Sermon for Evensong – Sunday 17th June, 2018
As folk are probably aware Sarah and I are, God willing, to become grandparents twice this year.
As part of the preparation for those days, there have been of course the usual round of visits to midwives, and scans, and so it was that earlier this week Ella went to see the midwife in Balclutha – a fine way for the new Vicar’s wife to get known in a small community!
And, and my how things have changed since my day, the visit to the midwife was with the new Vicar! So it was that Brett got to listen to the little one’s [sic] heartbeat (fetus – a ghastly word for a human being – is Latin, and can be more wonderfully translated ‘little one’)
What a thrill to hear that rapid swish swish swish swish. Brett must have been excited for he even sent me a text to tell me! And the words that came instantly to mind were of that old Stevie Wonder classic – ‘Isn’t she lovely’ – although thankfully, we don’t know if the baby is a he or a she, perhaps it was a prophetic word! – that song in which Stevie sings – ‘We have been heaven blessed, I can’t believe what God has done, Through us he’s given life to one’
I can’t believe what God has done – through us He’s given life to one.
You may have noted I began by saying ‘Sarah and I are, God willing, to become grandparents’. Perhaps it sounded like a quaint throwback to a previous age? Just this week I re-read the following words from the diary of a certain Nehemiah Wallington: speaking of the safe delivery of his son, and his wife’s survival, he said “The Lord’s name be praised for it! . . . one or two weeks before, my wife fell sick, [and] I did hear of three score women with child and in childbed [childbirth] that died in one week in Shoreditch parish, and scarce two of a hundred that was sick with child that escaped death” he further noted that his own family’s survival was due only “to the great mercy of God”
A tangible mercy, constantly before the eyes of those for whom human life hung by a thread [So writes Ephraim Radner in A time to Keep, from where this account comes (p24)]
‘God willing’ – ‘what God has done’. The tangible mercy of God . . .
We may well ask, how tangible is the mercy of God in these days, at least for those of us who live at the top of the heap with regard to healthcare provision. We might say, perhaps we should, that God has been Very Willing in this regard – that we live surrounded by the manifest Goodness of God in healthcare provision. That we should give up most of our ‘busy days’ to thanksgiving and praise for the wonder of such healthy and yes, lets not be coy, wealthy lives . . . yet, it seems that we are not surrounded by such thanksgiving, indeed the sense of God’s Provision, His Mercy is perhaps at best ‘a dying note’ in our Modern World. Our Modern World
A World in which these words of St Paul to the Romans in our reading tonight might cause us to say ‘we’re glad to be shot of such a god . . .’
‘Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?’
For He says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
That we are not the creators, but the created, By God, for the Good purposes Of God, for his Glory – as St Paul says elsewhere ‘All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.’ 2 Cor 4:15
So before we dismiss these words of Paul, let us look around, let us consider the phenomenal goodness of so much of our lives. Let us dare to assume that all that we have is the Gift of a gracious God who has had mercy on us, and not our own greedy acquisition. What Abundant mercy! How our hearts should well with gratitude . . . Yet, so readily do we give praise and thanksgiving, but rather we are given to carp and complaint.
Just the other evening I was sat with an old friend in conversation. She was deeply upset about something – yet as we pondered together we realised that there we were, warm, exceedingly well fed, drinking an exceptionally fine wine – living lives of incomparable luxury, unimaginable even to our parents generation . . . yet how readily our thoughts turned to that which we lacked? And, more, where really was God in all of this?? And how for those at the other end – with lives of unimaginable suffering and toil, a simple smile, or courtesy would cause praise and thanksgiving to light up their lives. Materially our lives are So full of light we might say, that we are blinded to it, seeing only the shadows
Is not our problem finally that insofar as we think of God at all, it is impossible to comprehend God as The Prime Mover in all existence, when to our perception, the human and human agency seems to be all but everything
As we have made life unbelievably secure in historic terms – albeit at a cost which I suggest we are only able to discern the extreme contours of – as we have barricaded ourselves against the contingencies of existence, God has become less and less present in our consciousness, but a faint note
We must agree that it is most difficult for us to accept that God is at the centre of all things – we tend, even if we believe, to imagine that somehow we are at least equal partners. How much of our so called Theological discourse uses this language of being equal partners with God . . . but even to admit that is in real terms far far too much. It is hard for us to stomach for our gaze is filled with what We have done . . .
Human life is increasingly one devoid of the view of anything except that which we like to think of as our own making – even to the life of the unborn child. It’s all down to us.
And if you happen to be religious, that is neither here nor there – the same attitude still easily prevails – we think there is little if any difference between the Christian and others in the world, except contestable ‘matters of opinion’.
As Stanley Hauerwas puts it, almost of us are in practical terms atheists . . . ‘Our’ technological prowess and powers over the Creation leaves all of us, Christian or otherwise, with the largely unconscious working model of life that it is down to us, and that God may be a comfort for those for whom life doesn’t seem to work out, but certainly no ‘use’ in the world we are making.
We laugh perhaps to readily at the old farming joke – when the Vicar stood at the gate with a farming parishioner, and exclaimed ‘My, how the Lord has blessed us with such increase’, only for the farmer to reply, ‘‘Praps’, but tha’ should’ve sen it when he had it to ‘issen . . .’
We find it close to impossible to ascribe All Things to The One who acts with infinite love mercy and compassion towards His World . . .
Yet in some respects, this view is not new – human kind has long loved to stand back and admire the work of our hands.
So earlier the prophet Jeremiah “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.”
Imagine if you will the glory of the Solomonic Temple, in all its splendour, there was nothing like it in Jerusalem – oh . . . with the exception of Solomon’s palace . . . how easy to look at this remarkable work of solid engineering, of human craft and design, and not to sense a degree of permanence and security with regards to the work of humans, indeed of humans themselves. And so we are surrounded by signs of our own power and competence . . . the cry of thanksgiving and gratitude grows more and more dim
Who now hears of a pregnancy and commits themselves to prayer for a safe delivery – after all it is all so safe nowadays . . . – yet as our psalm reminds us tonight
For I am your passing guest,
an alien, like all my forebears.
You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
they heap up, and do not know who will gather.
None of this has changed. Human life hangs like a thread, in the goodness and mercy of God
Jesus reminds us more than once of our hubris in this respect – his disciples look at the Temple and ask him to consider these fine stones, and he tells them, ‘not one will be left upon another’ – he speaks of the rich fool who saw his days blissfully extended as he contemplated his full barns – “you fool, this very night your life will be required of you, and who then will get all that you have acquired”
‘Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather’
Even the faithful in these days give God little more than a passing thought when we come to those things in which we have instead placed our trust – God it seems only comes into the picture when things go awry . . .
God never intended for there to be a Temple – the thought entered David’s heart – yet the Word of the LORD came to the prophet Nathan ‘’Are you the one to build a house for me??’
David in the security and splendour of his accession to the throne, has forgotten the order of things. He thinks that He will build a hose for God! It is only a small step to forgetting God altogether, as he does later when standing on the roof of his palace – above it all – and looks down to see his nemesis – Bathsheba. His heart filled with proud thoughts, master of all he surveys, except he isn’t . . .
He never intended for their to be a Temple, for he would build a Temple for himself . . . ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up . . .’ ‘Do you not know? You are a Temple of The Holy Spirit’ ‘I can’t believe what God has done . . .’ This is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD . . .
Sheer and Abundant Gift – the Word made flesh tabernacling amongst us – that we might become the dwelling place of God! And HIs Life erupt from us in praise and thanksgiving
And so we spend our days, so busy for God, doing His work we tell ourselves . . . not knowing what it is truly to have faith and to See the world as held in each moment in God’s Gift – given for God’s good purposes. It seems that the last words you might find on our lips are those of Job ‘The LORD gives – the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.
We live in an age where the gulf between those who Bless the name of the LORD in and through all things – those who Understand the strange nature of all existence as Sheer gift – and those who whether in practise or in thought, curse God, is greater than ever.
The test is Always and everywhere Praise and Thanksgiving, for each and every day. Those Good people – who turn to anything that may lie in the future and commit it to God’s Good and Perfect will, even if often we cannot delineate its contours – accepting our finitude. May the words ‘God willing’ be often found on our lips, our lives continually oriented to The One from whom all good things come (Jas 1:17) – and our hearts be full of gratitude and praise for lives unimaginably full of blessing, from the source of all blessing. ‘For we are passing guests, aliens like all our forebears’ – yet The Temple of the Living God . . .
Second Sunday after Trinity – Year B 2018
2 Cor 4:13-5:1
Division, Judgement, and Things Eternal
‘we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.’
Today I’d like to say a few words about why I never preach on ‘hot issues’ in the Church –
Issues that Divide
Over the last few months, I’ve been introduced to the work of the Canadian Psychologist, Jordan Peterson. One of his books is on our bookstall as a result of this. Peterson has risen to global prominence in some spheres and the book is the number one best seller on Amazon. As is often the case when someone becomes ‘famous’, various groups wish either to denounce him, as ‘one of them’, or to claim him as ‘one of us’. Such is the nature of what passes for public debate in this fragmented age that the gulf between the ‘us’s’ and the ‘them’s’ is all but ‘a gulf fix-ed’.
But Peterson, wisely in my view refuses to be labelled. He is often asked ‘Are you a Christian?’, or ‘do you believe in God’ – and you can find many posts in favour of or against these points of view – but he remains resolutely silent on both matters, except to say, in his somewhat abrupt manner – ‘its none of your damn business!’ He refuses to be ‘put in a box’ for he is wise enough to know that people put people in boxes for their own ends, to buttress their own agendas – and he isn’t about to be manipulated like that.
Are you ‘one of them or one of us?’ Such is the spirit of division which seems to be the zeitgeist – the spirit of the age.
So, it is difficult to hear those words of Jesus ‘If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.’ and not think that The Modern World, with its phenomenal divisions, or indeed the Anglican Church here in these Islands with its gaping wounds, will not be able to stand. For here we are ‘by schisms rent asunder and heresies distressed’; certainly if the recent General Synods and the fall out from them is anything to go by, division and taking sides is the order of the day. And everyone seems to think that Jesus is on their side, Jesus is like them, judging those ‘on the other side’
Abstract principles like ‘Truth’, or ‘Justice’ are hurled around, and Jesus is blasphemously dragged into the fray to back up one point of view or the other. I say blasphemously for the fact is that this is breaking the 3rd Commandment ‘thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain’. The name of Jesus is not to be ‘used for any purposes whatsoever’, by us, or by anyone else.
Our only hope is in the words of the Jesus whom we crucify – ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’
They know not what they do. We do not discern – we do not See. Most of all, we do not see Jesus.
This mornings gospel finds Jesus in the very midst of Conflict and Division. Of people making judgements, but not about ‘issues’, about Him, and thereby unveiling the very heart of division.
If you recall from last week, our readings on Jesus and The Sabbath, it ended with these words ’And going out the Pharisees immediately exchanged counsel with the Herodians against him, that they might destroy him.’ Mark 3:6 [DB-H trans]
Immediately before todays gospel just a few verses later we read Jesus called the twelve to be with him, including ‘Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him’. Mk 3:19
This then is the context – Mark’s gospel is barely opened and the scene is set – Jesus has chosen a betrayer to be his close companion, one with whom he breaks bread, Judas, the one who wants to use Jesus for his own ends; and throughout the religious and political leaders are bent on destroying Him.
This is Conflict of the highest order and we cannot read any part of Mark’s gospel without that front and centre of what is going on.
That elusive text ‘But no one can enter the strong man’s household and plunder his possessions unless first he should tie the strong man up, and then he can plunder his household.’ begs the question ‘who is the strong man who must be tied up? who is the plunderer? what is the household? who will be ‘tied up’ . . . so when we see Jesus ‘tied up’ and handed over to Pilate we get an inkling . . . that Jesus is on the one hand speaking of himself. For they want to destroy him, this usurper King and keep control for themselves . . . we always want to keep control for ourselves.
But of course it is ambiguous – perhaps Jesus himself is the one come to plunder the household and must bind the one who is its Prince, Satan, the strong man. Whichever way, the conflict is set up. And conflict brings with it division.
We may hear these words of Jesus from Matthew ‘ ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’
Jesus Himself is the locus of Division. His very being divides . . .
It is hard to hear these words without returning to our gospel today
Jesus’ blood relations want to lay hands on him ‘And his relatives, hearing this, went out to seize him forcibly; for they said, “He is beside himself.”’ David Bentley Hart’s translation gets to the centre of this – They look at Him and say ‘he is beside himself’ – he is internally divided, and this judgement of Jesus continues within the house.
‘the scribes coming down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul in him, and he exorcizes demons by the prince [Archon] of the demons.” Well as Jesus notes, they are accusing him also of being ‘divided within himself’ and that is a futile place to be, for were that the case then the kingdom, the house would fall – but this is your hour . . . you will have to bind the strong man . . .
Both Jesus family, and the scribes stand separate from Him – judging Him. This is what we do. When we judge someone, we pretend that they are nothing to do with us – Jesus family don’t even come into the house – they stand outside – echoing the charge they make against Jesus who they say is beside himself ‘literally ‘standing outside’ himself . . . what they see is what they are.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we see as we are – we only judge others for things we see in ourselves, setting ourselves apart from others. His family see Him as standing outside of themselves, as they stand outside of the house. The Scribes see only something which could be divided. As we know, Jesus opponents are far from being a unified bunch – they come together in political alliance to destroy the one who threatens them all
Jesus opponents see division – they See Jesus as ‘beside himself’ – they see him doing things which are the action of divided people – themselves are divided. His family are ‘beside themselves’ If nothing else this shows us that to judge others is to see ourselves . . .
But we must be careful here ourselves, for it is very easy to divide with regard to Jesus – separate Jesus from his teaching, as if he is pointing us finally to some great moral truth which can be known separately from him.
Jesus Himself is The Truth. Jesus himself is the one who judges justly. There is not Truth nor Justice that can be known apart from Him, and any that can is neither True nor Just. This is all fundamentally a conflict about who Jesus really is. They are divided about Him . . .
The question goes around and around, Who is He?
He is the One who is forming a new humanity around himself
“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And looking around at those sitting in a circle about him he says, “Behold: my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother and sister and mother.” Echoing these words of Jesus from John
‘Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.’ His teaching is from God, for He is from God
The fundamental issue is quite simply this – it is one on which all human division is finally founded – Who is Jesus? The question is not ‘Is Jesus on this side or that side?’ It is are we on His. Seeking only to do the will of God
The answer to that question is the answer to all our human questing. Jesus is the manifestation of The Image of God – the True Human – The True Humanity. In Him all things hold together
The many and diverse issues and controversies the church is mired in are all about the things that are passing away, fuelled by words in ears about ‘these people’ or ‘those people’ – words that come from where . . . ‘who told thee that thou were’t naked?’ who told you this about your brother or sister? Who told you? Strife and conflict in the church is always and everywhere rooted in a failure to See, to behold Christ himself. As St Paul puts it, the very theme of the first letter to the Corinthians is ‘failure to discern the Body – failure to See Christ. Failure to see our life is together in Him. And that failure is potentially deadly. Such things are tools of division – we have nothing to do with them. They are ‘of this passing moment’ – tomorrow they will disappear and new things and new controversies will present themselves to us, to distract us, to pull us apart, if we choose to look there, or do we choose to behold The Man, Jesus the Christ? Our gaze rather should always and everywhere be on Him – on that which is eternal
This is the root of Jesus words about ‘eternal sin’ they are not seeing that which is Eternal standing before them and listen to the words whispered in their ear ‘he is one of them . . .’ His words to us are a stark warning – don’t get caught up in this stuff, for you will end up sinning against existence itself, and there is no forgiveness for that
That is why our gaze is on the things that are eternal – like Mary we sit at the feet of Jesus to gaze on Him and to Hear His Word to us – the One thing. Not divided Martha’s with her ‘many things’
And this is why I never preach on ‘issues’
And indeed why would anyone, for Jesus is the irruption into the space and time which are passing away of eternal Life and Existence itself. Full of Beauty and Truth and Goodness. Of Peace that passes all understanding. Of Life, and Joy in the Holy Spirit. Who in their right mind would be caught up in and by anything less?
At the beginning of Pilgrim’s progress, the pilgrim runs out on his quest with his hands over his ears to the cries of the World, saying ‘look here!’ ‘look there!’ crying as he runs, ‘life, life, eternal life’. May we be a people consumed by that quest – our eyes fixed on Him who is eternal Life in our midst – our beginning and our End
First Sunday after Trinity – Year B 2018
2 Cor 4:5-12
So over the last couple of months we have been exploring The Lord’s Prayer each Sunday evening. And the way we have been doing this is exploring it as the Way Jesus gives us to Live before God in the God’s Creation.
This is to live with that consciousness which our Psalm invites us to – ‘Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you discern my thoughts from afar . . . even before the word comes to my consciousness you know it entirely, you hem me in behind and before . . . I am utterly known and surrounded by you . . .’ this God whom Isaiah saw in the Temple, high and lifted up. So we are taught to pray, and to pray continually – with our heart mind body and strength always and everywhere turned towards the Light and Life of God in Jesus Christ thorough the prayer he has both commanded and taught us to pray
And so it is perhaps no coincidence that we have circles back on occasion to The Sabbath – for what Is the Sabbath? The Jewish scholar and rabbi, Abraham Heschel says ‘[The Sabbath] is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world’
a day on which we are called to share in what is eternal in time . . . I’ll return to this shortly
When I was at Vicar school, I remember one Old Testament lecture in particular – it was the one on the Ten Commandments, in which we were asked to write them down, from memory. And of course this did cause a little consternation, not least because not all of us remembered al ten . . . but also because there are two different accounts of the Ten Words as they are perhaps better named, and in particular the fourth, the Sabbath commandment. There is a shift in emphasis between the Exodus command – which harks back to creation and God’s Rest on the Seventh Day – and that which Moses recites in Deuteronomy which we heard today, which is given in the light of Israel’s failure to live out the Sabbath – going out to gather manna when there was none. It has a harder edge, and the emphasis is not so much on rest, but on not working. It is as if The LORD is saying, well you seem determined not to share in my rest, so at the very least stop working – which means do not make anyone work. The command is given to those at the top of the pile so to speak. When those at the top of the pile don’t rest, neither does anyone else.
of course in this day and Age, Mammon is at the top of the pile. The international markets never sleep – As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day, Tokyo closes and Frankfurt opens and then the Dow – nor dies the sound of exchange away . . . no one must be prevented from making a profit and so it is those at the bottom who are made to work . . . Certainly if any age Needed a break from work, then it is ours – yet that is to misinterpret the Sabbath. It is not ‘a day off’ – a term which I find very difficult to understand from my own perspective – it seems Worng somehow. Except to say that would be to suggest that I am enslaved to my work – yet this is to miss the point. Rest and Work are not related in this way. Saying ‘you must have a day off’ has nothing to do with Sabbath and nothing I think to do with being a Christian – but our failure to understand this is a failure to understand Jesus
As I said, the Deuteronomy command is one that restrains Evil, but it does not direct us to share in the Rest of God. Certainly those who oppose Jesus over The Sabbath, have Deuteronomy, rather than Exodus in mind. In Deuteronomy the emphasis is ‘you were slaves, don’t enslave others!’ It is negative. In Exodus it is ‘you were slaves, you are no longer slaves – not least slaves to work! . . .enter my Rest . . .’
So in Deuteronomy – any sign of Work is stamped on – because Work is not allowed on the Sabbath, not because Rest is to be enjoyed. And so it is today – Sabbath has nothing to do with Work! We do not rest in order to work – for that would leave work a the highest good, but it is very clear that it is not, for it is only the Sabbath Day in all of Time which is Holy – and here at least the Deuteronomy command echoes Exodus. This Day is Holy – the Day of Rest is a day of participation in the Life of the Holy One. It is ‘a day on which we are called to share in what is eternal in time’.
Briefly we are reminded of something we pondered last week, that The Church is not rooted ‘in time’ – her Calling, her Life is not to be ‘endlessly chasing after the present, trying to ‘keep up to date’ – that is to be enslaved by time. Nor is it to be ‘stuck in the past’, that too is to be chained and bound by time. No, The Church is that Community which is rooted in the Eternal Life of The One God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. It is a Community of The Eternal, in time and Space – we might say to use the words of one author a ‘Colony of Heaven’
Which brings us back to Jesus and the Sabbath . . . and how easy it is to misunderstand what is going on here. This is NOT a passage which pits Jesus against ‘the religious people’ – rather it is simply a Revealing of the Life of God, resisted by both the religious pharisees, but also the politically minded Herodians – resisted because it threatens the very nature of what they have come to call Time – it is the inbreaking of the Eternal into All Space and Time . . . The Pharisees enslaved by the law, do not See God, nor do the Herodians whom we might think stand for the modern forces of Total Work
In all four gospels, what occasions the plot to destroy Jesus? In every gospel it is Jesus’ treatment of the Temple, of which He startlingly claims Absolute Ownership – ‘destroy this Temple and in three days I will rebuild it’ His Claiming Authority over all Space— And The Sabbath! Jesus claiming his Authority over All Time! All Authority – over All Space and All Time
Both themes are worked in these incidents
Jesus disciples are walking through those fields, white unto harvest! They are collecting and eating the grains. The Pharisees protest ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ – but listen again to Jesus’ reply ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ And we may think? That’s an odd answer to give. The question is about the Sabbath Day – Jesus’ answer? . . . Jesus is drawing their attention to The King – David – going into what stood then for the Temple ‘the house of God’ – and acting as The High Priest – ‘he ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’[This of course is the Hidden manna of Revelation 2] For us, this directs US to the Eucharist. King Jesus, the Great High Priest, gives us Himself, the Bread of the Presence of God . . . For us All of Space is The Temple – the Body of Christ – We are in Him! Eternal Space . . .
But also eternal Time. In the healing of the man with the withered hand – He directs our gaze to the Kingdom present in Him where there is no sickness or pain . . . Heavenly Time is breaking in – the Eternal Time is coming to us as The Son, The Great High Priest comes to us, ushering us into HIs Life, His Time and HIs space. Here and Now
This is made perfectly clear in Matthew where we have the same Sabbath conflict and the same outcome preceded by These familiar words ‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. I will! Not eventually, not in heaven, as it was some infinitely prolonged ‘day off’ but Now, and Here!
I am the Temple – I am Sabbath. Here and Everywhere – Now and Always. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and I will find rest for your souls’
Learn My Sabbath Work – my Eternal Work – the Word which is rooted in The Work the Father is doing . . .
Well, we might ask – what of our Work? Well, that’s a good question!
If you read at all about Sabbath and Sabbath practices, you will pretty much without fail read either a Jewish account, or a Protestant one. Before the Reformation there seems to be no account of it, hardly at all. Of course it was the Protestants who gave us ‘the work ethic, and in some sense ushered in the age of what one writer calls ‘total work’. It is perhaps not surprise that we should find a resurgence of interest in Sabbath in such areas – a practise of rest geared to justify our work – but the Work of God requires no human justification
Work now, in The Church, amongst God’s people, in God’s TIME, in Godspace – in Christ Jesus, the King and High Priest, in whom and through whom and for whom all things were made, in whom all things hold together – this Work is The Rest Full Work of The King ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Small work, in the terms of the World, insignificant, hidden work, the soil, the compost, certainly not work that has any relationship with Money . . . the hidden Kingdom, The Work which is Rest, fed by the hidden Manna, a bread to eat which we are only coming to know – the bread of the Presence.
The Pharisees and The Herodians kill Jesus because His Kingdom is a Total takeover of everything. Jesus call to us is the same as it is to them – Repent – Orient yourself towards the The Eternal Life, The Eternal Time and Space which Jesus ushers in. Feed on Him – The Bread of the Presence – Live before God in every moment of your existence, train yourself in this, this food this presence . . . and one day you will wake up walking with him in perfect obedience and true Sabbath Freedom
‘There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest . . .’ Here, and Now