Luke 6:1-13 Two events- same issue: proper observance of the Sabbath. Background of this controversy:
Old Testament or Hebrew Bible references:Genesis 2:2-3 In Genesis we read that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world and every thing in it.Exodus 20:8-11. we read that God mandated a day of rest for humans and animals. Remember the Sabbath; keep it holy; don't do any work on the Sabbath. Exodus 21:13 What is the significance of the Sabbath? It's a sign between God and the Jewish people; that God sanctifies them or makes them holy. By keeping the Sabbath, It's a sign of respect, honor towards God. It's an acknowledgment of who God is to us and for us. Ezekiel 20:19-20 repeats this assertion of Sabbath as a sign of something more than a religious practice. Exodus 31:14-15 we realize that the Israelites were to take the command to Sabbath very seriously. Penalties for failing to observe the Sabbath were death or at the very least being cut off or shunned by the community. Exodus 35:2 The restriction on activity was not just about work outside the home. it says that you should not even "kindle a fire."
In Judaism, the Sabbath was and is a day set aside where all of God's creatures were to refrain from any type of work and instead use the time to think about God; to honor God; to spend time with God. The early church would have been mostly Jewish so they would have continued this practice and observance of Sabbath, observed from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. When the Church became more Gentile (non-Jew) than Jewish, the Lord's Day moved to Sunday, the day traditionally celebrated as the Day of Resurrection, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose up victorious. The day became more of a celebration than a day of rest and contemplation. I included on the study guide a quote from the Didache, a church manual of sorts from the second century that provides in a nutshell, the form of early Christian worship when it became predominately Gentile.
Taught as children. The Pharisees and Jesus would have learned this as children. They would have been brought up with the Sabbath rules. They thought they were good rules. They thought they had been honoring God- obeying God's commandment. They wanted to please God. They wanted to do the right thing. Jesus wanted them to honor God, to obey God's commandments, to please God. They had common ground. Neither side was disagreeing on that part. It was the interpretation of the way God was to be honored and obeyed on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees followed the rules that restricted the movements of a person on the Sabbath. Women would prepare the meals for the Sabbath the day before. No cooking, no cleaning. No going for a walk or a hike. You wouldn't wash your car or clean out the garage. You wouldn't go to a ball game or the movies because that would involve walking more than a few steps. My grandfather was a man who observed the Lord's Day- worship service, lunch and then he sat in his rocking chair by the window and read the local newspaper, the Lutheran Brotherhood and the Bible- all day. In the summer, he would walk outside and sit at the picnic table in the yard. That was the extent of his activity on Sunday.
Keeping the Sabbath holy. So, the core of this controversy was "how do we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?" The Pharisees believed most activity was strictly forbidden. Jesus allowed his disciples to gather food to eat in the fields. Jesus himself worked on the Sabbath by healing a man with a withered arm. Jesus response to their protests and accusations was "I am the master of the Sabbath". I decide what is appropriate behavior on the Sabbath, not you. I decide what behavior honors God, not you. Feeding hungry people and healing broken people- that honors God, that is keeping the Sabbath holy.
Common Ground. Last week there was a Women's March- actually across the country and in other nations. This week there was another march- a March for life in Washington. Some of my colleagues marched in the Women's March, mostly of the Millennial generation and they were saying, "I am marching for my children today." People who marched in the Pro-life March say they are marching to save the children- the unborn children.
Common ground- people in both groups are concerned about the children. Not everyone in either group hold children as their primary concern. For some people who are pro-choice, the concern is about rights- women having the right to make decisions about their own bodies, meaning the decision to become pregnant and continue a pregnancy to full term. Concerns for children are secondary. For some in the pro-life movement, their focus is on the rightness or wrongness of your actions. Concerns for children are secondary.
Save the Children. Those people on both sides of the issue whose primary concern is the children share common ground. Children are being abused and neglected in shocking numbers. Children are being hit, punched, kicked and worse . Children are being exploited sexually and molested. The statistics are staggering. In 2015, the number of children was greater than 300,000 in this country alone. Children are being neglected without enough food or safe and warm shelter. Children are being told they are worthless, unloved, unwanted, every day. We should be angry about this.
Holy Anger. Instead of being angry because there are people out there who disagree with our politics and opinions. Instead of foaming at the mouth because someone dared to post something on facebook that we disagree with. Instead of online ranting. We should be angry that children suffer like this every day. We should be praying prayers of complaint to God. "God, I am angry that children are suffering like this. I am angry that people think it is okay to hurt children like this. I am angry that people don't care." And not just about children in our communities or in our nation but across the world. We should be angry that children are struggling to survive in war torn countries, as refugees, as slaves, used as pawns between warring factions. We should resolve to not stop complaining until it stops. Then to ask ourselves, what can I do? What should I do? I think this is the way Jesus would have us keep the Sabbath, this is the way we honor God. This is the sign of God's authority over us. To stand up for others. To speak up for the vulnerable among us. While we are complaining, let's find ways to make a real difference in other people's lives. Take your anger and do something constructive with it. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the prisoner, free the oppressed.
Enemies List. Instead of drawing a line in the sand over politics and opinions, we need to look for common ground. It is the common ground that should be our priority. Rather than worrying about who is for us or against us. Rather than putting together an enemies list: enemies are those who disagree with us and friends are those who agree with us. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Jesus prayed for his enemies- the Pharisees, the priests, those who mocked him and called for his death, even the soldiers who nailed him to the cross. He prayed for them. So we should pray for our enemies. Now, you may say, "i don't have any enemies." But I want you to consider those people that irritate you, make you mad, those persons that is seems you are always struggling with. Those persons who say "yes" when you say "no"; who say "black" when you say "white"; who say "up" when you say "down." Those persons who always seem to be on the other side no matter what the issue is. I want you to write those names down, keep it to yourself. Keep the list in your Bible and when you say your prayers every morning or night or at noon- I want you to pray for that person. Even if the best prayer you can manage is to just speak their name to God.
Lord help us to honor and serve you. Amen.