(listen along for a more enhanced sermon experience!)
Jesus challenges the prevailing interpretation of what is lawful on the sabbath and tells his critics that the sabbath was made for humankind, not the other way around. Healing the man with the withered hand is work that cannot wait until the next day.
23One sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
3:1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
We all know we “need” sleep, right? But the more we learn about our bodies, our brains, longevity, and health — the more important sleep becomes.
I went to the doctor a few weeks ago. I told her I’d started WW, but even though I’d followed it to a T the first week, I hadn’t lost an ounce. Right away, she asked: How much are you sleeping? When do you go to bed? Get up? How long are you awake in the middle of the night? And then pronounced firmly: You are not getting enough sleep! What?!
Am I the only one here who chronically skimps on sleep???
Why? We work, work, work — right? Sleep when we can’t do any more. We have a work ethic: work is GOOD. If you work, you are a BETTER person than someone who doesn’t. A college friend is married to a corporate lawyer who makes beaucoup bucks. She’s a social worker, who volunteered big time in her church and raised two wonderful humans. But she has always felt guilty and kind of ashamed she didn’t make a paycheck — even though they had no financial needs whatsoever.
You retired folks complain about how busy you are! And then there’s the seduction of saying “yes”: We’re in demand! Someone needs us! Thinks we can do something well!
Even vacations can leave us more tired than when we left!
So — we ignore the sleep we need — even though that means more car accidents, lower productivity, poor decision-making, greater irritability and anxiety, strained relationships, and less joy.
Our bodies and brains aren’t the only parts of us that suffer without rest. So do our spirits.
How is your spirit today? Heavy with the news you heard as you got dressed this morning? Saddened by loneliness? agitated because of things left undone…or things done that you really wish you hadn’t? Bruised because someone you love has hurt you? Or is hurting? Angry? Tense? Wary? Hopeful? Joy-filled because of the glorious spring beauty everywhere you look? Or maybe just tired… Alive? Or hunkered down in anticipation of the week ahead?
Our spirits go through a lot, right? Each day makes demands, offers joys to our spirits. And generally, we don’t pay much attention. We aren’t used to thinking about the state of our spirit. But it’s real.
When my spirit is fatigued, I find it harder to empathize. I react instead of responding. The small upsetting things get to me and the small wonderful things pass me right by. I feel like it’s all up to me — and I get grumpy wondering where everyone else is! Tasks seem never-ending. I can’t see possibilities closed off; the world small and closed in. I do whatever is nearby, rather than discerning what is most important. I am more compulsive. The world’s big problems seem hopeless and anything I can do, insignificant. I’m more judgmental of myself and others. I lose touch with my best inner wisdom and sense of self.
I live in scarcity mode: There isn’t enough time to do what I have to do, much less what I’d LIKE to do. There isn’t enough of me.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Thomas Merton wrote this:
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
Which is why God made a commandment out of the gift our spirits need — but we are so resistant to receive: Sabbath. Rest. And renewal for our spirits. Barbara Brown Taylor says: the Sabbath is our built in weekly tonic. It’s God’s way to woo us so we can find our worth in who we are, not what we do.
…..so we can find our worth in who we are, not what we do.
The fourth commandment says:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
If God gets tired out, why wouldn’t WE? If God rests, why would we think we don’t need to?
In fact, there’s a very cool thing about that creation story! What’s the first thing the new human creatures do? Created on 6th day…on the 7th? REST!
The work ethic driving us isn’t there! Instead of “I have to work to earn rest”, the Bible’s wisdom is: rest comes first. We rest in order to work. Rest helps us be fully human and humane, no matter what our work is.
Paul calls us clay pots — we’re not machines or robots. We wear out. Life bruises and bumps and breaks us. We need healing, restoration and reconnection. Essential.
Barbara Brown Taylor describes her experience after she stopped being a parish priest:
Torah is very straightforward: you shall not do any work. The key, for me, was freedom from compulsion. One day a week, “should,” “ought” and “must” had no power over me. On Sundays I did not worship the clock, the dollar or my superego. I worshiped God instead, whom I trusted to run the world for one day without my help. I cannot even bring myself to tell you how I spent those days, since my mind still calls it sloth.
It was not sloth. It was sabbath, and its effect was immediate. Relationships became more spacious. Prayer became more spacious. Time itself became more spacious. Instead of charging out of the gate on Monday mornings, I found myself sauntering instead, still relishing the freedom of the day before. There was never enough time to get everything done, but I finally understood there never would be. There would only be enough time to live, with as much gratitude as I could muster.
Yes, Sabbath renews our spirits. And a renewed spirit is a more loving spirit.
We always circle back here, right? Loving. In all the ways we can, large and small.
Jesus said the most important commandment of all is: Love the Lord your God with all your Heart and Mind and Strength, and the 2nd is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. On these two, the whole law and the prophets hang.
No wonder Jesus got so mad at the teachers in the synagogue who didn’t want his hungry disciples to pluck grain to eat on the sabbath and didn’t want him to heal a man on the sabbath.
The question isn’t “What the heck was WRONG with first century Judaism?”
The question is: Why did they deify a rule, instead of love?
They were following the rules ABOUT sabbath, but they just didn’t get it. It reminds me of the rules/laws being enforced at our border, separating small children from their parents. There’s no good that comes from it — It’s just a rule. And it pushes compassion to the side.
In the same way, humans don’t exist for the sabbath; the sabbath exists for humans — to be renewed, so we live fully, and love can always be our way of life — not just when things are slow or life is good.
Instead of rushing in and rushing out, if we can slow ourselves down to a Sabbath pace, each Sunday, we will find the joy of being with other people who are also seeking community, also hungry for a reminder we don’t have to do it all ourselves. We have each other. There is hope. God is at work in spite of all that seems amiss in our world. We are part of something larger — larger peace, larger love, larger hope — in a way we’ll never fully understand. We get to quit trying to be good for anything…stop earning our paycheck, and just stop. And rest.
We get to remember our worth is not in what we do, but simply that we ARE.
And when the dust begins to settle, and our spirits begin to revive, then in the spaciousness we’ve rediscovered, we wonder: Why am I here?
And remember what we have to offer — and experience not just being in proximity to others, but being in relation to others. We are, all of us, part of God’s family, all God’s children, all are neighbors. And each and every one of us is made in God’s image.
We can remember that no matter how seemingly insignificant, we have something to give. And someone needs that smile, that listening ear, that practical advice, that shared experience, that righteous anger, that honesty, that openness.
But maybe your spirit ISN’T always terribly renewed by Sundays and worship? And how holy can it be if we’re doing it because we “have” to?
Harold and Carol Alley sent a little piece that speaks to that. A little dated, but good! 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, 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, the preachers and priests 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. (I guess he didn’t think he’d ever be able to learn to cook!)
Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
Sunday worship together is only a waste of time if we are here in body, but not in spirit. If we are going through the motions, without opening ourselves to what we wouldn’t otherwise see or know or experience, it WILL be a waste.
Days pass; years vanish. We walk sightless among miracles. A rabbi said.
Here’s the thing: No matter what our culture insists, the sabbath isn’t made for sports! It’s made for us humans — to BE human.
So every 7 days, let us rest in the knowledge that we are not slaves — to God of work, busyness.
We are FREE.
We are beloved.
We are fully human –cracked pots maybe :-), but still whole — !