Roger's Postings

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Isaiah 58:13-14. Honour the Sabbath 22/8/10

(Isa 58:13-14) "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, {14} then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
(Heb 12:28-29) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, {29} for our "God is a consuming fire."
(Luke 13:14-15) Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." {15} The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?

Today our readings throw out a challenge to us all with regard to our Sunday worship. More to the point, we are called on to reflect on what is our attitude towards Sundays and what and why we do what we do? And on reflecting on these readings this morning we see that we all fall into the dangers that God is making us aware of here. But even more significant is the fact that we are denying God the opportunities that he wants for us.

In light of attendances across the churches, we would do well to reflect on what God has to say to us here. I recognise that there is sickness and many other issues for a number of people, but at the same time the devil and our sinful nature is at work as well. Unless we take these things seriously we too will find ourselves in serious trouble; and we will be denying God the opportunity to bring the blessings that he wants, to us and our nation. He may well level at us the term hypocrite.

As we reflect on this issue then, we see that there are three keys problems that we regularly find at work in our lives and which the devil feeds.
The first one is that we don’t need to take what God has to say with regard to the Sabbath seriously. I’ve heard many comments over the years that go along the lines of: ‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian? I can miss a Sunday here and there and it is not going to affect my faith! I have to do this or that on Sunday. Worship is boring. I don’t get on with the people there.’ And the list could go on. Underlying many of these comments is the attitude that we have more important things to do on Sunday, or that we decide what is good and right for ourselves.

The other problem that so often arises and which our Gospel reading places before us, is the legalism that all to often becomes associated with the Lord’s day. ‘You can’t do this or that on the Sabbath! We can only do it this way. It has to be hymns out of the hymn book or it is no good. Or the opposite, ‘We have to move with the society and the times and change everything.’ As long as I ...... Or, I cannot commune because I am too sinful. And again, the list could go on. Here underlying it all is the attitude that we must do things just the right way or else we will not receive God’s blessing.

But overarching these problems is that much deeper and more pervasive issue of the fact that we see ourselves as the centre of what the Sabbath is all about. Worship is what we do for God, not first and foremost we he does for us. It is we determining if and when, where and how, we worship, and everything else that has to do with this day. Even right down to what we think is important and what needs to be in our worship services. Or more to the point today, what we can discard and not have. Therein lies the sin of each one of us. We want to be like God and we want to decide for ourselves what we think is good and important. We want to be our own gods. And it is that attitude which brings death. And maybe there is a good indicator as to why the church today is dying in the western world.

However here it is that Jesus reminded the Pharisees of his day, as well as us today, that there is a far more central issue involved here, than what we do and how we do it. This day has to do with us being freed from that which binds us and grinds us into the ground. He speaks of being freed from Satan. It has to do with forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
It has to do with our Lord and who he is and what he does. It has to do with, as Paul says to the Hebrews:
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Yes, that is what God has in mind for you and me here this morning and every time we gather here in his presence. He wants to meet with you here, together with all the saints, and he wants to reassure you that you are part of a new covenant where we can have that guarantee that we are forgiven for all our selfishness and sin, and that he has many blessings surrounding that for you and me. God and what he has to offer is what is essential for this life and the next. He is here to do just that and along with that, he gives us the directives that we need for our worship and for life.

Here also remember that he was the one who set aside the Sabbath so that he could allow us to rest in his presence and receive all the good that he has in mind for us. He commands us to ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” That means as Luther says; ‘we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.’ We are to use the form of worship that he has set down for us since the early days of the Church.

Here also listen to what he says in our Old Testament reading today.
"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

This is just as important for us today as it was back then. So we use this as an opportunity to turn away from doing that which “I” want to do and instead look to him and receive what he has to give. Following his Word, rather than the word of our sinful selves and the world around us. We take on board the fact that he is the “Lord of the Sabbath.” He is the one who is important, and he has much to give us as we live in a world full of temptations and troubles.

So as Paul said to the Hebrews: See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. [That is Jesus and his word of forgiveness] If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

We have a great, awesome, and loving God who calls us week by week into his day of rest and receiving of all the good things that he has in mind for us. Through Word and Sacrament, he seeks to richly bless us. Who then are we to deny him this opportunity? Or do we think that we are greater, stronger and wiser than God almighty, himself? No let us be challenged and encouraged to see the Sabbath as God’s gift to us for our welfare and good. And through it, all may all glory and honour go to our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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