Small Catechism, Ten Commandments, Commandment Three
Sabbath rests on god’s love in Christ.
Last year, on the fifth Sunday in July, the sermon was based on the same morsel of the Small Catechism. Luther’s explanation of the third commandment. In fact, this was the same insert we used, that day. “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.”
I pointed out, at the time, that for us, Sabbath – according to the good doctor – isn’t foremost and first about one particular day of the week. Saturday. Sunday. But Sabbath is about Christ. Christ is the word of god. Just like we’ve been saying in the prayer of thanksgiving we’ve been using, this summer, just before we receive holy communion. “He is the Word of God.” We say it twice. Not the bible, but Christ and Christ crucified.
Anyway, last July – if you remember – we were just starting to think our way through the sale of the building. We were asking our own version of What-does-this-mean? And what a difference a year makes. In situation. In context. In perspective. So, this fifthSunday, I thought it might be … well, interesting … to revisit the commandment in order to see if anything has changed. Compare where we are and where we were regarding the sabbath day. Sabbath in light of Charity and Christ and Church. Those have been the coreValues we’ve been building on. Love! LoveIncarnate! LoveIncarnateIncarnate! And according to those basicBeliefs, remembering the sabbath day, keeping it holy, isn’t something we do. It’s a gift! Free! Unearned! Undeserved! Given out of the goodness and greatness of god!
Remembering and keeping isn’t a commandment we have to obey. It’s a promise we trust. A promise we believe in, stake our lives on. Whenever we get together – rather, whenever god gathers us – it’s something god does! Something god does for us! Something god does to us! Like everything else in our lives, it’s an offering from our god! Sure, we wet our alarms. And yes, we crawl out of bed, wash our faces, comb our hair, and brush our teeth. But all that doesn’t make this moment any less a gift!
And when we get here, the giving continues. God brings us here not so we can speak to god. But so we can hear, one more time, god’s I-love-you! That’s god’s word! The gospel! Jesus Christ! That’s why this is sabbath! Rest! We don’t do anything! God does it all! From beginning to end! From start to finish! God is active! God is involved! Creating! Redeeming! Giving life! It’s not for god’s sake we sing the songs! It’s not for god’s sake we say the prayers. It’s not for god’s sake we read the bible. It’s for ours! All’s right with the world, not because god’s in “his” heaven. All’s right because god is right here. With us. Among us. Between us. Doing what god always does when god gives rest. Calling through Christ. Enlightening with the gospel. Proclaiming. Administering. Making holy. Keeping in the faith. Remember the sabbath day – that moment of rest – and keep it holy. It’s not just twenty-four hours out of each and every week. It’s a way of life. A way of living. Of believing. God says and it is!
The world is all about effort. It takes pride in the sweat of the brow and the strength of the arm. The more work, the better. Good marriages, the world says, require worked. Dreams don’t just come true. They take blood and sweat and tears. Nothing – nothing worthwhile – comes easy. And churches? Congregations? They become only what we make them. Effort and energy. Time and trouble. Remember the sabbath day? We’ve never learned what rest, really, truly is.
If you find yourself in a hole, they say, just stop digging. That’s popular wisdom. And that’s what rest, what sabbath, is all about. We believe in digging faster! Digging harder! Digging deeper! Digging better! And that’s what makes the matter worse. We come here, and we listen to Christ. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. That’s sabbath! Sabbath here! Sabbath now! This is god’s doing. Come! Sit! And for a moment, relax! For a moment, do absolutely nothing! This isn’t our time for god. This is god’s time for us! God coming to us! God taking us in god’s arms! God telling us, singing to us, just how much god cares. And you and I receive it all as a gift! This is sabbath. This is rest. We breath deep and we exhale just as deeply. God does the rest.
God doesn’t need our love. That’s not why god does what god does. But our neighbors do need our love. And that’s why god does what god does. God gives to us, so that we, too, can give. God provides rest, so we can go and do the same. That’s faith. That’s worship. That’s rest. It’s the moment we see god for who god is. It’s the moment we see god face-to-face. The moment we look god in the eye. And it’s the moment we become what we see.
So, we sing the songs, but it’s god’s voice we hear. We say the prayers, but it’s god speaking to us. And it all become hope. It all becomes promise. It all becomes rest. By our own, we cannot. We cannot, even if we try harder. We cannot, even if we do better. We cannot, but god can. Can and will and does. At times, in moments, just like this. With Christ proclaimed. With gospel administered. And it’s all rooted in those three coreValues. Charity. Christ. Church. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. What it means is that we do not despise preaching. We do not despise Christ. But we gladly listen. We gladly learn. My friends, that’s not a commandment. That’s what we believe. And that’s who we are.