Sunday, June 3, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
2 Cor. 4:5-12
On this second Sunday after Pentecost while we are still focusing on the Holy Spirit, our scripture texts draw our attention to God’s commandment of keeping the Sabbath holy. For many people, hearing the word commandment instantly puts them on edge. Law are not things most people embrace with gratitude. Instead, they are lists of things they have to do, things that they think take away their freedom and fun. Commandments or laws are not something that loved ones sit around a campfire or beside the ocean and contemplate on or talk about with enthusiasm. They are seen as more things to do.
Yet, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” What Jesus is telling us is that the commandment of Sabbath is a gift just like all the other commandments. They are meant to be life-giving not life-constricting. God did not give the commandments as a way to keep people from enjoying life, but rather the commandments or laws were given so that life would be better for all people. The commandments are not just rules for individuals, but rules set up to benefit everyone. Any time we break one of the commandments, we are not simply disobeying God’s rules for us, but we are hurting the whole body of Christ. Every action and inaction that we take directly impacts every person around us whether or not we know it or not.
We see this enacted in countless movies and books. For example, in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character George Bailey wonders if his life is even worth anything. In fact, he wishes he was never born. His prayer is granted by a visit from and angel, and he has the opportunity to see that each and every small action in his life has had an impact in the lives of countless people. He may not have become someone famous, but his choices and actions – no matter how small – caused a domino effect of actions that he put into motion. This movie shows us that we never know how the small choices we make, how the simple actions we take, will impact others. Sometimes just a single phrase we say to someone could change their life around – both for the better and the worse. And that’s why the commandments are so important, because the lives of others are impacted by our actions and choices.
It may be tempting to ask how one person’s neglect of keeping the Sabbath holy could possibly have on someone else, but again, when we remember that all lives are connected, it begins to make sense. If we neglect to take time to take a day of rest and to care for ourselves, then we can no longer be healthy enough to be there for others. If we neglect to contemplate on the awesomeness of God, to worshipand thank God for all our blessings, then we can easily think that all we have is a result of our own doing, and become self-centered. If we neglect to take time to contemplate on God, and be aware of what is going on around us, then we will fail to see the needs of others who are praying to God for help – help that God may want to provide through us. Healing and transformation come from being aware. And being aware is part of what it means to keep the Sabbath holy.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is so much more than simply not working. The purpose of Sabbath is to save and preserve life. The purpose of Sabbath is to restore us to wholeness. That is why Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He was obeying the law of keeping the Sabbath holy, by restoring to life what was preventing the man with the withered hand from living wholly, or living life to the fullest.
Keeping the Sabbath holy means that whatever we do – our thoughts, our choices, and our actions – must be life-giving, and not just for us individually, but for the whole congregation, the whole family, the whole community, and the whole world. Keeping the Sabbath means that we take time to reflect on how we are all connected, and how we can best nurture those relationships for the well-being of all.
In the Church, that relationship begins with baptism, as we are permanently connected to God through water and the word. Today, Cassandra Lovelle Halpin will receive the gift of baptism – not because it is something Jesus’ commands us to do, but because we graciously accept God’s gift of grace in this sacrament. Through baptism Cassandra will be connected to all the faithful – past, present, and future – not because of what she has done to earn this gift, but because of what God has done through Jesus for all people. Today, we also acknowledge our nine Hillenbrandt Scholarship Recipients, because they have understood this connection throughout their lives living faithful service to others.
So today, as we gather to worship and praise God, to thank God for all our blessings, to welcome into the family of God our newest sister in Christ, Cassandra, and to give thanks for the faithful witness of nine young adults, let us take time to experience Sabbath healing. Let us remember the healing waters of our own baptism, the healing bread of life in Holy Communion, the healing of others through the many acts of service that our scholarship recipients have done and continue to do, and let us allow the healing of Sabbath into our daily lives so that as St. Paul says, “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” Amen.