour every day – just be. Just enjoy, celebrate life, rest, marvel at God’s good Creation, go on a long walk, laugh with someone you love, give your undivided attention to your grandchild, read a book that brings you peace, paint for the joy of painting, make music, be quite, be alone, listen to the birds singing. For the Sabbath was created as gift for us. It is God’s permission, God’s commandment to stop, rest, live, breathe deeply, and to celebrate. Go and enjoy your day of well earned rest.