Keeping the Sabbath – June 3, 2018

Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Mark 2:23-3:6

Every Sunday when we begin our worship service, I greet you with Psalm 118:24.   “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  And the Old Testament lesson says, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy…set apart; six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day.”  And we all admit that keeping the Sabbath is not easy to do.  Or, some of you can even argue that keeping the Sabbath is out of date: it might be possible to keep it long time ago but not any longer in modern day America.   

I know the feeling – I attended a very conservative Presbyterian church during my high-school years.  We were not being allowed to do much of anything except going to church on Sunday (no ball games, no picnics, nothing fun), and it was BORING!

My friends, let me tell you this: The Sabbath Law has nothing to do with being bored or not having fun.  It has everything to do with social justice issue.  It was a social security program 3,000 years ago.  In Mark’s gospel, the Pharisees complained to Jesus that his disciples were gathering corn on the Sabbath…, that’s reaping.  That was work, a violation of the fourth commandment.  But consider this: a woman was not allowed to use a mirror on the Sabbath to prevent exactly the same sin: reaping.  They were concerned that she would see a gray hair and pull it out, and pulling out gray hairs was reaping.  Ridiculous!  The healing of the man with the withered hand?  Yes, healing is work!  Jesus put that in perspective with his question, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” 

No wonder Jesus got into trouble.  He hated hypocrisy.  He despised ostentation of righteousness.  When it came to the observance of the Sabbath, he put everything into perspective in one sentence: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  All those ridiculous restrictions had nothing to do with God’s intention in giving the commandment and Jesus knew it.  This was social justice policy to guarantee that people would not be overworked.  There is nothing in it that talks about pulling gray hairs or even healing; there is nothing in it about even going to church or synagogue; there is nothing in it about avoiding certain kinds of physical recreation; all it really says is that there should be a day set apart – kept “holy” – a different day – for folks to take a break.

Let me tell you again, the original intention of the Sabbath Law was to protect the least of the society from the exploitation.  It was for orphans, widows, foreigners and servants.  But, don’t forget it is for all of US, too.  It is for all human-beings!  Our lives are hectic and going faster and faster everyday.  It never stops.  Sunday seems to be like every other day, and we need a break, otherwise we break ourselves.  We need to slow down.

Let us think about us for a while… about our modern lives: With all of the extraordinary, miraculous medical inventions and advances, don’t you think there should be less illness in the world today?  But it seems to me there is as much illness and as much disease as there ever was.  With all the amazing technology now available, are we happier than our parents’ generation?  Because I was not sure about that, I asked SIRI yesterday.  “Hey SIRI, are we happier than our parents’ generation?”   The answer is “NO!”

The following is the beginning part of the first recommended article.

No.  Nowadays stress is more.  There is no peace of mind.  There is contempt, jealousy, etc.  People are trying to live by killing his neighbor.  Even in a family, there is no unity.  Everywhere there is confusion.  Those days, people lived a slow, healthy life.  On the other hand our forefathers lived a simple life.  They had fewer wants, which they satisfied by working hard.  They were strong, sturdy and healthy who fully enjoyed simple things of life.  They lived a contented and peaceful life.

If we think that happiness consists of material comforts, no doubt we are
happier than our forefathers.  If pleasure can be called happiness we are indeed happier.  But if contentment is happiness, our forefathers should be considered far happier than we are.

…. Why do we have so much already, with still many opportunities to accumulate more, yet find ourselves somehow less personally fulfilled than our parents were at our ages?

Today’s generation enjoys the fruits of science and technology.  They have a better standard of living because of increase in per capita income.  Today there are two incomes in the family – mother’s and father’s.  There is more education, more material comfort like TV, internet, i-pods, mobile phones and speedy means of transportation.  However, when we compare our lives with the childhood and youth of our grand fathers we find that on the whole they had better lives than ours.  They had time on their hands and lived a less hectic pace.

Modern youth is a victim of time and fame.  The idea of material acquisition has led conflicts in society.  It has led to alienation of the family and loneliness in life.  People are ready to sacrifice health and happiness in order to pursue material happiness.

I also found some interesting facts: In 1958, less than 1 percent had color televisions.  Now, the average household has 2.86 televisions while it is only 2.5 persons.  (More TVs than persons in our household).  Today, many new homes have three-car garages and they are nearly 900 square feet (the same as an entire house in the 1950s).

On average, Americans shop six hours a week and spend only 40 minutes playing with their children.  (That’s less than 6 minutes per day).

Although Americans had fewer material goods, the number of Americans who say they are very happy peaked back in 1957.

My point is we are not healthier, happier and our family is not stronger than 60 years ago.  I believe it is a result of our not taking the time, a day apart, to change the pace, to rest, to think, to re-energize ourselves and to contemplate God.  It might have made a difference if we had taken even one day a week to refresh and re-energize ourselves. 

What do you think Jesus would have done if He had a life as busy and as stressful as ours?  We have a very good example of what He did.  His life was as demanding, as charged with conflict as anybody’s life anywhere.

Through the pages of the Gospels, every three or four pages, He went away, to a garden or the seashore, some deserted place, for extended periods of time.  I think He went to pray and to think, to meditate and to rest.  And we know the balance that Jesus had in his life.

What are the Ten Commandments, really?  They are the experience of hundreds and hundreds of years of the Hebrew people.  They discovered what works, what is good, what doesn’t work and what is not good.

And these are some of the things they discovered.  You don’t steal; it doesn’t work.  You don’t kill; it doesn’t help.  You don’t lie, cheat or covet.  You honor your mother and father.  You observe the Sabbath.  You take that special Sabbath day of the week and you make it holy, and on that day you worship.  It’s a day apart, to rest, to pray and to worship. 

Well, I know… I am preaching to the choir today.  Worship is essential for us to live as a human-being.  Because every human-being is a spiritual-being, it is absolutely necessary for us to have a spiritual connection with God, our creator, in order to live as a human/spiritual-being.  In other words, what makes you live as a human-being, rather than just an animal, is worship.  God wants us to live as we were created!  That’s why God set a day apart for worship for our own benefit. 

It would require self-discipline for every one of us commit to making the Sabbath day a holy day.  We would change the pace.  We would rest.  We would think.  We would restart our emotional and spiritual engines.  We would worship.  We would be with God.  This would make an unbelievable difference if we could discipline ourselves to do this.

For us, for Christians, by tradition, Sunday is our little oasis… our place apart in the noisy din of a hectic week. What will make the day “holy” for you?  Worship?  Prayer?  Praise?  Study?  Cannot go wrong there.  Rejoice, my friends, that Jesus taught that one day in seven was made for you and not you for the day… a day to take a break.  It is truly a wonderful gift from God. 

Elizabeth’s Korean name is 이레 which literally means ‘seventh day.”  In other words, it is the Sabbath Day.  I love to share the deep theological meaning of Sabbath in the creation story in another sermon.  For now, my brothers and sisters in Christ, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy…set apart; six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day”…ah, the seventh day…is a gracious, wonderful gift from your lavish, loving Lord.  Rejoice and be glad in it!  Amen.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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