Pentecost 2, June 3, 2018

Title:Pentecost 2, June 3, 2018

 Pentecost 2, June 3, 2018 (full size gallery)

 

 

A torrential downpour in the morning kept attendance down and created new ponds along the way. Electricity went out in Portobago Bay and Bowling Green. The church had power but we had only 26, well below average attendance of 40. We still celebrated Johnathan and Odessa Davis anniversary (June 5) and Jim and Elizabeth Heimbach (June 8). We all were charmed by the Long children and the Cherry and Woody’s dog – "Sweetie". It was good to have Thom Guthrie back in church. The bulletin is here.

This week the keeping of the Sabbath is highlighted in the readings and as a part of this we are reminded of the centrality of God in our lives. In Deuteronomy  keeping the sabbath is named as a fundamental, identifying feature of the Israelites’ duties to God. The psalmist reminds God’s people of God’s saving acts in history. Paul describes his ministry as God’s gift, manifested through Paul’s sufferings, and Jesus asserts himself as Lord even of God’s sabbath.

The Sabbath is both a memorial of the creation of the world when God rested on the seventh day and a remembrance of God’s deliverance of the people from bondage in Egypt. The essence of the sabbath is the recognition of the omnipotence of God; it is a day on which to meditate, study, pray and give thanks to God for all God’s mighty acts.

In order to keep the sabbath a holy day of rest, what constituted “work” had to be defined. This led to a multitude of explicitly forbidden activities, which inevitably tinged this religious observance with legalism. Inflexible rules are alien to the Spirit of Christ and may neither reflect the glory of God nor enrich human response to God

In reading the scriptures for this week, we feel the impact of both law and Spirit. The gospel relates to the fourth commandment: observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy. It is significant that Jesus was more often accused of breaking sabbath than of any other offense.

The Gospel reading about plucking grain on the sabbath in a cornfield (Mt. 12:1-8; Lk. 6:1-5) continues the set of controversy stories begun in 2:1. Whereas gleaning in a neighbor’s field was permitted in general (Dt. 23:24), the harvesting of grain on the sabbath was prohibited (Ex. 34:21), which seems to be the basis for the Pharisees’ question. 

Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ complaint was that human need comes before rigid observances of the law. To satisfy human need was God’s purpose in giving the law; fulfilling the law as God intended required God’s people to be merciful and compassionate.

What looked like audacious sabbath-breaking to the Pharisees was really Jesus’ sign to them that he was Lord of the sabbath, graciously feeding all who walk with him, personifying the revelation that God had already given. God’s people had unintentionally darkened that revelation, but in the face of Jesus Christ, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” shines again.

Characteristically, Jesus replies with a counter-question also based on scripture. He refers to a story about David (1 Sam. 21:1-6), which illustrates the breaking of a practice in an emergency situation–for David, pursuit by enemies; for Jesus, the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. 

Humankind takes precedence in the order of creation over the sabbath (Gen. 1:26, 2:2). The sabbath was made for the benefit of humankind (Ex. 23:12; Dt. 5:14). Verse 28 makes it clear that “the Son of man” has authority over the sabbath. Jesus’ use of the term “Son of man” forces his hearers to decide for themselves what he means–whether it is simply ‘a typical human being’ (as in Ezekiel), or ‘the One to come’ prophesied in Dan. 7:13 (which was later taken to refer to the Messiah), or something else.

The concluding story of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the sabbath forms a dramatic capstone for this teaching, placing human thriving at the center of the Law, and ensuring that Jesus is now on a collision course with the Pharisees and other authorities.

The sermon looked at a phrase from this part of the Gospel -"He 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."

The sermon used the famous Life Magazine photograph taken 50 years ago on June 5, 1968 of a busboy cradling the dying Robert Kennedy’s head

"When you look at this photograph with Juan Romero kneeling next to the dying man, what do you see? All around is darkness and impending death. Someone’s hardness of heart has murdered a fellow human being. And yet, light is shining out of the darkness.

"Here, at the top, is a shining light.

"Right beneath this shining light, a disembodied hand of light reaches down.

"Light rests on Juan’s head. And he, dressed in his white uniform jacket, shines in the darkness, as does the face of the dying man. And Kennedy’s right hand over here, is also light against the dark background of the floor.

"These two people have been thrust into the darkness created by someone’s hardness of heart. But the light shines through them both as one kneels down and places his hand protectively under the man’s head, and the dying man asks if everyone else is ok.

"And that rosary that Juan wrapped around Kennedy’s outstretched right hand was the visual symbol of God’s own vulnerable and sacrificial love that wrapped the two of them together in God’s light before Kennedy was wheeled away.

"An inevitable part of living in this world is that hurtful things will be thrust upon us.

"But if we have obeyed God’s commandment to observe sabbath time and to keep it holy on a regular basis, then when these hurtful times come, we will more easily be able to see God’s light shining out through the darkness and to stretch out our hands to God. And Sabbath time well spent, allows us, in the awful moments that come in our lives, to reflect God’s light—so that as Paul says, “The life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”

“God, your never failing providence sets in order all things in heaven and on earth.”

In our time the Sabbath is assaulted by becoming a non-day of rest and one where the Sabbath become just like any other day that ignores God.

The Old Testament is from Deuteronomy which is presented as Moses’ farewell address to the Israelite people gathered at the border of the promised land.

The Ten Commandments (literally, ‘ten words’) set forth the duties of the Israelites to God (5:6-15) and to those within the community (5:16-21). In Deuteronomy, the decalogue is presented as a covenant renewed with each generation (5:3, 31:10-13). Participation in the covenant is Israel’s continuing response to the grace already shown through God’s saving work. 

The commandments concerning human interrelationships are paralleled by other ancient cultures, but those concerning the people’s relationship to God are unique to the Old Testament. Verses 12-15 focus on the foundational teachings of the commandment regarding proper keeping of the sabbath day as a day dedicated solely to God.

The Ten Commandments are not laws in the technical sense; there is not detailed description of the offense nor provision of penalty. Rather, they are fundamental guides to God’s will for God’s people. Although the decalogue did not hold in Judaism the central position it acquired in later Christian teaching, it defines what behavior crosses over the boundaries of the covenant community and gives some sense of life within those boundaries.

Paul in the Epistle has to defend his ministry against opponents in the Corinthian Church. He, apparently, had been accused of self-glorification (3:1, 5:12); he replies that he preaches to make God known. He summarizes Christian belief in “Jesus Christ as Lord” (Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3), a statement of trust and obedience rather than doctrine, and he summarizes Christian ministry as service to others for Jesus’ sake (1 Cor. 3:5-9, 9:19). 

The God of creation (Gen. 1:3) is now manifested in the new creation through Christ. The light of Christ is unfading, in contrast to the fading light of the law (3:7-11). It now shines in the hearts of believers, gradually changing them into Christ’s likeness (3:18). But the treasure of this good news is carried by lowly and fragile vessels. Paul contrasts his suffering to the boasts of his opponents; it is not power or special insights, but suffering that truly reveals Jesus, the crucified one.

 

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