Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Rest of the Story

Thus says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. -- Jeremiah 17:21

This is not about whether you and I keep a Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday nor if we have to work on Sunday.  I do think it is good to consider Sunday the first day of the week and, when possible, to take time that day to dedicate the week to the Lord.  But I used to have a job that had a Thursday-Friday weekend.  There are people who keep things going for the rest of us.  We don’t always get to set our schedule the way a more agricultural, less electrified society did. 

It’s good to have a day of rest.  I appreciate this more now that I am older, and remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy is one of the Ten.  In the gospel narratives, though, one of the things that drove the conflict between Jesus and the religious leadership was the Lord’s apparent liberality in interpreting Sabbath rules.  The Pharisees were very strict, but [Jesus ] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

The Sabbath is not a rule to bind us, but a rule to release us.  And, being set free, we ought not allow ourselves to go back into bondage.  The people of Jeremiah’s day were working and ordering their lives by the rules of the unbelieving world.  Keeping the Sabbath by shutting down business as usual, letting their servants and their animals rest, stopping for twenty-four hours to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Lord over their lives would have broken the chains of fear, greed, envy, and covetousness. 

In the same way, for us, the Sabbath is the symbol of the reality that our salvation and our relationship to God are not dependent upon our works.  Gentile Christians were never bound to keep the Sabbath as evidenced by the Jerusalem Council’s letter in Acts 15:28-29:  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

That’s because Christ is our Sabbath rest.  We can read Jeremiah’s warning this way:  Stop carrying your sins around.  Stop trying to come into the City of Peace a burden of guilt and shame that has been dealt with and taken away by the Cross.  Trust the Lord and lay down your burdens before you try to come through the gates into the City of God, into the presence of the King.  But Jesus said it better than anyone else can:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Rick said...

What I love about Mushroom's posts:
They are beautiful and important.
In other words, to think the Sabbath is anything but a beautiful gift, is not a small mistake.
Thanks, Mush. Well said.

Rick said...

Right here:
"The Sabbath is not a rule to bind us, but a rule to release us."

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I cooncur with Rick!
It's far better to follow the Spirit of the Law rather than the letter.
Following the letter misses the forest for the trees.
O one could say that focusing only on the letter of the Law enslaves while the Spirit of the Law sets us free, as you point out, Mushroom.

Outstanding observation, Mush.

mushroom said...

You are gentlemen and raccoons, or gentlecoons. Thank you.