Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | June 14, 2009

Sermon on Deuteronomy 5:12-15

The occasion for this sermon is not only the Second Sunday after Pentecost, for which Deuteronomy 5:12-15 is appointed.  It was also Confirmation Day at St. Mark.

Keep the Sabbath Holy!

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15: Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The Sabbath, as Israel knew it, has nothing to do with us.  We are not bound to a no-work Saturday.  We are not required to sit at home physically and spiritually resting.  We don’t have to prepare two days worth of food to get through the day.  We aren’t bound to observe such a day under the penalty of death.  As Paul told the Colossians:  Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. This commandment, in its literal meaning, is not for us.  And yet, we haven’t struck it from our list.  We haven’t even revised it.  We say, Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. But how can I if we don’t have a Sabbath?  That’s where Luther’s explanation comes in handy, We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and the Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. The Sabbath is no longer about a specific 24-hour period of time.  It’s about a life immersed in the word.

If the Sabbath doesn’t apply to me, why do I need Deuteronomy 5?  It’s because the Sabbath does apply to you in the way God intended it.  In the Old Testament God treated His children like children.  He gave them very clear and very specific ways to go about things.  In the New Testament, it’s not that He’s said, “Do whatever you want,” but rather, “Act like the adults you are.”  We understand this from Jesus’ words in our Gospel.  The Pharisees, as usual, found something wrong with Jesus.  He was picking grain on the Sabbath.  This was technically forbidden.  But Jesus says, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In other words, man came first and the Sabbath followed, not to handicap man, but to help and benefit him, to give him the opportunity he needs to be in the Word.  Luther says brilliantly in the Large Catechism, Since we do not always have free time, we must devote several hours a week for the sake of the young, or at least a day for the sake of the entire multitude, to being concerned about this alone.

In our own way, we continue keeping holy the Sabbath, in keeping with the words of Deuteronomy.  We can hear them.  We can follow them.  And we can do it in a way that does not set aside Christ.  We can live as God intended it.  We’re keeping the Sabbath holy, first, by setting aside the time.  Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, Moses said.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.

Observe the Sabbath, that is give due diligence and observe every detail.  When your Mom says, “Clean your room,” is jamming your clothes into the closet and shutting the door observing that command?  When your boss or teacher says, “Prepare this report,” is it giving due diligence and observing details to write in as rushed a manner as possible and hand in an unrevised, un-proofread, incomplete job?  Likewise, is it really observing the Sabbath when your body’s here but your mind is elsewhere?  Is it really due diligence when the Bible is less used each week than your email or Facebook?  Is it really observing the details when we know the lyrics to the songs on the radio but struggle to remember the Ten Commandments in order, aren’t sure who the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed are about and need to be reminded which one is the Lord’s Prayer?

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. We talked about “holy” last week.  Holy has to do with setting something apart.  We keep a day holy by our setting it apart for holy things.  Just like Moses said, On it you shall not do any work. The Sabbath time is a set-apart time.  And notice, God isn’t greedy.  He doesn’t say, “On one day shalt thou labor, but the other six belong to me.”  He understands that taking care of a family, using your gifts and abilities takes time during the week as well.  What God does say is “Plan your week so that you can have guilt-free Sabbath rest.”  It’s all part of one flowing week of work and rest.

And while we’re free from this one day regulation, we’re not free from the setting apart part.  Let us not give up meeting together, God says in Hebrews.  God intends that Christians set aside time for the Word.  And how well have we done that?  Is it setting apart time when church is the last thing you think about?  What about when homework, and time with friends, and dinners out, and play dates, and other things always crowd out the preparation of memory treasures?  Is it keeping the Sabbath holy when the first thing thrown aside on the to-do list is that 5 minutes alone with God in prayer and Bible reading in the morning or evening?  Is it setting apart the time when I join groups and teams and take jobs where I know that I’ll have to take part in activities or work or travel to places that keep me from meeting with Jesus in the Word?  Is it really keeping the Sabbath holy when I have the best intentions to read on my own, to copy pastor’s sermon off the internet, to listen to the tape, and don’t?  How often have I planned Jesus around my week?

And there are no excuses.  And God accepts no excuses.  He said in Leviticus, The seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord. Traveling in Europe is not an excuse.  Summer camps are not an excuse.  Vacations are not an excuse.  Attending a school far removed from a WELS congregation is not an excuse.  Having to work all day Thursday, late Saturday, or early Sunday is not an excuse.  Wherever you live, whatever you do, no matter how old or young, rich or poor you are, it doesn’t matter.  You keep the Sabbath holy.  And there are no excuses.  We have multiple church services.  We have multiple Bible classes.  We print sermons and Bible studies for.  We tape services.  We have a website.  We mail and email things.  There are other WELS congregations with times that fit your schedule.  An online directory tells you exactly what time a service is and how far it is from you anywhere in the world.  You have Bibles in your home.  We mail you Meditations.  I’m available every day to talk, help, advise, counsel, and order materials.  There are no excuses.  There is only your sinful despising of the Word because you think you’re so much better and smarter than God, and because in your selfishness you could really care less about Jesus and what He did for you.

Which is why God gave the Sabbath.  Listen, Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. This day to rest is a day to remember.  It’s a day to remember who the LORD is and what the LORD does.  Because for six days I have bills and deadlines and appointments.  For six days I have medical problems, personality conflicts, and work.  For six days I have this practice and that game, this meal and that party.  For six days I’m just hoping to see my kids before they go to sleep or head out with their friends.  For six days I’m up early and in bed late.  I need rest.  And it’s found in the Sabbath.  And it’s more than remembering the thundering waters of the Red Sea.  We can, as Isaiah said, forget about those things.  We have Christ, who says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Real rest.  Eternal rest.  That’s the Sabbath.  It’s Christ, who paid the bills, who met the deadlines, who kept the appointment.  It’s about Christ meeting the Father at the assigned place, with your debt of sin, paying your debt of sin, and meeting the deadline – Good Friday.  There are the outstretched arms of God.  There’s something to remember, as your verse, Selena, proclaims, God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but has eternal life. Sabbath rest remembers that.  And remembers the other deadline met, I will rise again in three days.

Sabbath rest also assures me that I’ve lost out on nothing by setting aside this time.  Nathan’s verse offers a stunning truth to materialistic Americans, The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. I lack nothing.  I’m missing nothing.  I need nothing when I have Christ who gives me my daily bread.  And that’s what He gives me when He provides Sabbath rest.  It’s the Sabbath-Baptism that offers complete cleanliness, absolute adoption, and eternal security.  It’s the Sabbath-Meal that says, “Hunger and thirst no more.”  It’s the Sabbath-Word that proclaims, “Rest in Christ!”  There are the only holy things in a world that sets so much apart, because only there do we find Christ.  Only there do we find the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Only there do we find that God considers me a part of the world He loved so much that He sent His Son.  Only there do we hear the Son say, Whoever believes in me will live, even though He dies. Only there.  Focus on that rest, focus on that Christ, focus on that gift of sins forgiven and life eternal, and you’re keeping the Sabbath everywhere you go.  Amen.

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