Summary: Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Series B. Preached 6/18/2006 @ Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, Forest City, Iowa (ELCM) Some material from Concordia Pulpit Resources.
Pentecost 2B. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 “O Day of Rest & Gladness” 6/18/2006
Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, Forest City, Iowa (ELCM)
Source Material: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 13, No.3
Introduction: Every day seems to have its own personality. Fats Domino sang a song called “Blue Monday.” Monday is back-to-work or back-to-school day—back to the grind. Wednesday is called “hump day,” getting over the hump moving towards the weekend. We all know the phrase “Thank goodness it’s Friday!”
What about this day—Sunday, the day of worship, the day we gather together as God’s people? What kind of day is this? What personality, what purpose, does our Sunday observance have? Our readings center on the Sabbath, that time God commanded be kept as special day of worship. What is the Sabbath now? Why and how do we keep the Sabbath? What Kind of a Day Is the Sabbath?
I. Is the Sabbath a workday?
Seems like a silly question to ask in light of our sermon text from our Old Testament reading for today, doesn’t it? Who in their right mind would think after reading this text that the third commandment was about turning the Sabbath into a work day?
A. The Pharisees thought so in today’s Gospel.
Well, the Pharisees in our Gospel reading from Mark chapter 2 didn’t get it right. In fact, although they thought they were resting, they had turned the Sabbath from a day of rest into a day of work, perhaps even more work than the other 6 days of the week! You see, the Pharisees were the group of people who turned the 10 commandments into hundreds of different laws, many of which had to do with the Sabbath. They saw the Sabbath as a day of work, of keeping a whole host of rules and observances. To the Pharisees, by keeping these various rules about the Sabbath, by doing these works, then God would accept these works as Holy and fulfillment of the Sabbath.
With this in mind, it’s easy for us to look at what happened in our Gospel reading for this morning and understand what’s going on. It’s the Sabbath day, and Jesus and his disciples are traveling through some grain fields. As they were traveling, the disciples were starting to get hungry, so they did what you’d expect someone in their situation to do, they started to pluck some heads of grain so they could eat. Now remember, the Pharisees have all these rules and regulations about how to keep a proper Sabbath observance. According to their “rule book” they’ve come up with, plucking grain counts as “work”, thus, in their eyes, the disciples and Jesus are violating the Sabbath! In fact, they went right up to Jesus, and said “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (v. 24) They were outright offended when Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem to follow the rules of the Sabbath, of doing the proper work of the Sabbath.
When we look at this particular account from the Gospel reading, it’s easy for us modern day Christians to look at the Pharisee’s and really crack down hard on them. Let’s look at what they’ve done. They turned a simple commandment from God, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” and went so far as to decide they could take on the role of “Sabbath Police” by telling folks what they could and could not “lawfully” do on the Sabbath. They decided they knew what was and was not considered “work”. They even had laws about how many steps a person could take on the Sabbath day before it was considered “work”! We easily point out their sins of pride, arrogance, and even putting themselves and their piety and works above God by completely distorting the Word of God, clearly violating the 1st Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me!”. Often when this Gospel text is preached on or looked at in a Bible class in the church, we hear a lot about “legalism” and how Christians are never guilty of such things. Why we’d never add on works, or rules to our Sabbath observance! We’re not Pharisees!
With that in mind, this is the part of the sermon where some very stern application of law needs to be preached, lest I fail in my duty in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word to you all this morning. Do you want to know the truth? We very easily slip into this same exact attitude that the Pharisees displayed in our Gospel reading for today when it comes to the Sabbath. There are people in church pews in our community, throughout Northern Iowa, throughout the world this morning, perhaps even the person sitting next to you, or even you yourself, who are taking the same, self-righteous, sinful attitude toward Sunday morning as the Pharisees displayed toward the Sabbath day in the Gospel reading.