HOLY AND WHOLLY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
July 4, 2015
- Worship (Luke 6:6; Leviticus 23:3; Acts 18:4)
- Fellowship (Luke 6:7; Acts 16:13; Matthew 18:20)
- Rest (Luke 6:8; Genesis 2:1-2; Exodus 16:28-30; Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 23:32)
- Service (Luke 6:9-11; Matthew 12:11; Isaiah 56:6-7)
“It wasn’t the beauty of the New World that beckoned the Pilgrim fathers to America’s shores. Nor was it an obsession for wealth or fame. They were a profoundly committed people, with a consuming desire to know God’s will and have the freedom to do it! Previously, good old King James I, who authorized the 1611 English translation of the Bible—declared that the Puritans would have to conform to the teachings of the Church of England or he would ‘harry them out of the land or hang them’” (It Is Written New Beginnings Sermon Vol 2 "America in Prophecy").
“It was a rough and trying voyage-those 64 days crossing the Atlantic. The tired and ailing Mayflower Pilgrims, numbering 102, set foot on the shores of the new world, November 9, 1620. Sinking to their knees in gratitude, they thanked God for a safe journey and for a new home. Soon the good news spread throughout the world of a land where everyone might enjoy the fruit of their own labor and obey the convictions of their own conscience” (Ibid).
Everyone that is except Native Americans (see Article 1 Section 2). Slaves. Bond Servants still working off their travel debt. Anyone who didn’t own land. And, depending on who you read, women. We too quickly forget that 170 years after the Pilgrims landed, when the Constitution was initially ratified, there were more Americans excluded than included in the freedoms it protected. Slowly, over time, but not without much debate and resistance, amendments and more categories of Americans were included. Monte Sahlin is right about this one. “The original set of Americans with full citizenship was a small percentage of the total population at the time.”
Does it surprise you to recall that Christians seeking freedom in 1620 and Independence in 1776 and a more perfect union and justice in 1790 struggled to grant the same freedoms that they enjoyed to everyone else? Does it surprise you that Christian Americans in the 21st century struggle in similar ways?
In Jesus’ day, the arguments about freedom had nothing to do with same sex marriage. In Jesus’ day, the arguments weren’t about the Sabbath either. Which everyone agreed God created. And set apart as holy. On the seventh day.
No, the debate in Jesus’ day was about how to keep the Sabbath day delightful and holy and helpful. Last week, we talked about a bunch of rules the Pharisees created to help them protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. Here’s a few more I haven’t shared yet.
It was a forbidden to cut one’s fingernails on Sabbath in Jesus’ day. Which means it was a rough day to have a hang nail. It was not allowed to pluck a hair. So if you had a bad hair day, too bad. It was prohibited to write more than two letters of the alphabet. And it was outlawed for married couples to have sexual intercourse on Sabbath. Which I wonder how they enforced. Maybe John 8 could shed some light on that.
Does it surprise you to learn there were so many rules and regulations in the Jewish Mishnah? Does it surprise you to learn that there might be just as many unwritten rules today in the Adventist Church? If you don’t believe me, or never attended Adventist boarding school, listen to some of these.
DO: go to Sabbath School. Attend church. Potluck. Take a nature walk. Sing in the nursing home. Attend AY (which stands for Adventist Youth) in the afternoon. Give Bible studies. Dress up. Hand out literature. Visit inactive members.
DON’T: work (unless you’re a doctor or a nurse). Don’t play (unless its Egypt to Canaan or some Bible game). Don’t do the dishes. Prepare a big meal. Watch TV. Look at the newspaper. Or play competitive sports. Don’t go boating. Or swimming. My Norwegian grandfather sternly told me one Sabbath near a crystal clear spring, “You can wade. But don’t swim.” Adventist friends from warmer climates told me their parents told them you can take your binoculars to look at birds in trees on Sabbath afternoon but you couldn’t get in the water with a snorkel and look at fish in the sea. How does that make any sense? I was told: Don’t talk about secular things. Don’t eat out at a restaurant. Don’t pay admission to anything even a park or beach. Don’t go shopping. And if you’re super strict, don’t shower or even ride your bike.
I think Steve Daily in the book Shall We Dance: Rediscovering Christ Centered Standards is right when he says “Most of the DOs and DON’Ts have their roots in very positive, biblical truth” (pp. 255-256) or principal. Perhaps we will trace some of those more specifically the next time in Luke we read about Jesus running into trouble with the Pharisees re:His Sabbath keeping. But for now, let’s simply say that all good policies are based on good principles. The problem is we have taught our children and new converts the polices but not the principles.
So on this Independence Day Sabbath, as we reflect on the freedom those pilgrims pursued, we’re going to also reflect on four principles about Sabbath observance that emerge from the next section of Luke 6 we’re studying today (I'm indebted to Steve Daily's chapter entitled "The Challenge of Sabbath Observance" in Shall We Dance: Rediscovering Christ Centered Standards for these four principles).
6 On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching.
Only Luke’s account includes the additional detail that Jesus was teaching or doing the sermon part in the synagogue. Which for Christians, we call the church. Jesus apparently preached on more than one Sabbath day. Luke 4:16 reminds us that this was, in fact, Jesus’ normal routine.
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.
Jesus often devoted the seventh day to worship. Which included gathering in the synagogue and teaching and preaching wherever He happened to be. Nazareth (Luke 4:16). Capernaum (Luke 4:31). Jerusalem. Wherever. So the first principle of Sabbath observance we learn today is time on Sabbath can help us specifically recognize and worship God. That’s one reason we gather on Saturday. What Jesus calls the Lord’s Day. But interestingly, Scripture says Saturday has always been the Lord’s day. Listen to this Old Testament reference saying the same thing in Leviticus 23:3.
3 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly. It is the LORD's Sabbath day, and it must be observed wherever you live.
Why would Jesus stop working wherever he was to gather in the synagogue to preach and teach and as we shall see, heal? Because the pre-incarnate Christ Himself created everything including time itself! That’s why Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel appropriately calls Sabbath “a Sanctuary or Cathedral in Time.” He writes, “One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word kadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. In the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation, the distinguished word kadosh is used for the first time. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar? How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: ‘And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3’” (http://www.myjewishlearning.
Jesus went to that synagogue on another Sabbath, as was His custom, to preach and teach and heal because in Creation He made the Sabbath kadosh or holy. Set apart and sacred. Leviticus reminds us that the seventh day is the LORD’s Sabbath day. So God gets to decide which day is holy. Which day is for rest. And which day is for holy assembly. It should not come as a surprise that Jesus was in that synagogue where he met that man with a withered hand needing to be healed. Because that’s where He went on Saturdays. And long after the cross, gathering on the seventh day to worship was the apostle Paul’s custom too.
2 As was Paul's custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people.
Some folks today like to say Paul didn’t do that because Sabbath is a holy day for gathering and worship. They say Paul did that to try to convert Jews since Jews starting worshiping on the Sabbath approx 2,000 years after Creation and continue to do so to this day. So they say to reach them, that’s why Paul met them on Sabbath instead of Sunday. But Acts 18 undermines that rationale.
4 Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike.
He wasn't there just for Jews. He was there for Gentiles too. Like Jesus, Paul looked forward to Sabbath worship. Wherever he went. Whether Paul was in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Ephesus (Acts 19:8) or Corinth (Acts 18:11).
We know this is true because in Corinth according to Acts 18:11, Paul worshiped every Sabbath there for a year and half! Corinth was a notoriously immoral city. Julius Caesar had rebuilt it nearly 100 years before Paul arrived in 50 AD. But still there were the remains of the gods of Egypt, Rome, and Greece. The Temple of Aphrodite was there. The temple of Poseidon, ruler of the sea was there. Numerous others temples dedicated to Apollo, Heremes, Venus, Isis. There was even a shrine dedicated to Askelpios the god of healing littered with clay replicas of human body parts that some scholars say inspired Paul to write about the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. But the true God Paul worshiped, and encouraged the Jews and Gentiles to also worship, was the only One who literally healed body parts—like the withered man’s hand.
7 The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man's hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
Here we have the Pharisees. The man with a withered hand. And you’ve got Jesus. In addition to all the other Jews in the synagogue. Which reminds us of a second principle of Sabbath observance — Fellowship! Mark 2:27 says, “The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.” Rightly understood, there’s no such thing as solo Sabbath keeping. The principle is not about isolation but about fellowship. What a fellowship, what a joy divine / Leaning on the everlasting arms / What a blessedness, what a peace is mine / Leaning on the everlasting arms.
But these Pharisees didn’t get that. So if you’re going to church, take someone with you. Invite someone over for lunch. If you’re going to watch a good program, do so with other people. Some of us are doing that on Saturday nights this summer. In Acts 16, they didn’t have satellites to watch church on TV or a synagogue to gather in. They didn’t even have any nice picnic tables like we just bought for the shady areas in the courtyard. But they did have a riverbank.
13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.
Some folks say when they read Acts, they get the impression that whenever there’s a meeting, someone is always eating. And there’s some truth in that. People love to share food. And I’m so proud of the crowd that’s been serving and staying for the vegan challenge once a month. We’re learning some new recipes and enjoying each other’s fellowship. But there’s more to a meeting than eating. Why don’t you get some people together for vespers Friday evening at your home? Or Saturday evening for worship? Or Sabbath afternoon for prayer? You could pray together down by the riverside! Whatever you do, wherever you go, the first two principles remain. Sabbath is for worship and fellowship.
25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
When my kids are playing a game on Sabbath (whether it's the video, card, board, nature, croquet, or whatever other delightful age appropriate thing it is they’re looking forward to on Sabbath that Jesus could join them), I insist that there be two or more playing. Because Sabbath is about worship and fellowship and relationship with the Lord of it.
20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.
No solo Sabbath keeping. And no satellite Sabbath keeping either. Just you and your TV or computer screen.
8 But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, ‘Come and stand in front of everyone.’ So the man came forward.
Jesus knew this was a set up. He knew the Pharisees were counting all the rules and regulations Jesus was about to break in the Mishnah. But principle number three, Jesus also knew Sabbath was about rest. So he told this man with a withered hand to come closer. And just stand there. Front and center. Don’t move. Just rest. Don’t look at what everyone else is doing. Don’t question their motives. Just fix your eyes on Me (cf. Hebrews 12:2). And rest.
Jon Weece is right. “When I ask people how they are doing, the two most frequent responses are ‘I’m busy’ and ‘I’m tired.’ We live in a society with one-minute rice, one-minute workouts, and one-minute Bible reading plans. We also have instant oatmeal, instant coffee, instant replay in sports, and instant messaging on our computers. We have speed-dialing features on our phones, we can take speed-reading courses in college, and some people even wear Speedos to the beach. (They shouldn’t, but they do!)…The world teaches that time is money. But the Bible teaches that time is a gift” (Jesus Prom, pp 68-69).
1 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.
“Do we really believe that God is in control? If we do, we can rest. If your marriage, or your work, or even your religion has drained you, Sabbath reminds us that we can rest (Ibid., 70).
God doesn’t get tired. He rested or ceased from creating because He knew we would get tired. Thank God for naps! I wish I could take one more often. When I do, there’s almost always some preparation involved. Like send the kids to play at a friend’s house. Power off the phone or take the landline off the hook. Pull the shades. You have to prepare to get good rest these days. Anybody else got a sleep mask? I do. Preparing to rest is another thing God had in mind. Talking about the manna that fell twice as much on Fridays in the wilderness…
28 The LORD asked Moses, "How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? 29 They must realize that the Sabbath is the LORD's gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place. Do not go out to pick up food on the seventh day." 30 So the people did not gather any food on the seventh day.
Clearly, the children of Israel had to prepare to rest. And so do we. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that seventy million Americans suffer from some form of insomnia (Ibid., 74). Stress is what keeps us up at night. But every seven days, remember that God is in control. Remember that time itself is holy. And according to God, you can keep it that way by resting.
8 Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
In case you missed it, God wants you to rest. Sabbath is not only a holy H-O-L-Y principle of time but also a W-H-O-L-L-Y principle of time. Listen to how thoroughly and completely they were to rest.
32 This will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and on that day you must deny yourselves. This day of rest will begin at sundown on the ninth day of the month and extend until sundown on the tenth day.
The Day of Atonement didn't fall on the Sabbath but this verse is saying you should treat it just as thoroughly as if it did. None of this work stuff. None of that 30 minute nap stuff. Take the entire day to rest!
Ezekiel 20 describes how God promised to bless them if Israel did so. But from history, we know they didn’t. So God sent them into exile in Babylon. 2 Chronicles 36:21 says, “21 So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.”
But after they returned from exile, still they didn’t rest! Nehemiah 13 elaborates on how they treated it like every other work day. Which reminds me that if you’re counting down the minutes until sundown and then staying up way late waking up way too tired, you’re doing it wrong. We’re supposed to worship, fellowship, and rest before the sun goes down not after. How have we missed this? Isaiah 58 says kept right, it’s a delight.
13 Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don't pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD's holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don't follow your own desires or talk idly. 14 Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!
But the principle we miss the most isn’t worship, fellowship, or rest. It’s service.
9 Then Jesus said to his critics, "I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?" 10 He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, "Hold out your hand." So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 11 At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.
Rightly understood, Sabbath is a day for pro-active service. In five of seven Sabbath miracles, Jesus pro-actively healed those who needed help. There was the man with the shriveled hand. There was a man with a bowed back. There was a blind man. An invalid. And a man with dropsy. None of these were emergency situations. All of them had been that way for quite a while. None of them needed to be healed that very day. But Jesus went out of His way to serve others on the Sabbath to show us that we should too.
But do you? Do we? I think we all agree that random acts of kindness when obviously necessary is a “Sabbathy” thing to do. When the ox is in the ditch so to speak. We will come to that in Luke 14:5. But Jesus said something similar in Matthew 12:11…
11 And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn't you work to pull it out? Of course you would.12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Nobody argues against random acts of kindness on Sabbath. But why do we continue to fight against the pro-active pre-planned intentional acts of mercy and service on Sabbath? Yes, these pre-planned acts of kindness could be done on another day. But why should we? When Jesus goes out of His way to do them on Sabbath? Maybe its time we organize some ordinary outreach on Sabbath. Because if all we’re doing is worship, fellowship, and resting on Sabbath, we’re doing it wrong.
Increasingly, we are living in a post-Christian country. There are many people who will simply never walk through a church’s door. If we’re going to reach them, it will only be because we go to them. And help them. And when they wonder why, we can tell them its because God loves them like crazy and because Jesus said to serve so we do. Visiting. Helping. Cleaning. Repairing. Mowing. Weeding. Raking. Whatever helps others.
No one can convince me that Sabbath is only for worship, fellowship, and rest anymore. Our youth don’t want to nap all day. They want to serve. So let’s serve with them. I wonder how differently our church would be viewed by the people in our community if we periodically but consistently served them instead of only feeding ourselves on Sabbath. Don’t you think people would be impressed by that? And want to learn more? God has always wanted Sabbath to be blessing to others.
6 I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
An Adventist friend, Samir, “was working with a team of entrepreneurs in a large, newly renovated brick building in the meatpacking district of Manhattan. It is a beehive of offices, studios, and the innovation labs of a hundred or so new companies. To churn out new ideas, the place is equipped with everything needed by upcoming creatives, who exude an air of confident inevitability. Every first Wednesday of the month, their consultancy team would gather and have one person share something from outside of their current projects” (Spectrum VOLUME 42 ISSUE 3 summer 2014).
“This particular Wednesday it was Samir’s turn. At first he had thought of sharing something about mindful leadership, identity and storytelling, or befriending the unknown—something that would make them sit up and notice. As the food for the meeting arrived and good-natured banter began to quiet down, he hesitated, wondering ‘What if they don’t understand what I’m talking about? What if they do understand but cannot relate?’” So... “He took a deep breath, made eye contact with those bright faces sitting before him, put his palms together and said, ‘I want to talk to you about the Sabbath day.’ They did not blink. As he spoke, they listened. Even when he ventured into Bible passages and the life of Christ, they kept listening” (Ibid.)
“He closed with an invitation to the Spirituality of Time, one of the sweet fruits of his Seventh- day Adventist experience. And his time was up. Immediately, a young female professional with a charming and slightly intimidating stud in her nose said, ‘The world around us has become boundary-less and, as such, exhausting. We are in need of some structure and discipline’” (Ibid).
“Another woman, an indomitable marketing consultant, said, ‘I would love for my family to live like that. Do you have some good rules of life to share with us?’ ‘Paradoxically,’ he replied, ‘my denomination has spent decades talking about freedom from rules, structures, and disciplines of Sabbath.’ She said, ‘I am asking you about Sabbath because I want to be free’” (Ibid).
Friends, this Independence Day, if we remember the principles behind our policies and explain them well, we can be free. Free to worship, fellowship, rest, and even serve others on Sabbath.
May this passage in Luke give us insomnia and keep us up at night—until we do.