Remember the Sabbath Day

Biblical Text: Mark 2:23-3:6 (and Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

So this Sunday in the Church year is the one that starts the Long Green season. The festival season, which stretched from Advent through Trinity Sunday (Christmas to Pentecost), is over and another word for this is Ordinary Time. And the first lessons given are interesting as they are on the Sabbath Day. By this time the Easter attendance bump is long past, and most pastors are hoping the Summer lows are not too low. The Festival season gives people extra reasons to attend. The long green season – made longer this year because the moveable feast of Easter was so early – is more like the Christian life. It has its high moments, but most of it is lived in the plain. Which is why I think starting it with a reminder of what the Sabbath is, is a sharp choice.

And as Lutherans we also have a sharp law-gospel distinction to proclaim – completely in tune with Jesus in the gospel lesson – about the Sabbath. In the law the Sabbath is simply about rest. It only demands that nobody in your authority do any normal work. The gospel purpose of that law is that we might draw near to the Lord. And in the promises of Jesus there are a multitude of ways that we can so draw near. The law itself is good and wise, but it doesn’t save. You could spend you day of rest just sitting and check the box. Salvation rests in drawing near to God.

The sermon develops those thoughts through a reflection on how work expands to fill the time, old blue laws, and a meditation about what I think is the Spiritual sickness of the day. It is not that we don’t want a Sabbath, but that our people collectively don’t want this Lord of the Sabbath. And so we get the heavy yoke of the work of the Devil, the World and our own flesh.

The High House and The False House

Biblical Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Full Sermon Draft

I think the lectionary makers have stuck us with the end of one devotion and the start of another. I think 2:1-3 complete the chapter 1 thought. Peter then picks up a new thought in 2:4. The first devotion moves from new birth to craving pure spiritual milk. It is a devotion about growing up in Christ. The second devotion moves from that individual and early growth in faith to the communal nature and its maturity. As individuals we are newborns (baptism), babes (milk) and eventually grown up into salvation. As the church we are living stones built into the new temple, the royal priesthood, a holy nation. When we are grown we come into our maturity which is as a people.

This being mother’s day, the childhood analogy works well. The bridge from the childhood to the communal is that the church is the feminine or mother image. God is building his church, and he builds it from the stones that are rejected by the world. We living stones conform to Christ, the rejected cornerstone, with all the rough angles of the cruciform life. In this there are always two building projects: the world’s and God’s, the false house and the high house. Mom, the church, is the means by which we are built as the living stones of the High House. (Note: I’ve stolen those labels from an enchanting work of fantasy (The Evenmere Chronicles by James Stoddard).

Music note: I lost most of the music in the recording, but I think I kept the best piece, although as a congregation we got off to a rough start on it. LSB 645, Built on the Rock, captures the spirit of the text and the sermon quite well.

Recording note: I’m sorry for the overall quality. The volume level was quite low (our line volume ghost came back). I had to re-record the lesson as the early parts were unusable. I’ve normalized the volume levels to the best of my ability, but you will notice the change from a studio sound to the live static.

Prayer and The Sabbath Day – A Simple Way to Pray


Sermon Text: John 16:23-33, Acts 16:9-15
Full Sermon Draft

The text continues one of the LCMS divergences from the revised common lectionary (RCL). In that RCL John 16 is never read on a Sunday. I’m somewhat surprised as this is all part of Jesus’ final teaching to the disciples at the last Supper, and chapter 16 has a bunch of important and practical teaching. The themes seem to be the Spirit, life in community post the resurrection and prayer. Now if I was a conspiracy sort I’d say it’s because Jesus, especially in today’s text, is at his most Trinitarian and High Christological (i.e. Jesus = God). The RCL has its origin in Vatican 2 and has significant input by church bodies like the Episcopal church and other mainline bodies. And let’s be kind, portions of both of those bodies at the time of the RCL’s creation weren’t exactly big on such clear teaching and were guided by hot at the time critical readings that thought of such parts of scripture as “secondary additions”. Some have continued down that path, others have reformed.

Anyway, the theme of the day was prayer with the trouble with prayer being found in our problems with the 3rd commandment – remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Luther explains that commandment in terms of the Word. We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. In Luther’s simple way to pray, which is summarized in the application section of this sermon, prayer that starts with the Word is put forward. Our problems with the clear Word is often what stands between is and prayer. We can’t even start to pray because we despise the Word. We have put so much between us and the Word, that we can’t hear it or commune with God in prayer over it.

Paradoxically, prayer and the Word are the answer. We learn in prayer to let God work on us and teach us. When we set ourselves under the word we also set ourselves under its promises. What God wishes to give to us through His Word in prayer, is the fulness of joy, peace and the grace of Christ. And that is the gospel. While the devil, the world and our flesh conspire to keep us out of communion with God, Christ has overcome the world. Our tribulation in the world, ultimately has already been defeated.