Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost

 

  1. Pentecost 2.18 “Made For You” Mark 2:23-3:6

It seems like something that hardly concerns modern people like us, this Gospel where they’re fussing at Jesus for picking grain on the Sabbath day, for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Because we’re past all that, as Lutherans, aren’t we? Store closings on Sunday, blue laws, etc.? Maybe the Reformed folks are still hung up; maybe they still won’t run on Sundays, but we’ve got our tee times booked this afternoon, so what does this Gospel have to say to us, right?

Well… lots. In fact, this Gospel and the Sabbath day fuss is not only one of the most crucial events in the Gospels (it’s a big reason Jesus was killed after all!) it gets to the very heart of the Christian Faith, what the Gospel really is and how it actually relates to the Law of Moses. And I see plenty of evidence in modern Christendom, in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod(!) that lots of people still don’t get it, and are still thinking that man was made for the Sabbath, for rule following and law keeping, and not just sitting back and letting Jesus do it all for us by His Word, Sacrament, as if that will save you all by Himself!

What evidence is that, pastor? Oh, I’m glad you asked! Well… I notice that the Roman Catholic Church (which still serves the vast majority of professing Christians in the world) insists that faith only gets you part way to heaven. You have to atone for your own sins by works of penance to some extent, by indulgences (which are still a thing!), and by attendance at Mass, works of service etc., to complete the work Jesus merely starts by faith in Him. And it’s no better in most Protestant churches! The liberal mainline Protestants (who are dying out rapidly) have a very Roman viewpoint: faith gets you a little ways down the road to heaven, but marching in gay pride parades, voting reliably left, working in soup kitchens, habitat for humanity builds, and such-like are necessary things for salvation. Because it’s not like simply believing in Jesus will get it done, make you the sort of person able to hang with Jesus in heaven! No! That only gets you started on the road of personal renewal and political correctness so vital for salvation…

Conservative evangelical Protestants mostly eschew such progressive “good works”—but more for political than theological reasons, I think. Their conservative politics incline them more to Right-To-Life marches, political lobbying for “religious freedom” (our own Synod just opened an office in Washington DC and pays a handsome salary to Greg Seltz to do this) which seems to be essentially the freedom not to bake cakes for our gay neighbors. And when they’re not crusading for such vital “freedoms”, they are busy doing the Holy Spirit’s work of calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the unwashed masses and making them Christians by their missional-mindedness (and marveling that so many of the lost will not bow down to their obvious theological and moral superiority and do as they’re told!). Because, again, faith in Jesus and finding forgiveness for our own sin is something we all did as kids, and which only gets our foot in the door that leads to the entryway to heaven…

In all of this, the old view prevails: that the Sabbath is not made for man, as a gracious provision of rest and peace, but rather that man is made for the Sabbath, as if Moses’ Law were a gauntlet that God makes us run, like rats in a maze, and if that hamster wheel isn’t spinning like mad, no soup (no heaven!), for you! We’re still quick, regardless of our denominational affiliation, to cry out, “Look! Why do they do what is not lawful?! How do they think they’ll get into heaven like that?” Just like the folks fussing at Jesus in our Gospel today. The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same dreary, dull, moralistic, legalistic same old, same old…

But try running this little diagnostic on yourself: why did you come to church this morning, or cue up this sermon off our website? Hmmm? What is church really for after all? Is the Sabbath Rest made for you? Is the Divine Service God laying aside His glory, and honor, coming down from His throne, girding Himself with a towel and commanding you to sit back and relax so He can wash your feet, forgive your sins, feed you with His very own body and blood—so that His joy would be in you and your joy full? Is that what you’re hear [sic] for? Or… are you here to get a little moral uplift, to find out what you need to think and do in order to be acceptable to God, to get your marching orders, your route guidance to heaven? “Siri, get me directions to heaven…” “Searching!” Is the Sabbath made for you, or: are you made for the Sabbath—that is: is church just one more thing on your “Do-List”, or is it the End of the Law for Righteousness, the end of all do-lists and deeds?

  1. Now you’re with me. Now you see, maybe a little bit, why this might be the most crucial Gospel lesson of all, and why Mark puts it front and center in his recounting of Jesus’ ministry. And it’s still a great question, why the disciples weren’t actually in synagogue (church) that morning? Why were they on the road with Jesus, picking grain from someone else’s(!) field, living off the labor of others (like slackers!) as if God will provide all they need in and with Jesus, as if simply being with Him is the whole point of Sabbath Day, of every day?!? Maybe church is not a building where we sit and learn to follow the rules better. Maybe Church is a Moveable Feast? Maybe Church is wherever we hang with Jesus and He provides for us?
    Maybe the law is made for us rather than us being made to keep the Law, to pass the tests? This is, actually, exactly what Jesus says! “Why are we picking grain from someone else’s field, “working” on the Sabbath? Well, did you never read the Bible, the part where David is on the run from Saul and goes into the house of God (not for a lesson in morality, but for necessary food!) and the high priest Abiathar only has holy bread (which is only for priests!) and David goes ‘well, in effect, our bodies are the real temples of God, the real holy places, and the bread is common’. Because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Which is to say: we come to Church not for directions and a moral or missional “pep talk” to guilt us into better behavior. No! You come to church to be fed, to slake your thirst, to satisfy your hunger. You come to rest from your labor, to have God serve you, forgive you, feed you, strengthen you; to send you on your Way with Goliath’s sword, that is, His Holy Word which slays all orcs, all giants, by which Christ’s own power will clear the way to heaven for you of all enemies, all obstacles…

Which is to say: the Law of God indeed shows the Way, shows what the Good Life looks like. But only the Gospel of Jesus gets you there: Christ coming down in the flesh, girding Himself with a towel, washing away your sins by Holy Baptism, recharging your spirit with His Word, and feeding you with His own Body and Blood (in other words, doing everything for you, taking you all the Way to Heaven now by Faith in Jesus alone). God made the Sabbath for you (not the other way ‘round) and commands you to rest only so that Peace, surpassing all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, forever. Amen.

Services

19  August  2018

13th Sunday after Pentecost

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:30 VBS – Splash Canyon!  Come join the fun!

Adult Bible Class with Pastor

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.