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