Honor the Sabbath
3 June 2018 – Lectionary 9, Proper 4, Time after Pentecost
Sabbath-keeping can be –– and has been –– a harsh law at times, making the Sabbath stand for what you cannot do rather than what God frees us to notice: the gift of life itself. We can become so busy accomplishing our goals, the demands of our ambition, or the requirements of others (family, employers, friends, and society’s expectations) that we lose our selves in the minutiae of the hours.
Sabbath is a gift that puts a stop to the squandering of our lives that occurs when we keep our shoulders to the wheel instead of looking up to the One who promises, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81: 10) –– Melinda Quivik
Jesus was a radical law-breaker, as this passage in Mark shows us. He let the disciples glean from the fields on the Sabbath. He healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. In response to the criticism he received from the religious leaders, he forced a fundamental question on them: Should I save life or kill on the Sabbath, when I have been given the choice? They were stymied, as would we be, for he dove to the heart of his mission, as so should we.
The Sabbath, as a time for healing and life-giving, is a time for joining with our friends and family around the word of God and the meal of deepest nourishment, so that we can then ponder the power of God’s gifts to us.
Significant in this story of Jesus is his anger and then his grief. We, too, may grow annoyed and furious, even, with those whose ways are restrictive and condemning. But with Jesus, we may learn to turn that anger into sorrow for the limits with which our detractors are forced to live because they have not heard the real gospel. –– Melinda Quivik
The reading reminds us that we were “slaves in Egypt” liberated by God’s “mighty hand.” You and I, were slaves. All of us were slaves. We are identified with the first people whose leader, Moses, heard the word of the Lord, took great risks in confronting Pharaoh, and brought “us” out of slavery into freedom.
We are all Israelites. We have all come through the middle passage. We are Rohingya. We are U.S. school students in Newport, Colorado Springs, Parkland, and Santa Fe and many more. Each of us wears the pain and needs of our neighbors in all time. And our neighbors carry us.
It is so serious for us to honor the Sabbath that God commands it of us out of our identity with those who have endured mighty injustices, even as perhaps some of us have been persons seeking refuge because our homes have become too dangerous. Everyone must keep a day of rest –– including the immigrants in our midst, animals, and those unjustly treated.
Why does God command this? If not for days of rest, for leisure, for dreaming, for joy, for comradeship, for reflection, prayer, and low conversations with trusted friends, we might live our lives only in toil. We need times of non-productivity to be able to reflect on what we have been doing, what our values have become, how to moderate our choices. God commands that we be given that time. It is divine. –– Melinda Quivik
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
How can we see ourselves as a “treasure in clay jars,” formed by our Creator as would a potter on a wheel, strengthened when we are struck down, if we do not take the time to notice God’s power in our midst? The Sabbath is for paying attention. It’s as simple and as profound as that. –– Melinda Quivik
Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor of liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy and most recently served as general editor and contributor for in sure and certain hope: A Funeral Sourcebook (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2017).