Needing a Sabbath

“The Lord will get his Sabbath, one way or another.”

That’s an older proverb I unexpectedly heard someone quote the other day.  I say older when I mean archaic.  Because you’d have to know what a Sabbath is first.  Then you’d have to know both who The Lord is and that he commanded one.  And it would probably help to understand that this Lord had a bunch of fights in his own day about the Sabbath.  All things which are no longer common knowledge. But it struck me that ears might be deaf to exactly the wisdom they need to hear.

The first thing I always ask when I hear a proverb is “Is it True?” In this world that is on something of a sliding scale and it often depends upon the context. There are rock solid proverbs – “A fool and his money are soon parted.”  There are marginal ones – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As long as you are content with marginal returns, accepting what the universe gives you, this is great advice (and holding an MBA and CFA exactly what I’d tell 98% of people), but it is terrible advice to anyone who is after excellence. Financially, you wanted all your eggs on Amazon at almost any time in the past 25 years. If you want to make the Big Leagues, that better be what you are doing all the time. In asking “Is it True?” one of the big helps I find is asking, “Is it biblical?” “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is not, neither is “God helps those who help themselves.” What about this one?

It is not directly a biblical Proverb. You won’t find it attributed to Solomon. Neither does Peter, James or Paul mouth it.  But there is a deep way in which “The Lord will get his Sabbath, one way or another” is biblical.  When the Israelites took the land of Canaan, God gave them larger Sabbath commands. Every 7 years they were to allow the land to lie fallow. Every 50 years, the completion of seven sevens, was the Jubilee year. All slaves were manumitted, all debts forgiven, any land sold reverted to the family who owned it originally. The Jubilee turned everything Israel thought they owned into a stewardship arrangement. You never actually bought a field, you stewarded it for at most 49 years. Of course there is no actual record of a Jubilee ever actually happening. The Sabbath of Sabbaths was not taken.  And no farmer let his field go fallow every seven years, are you crazy!?! What is God going to do, send manna? 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 tells us the 70 years of exile were 1 year for each missed Sabbath.  The Lord would get his Sabbath, one way or another.

The second thing I ask when I hear a proverb is “how is it used?” When would someone quote this proverb. The most logical time to quote this is to the work-a-holic. The point being that you should take a rest.  The implied threat being that if you don’t willingly take a rest, your body will probably fail in some way forcing a rest. But there is a second time it might be quoted.  When someone has put all their eggs in the basket of the world, you might quote this to them.  The intention being something like “don’t forget the sacred or the spiritual.” It would be akin to “man does not live by bread alone.” And that is where I wonder if we have become deaf.

Luther’s explanation of the Sabbath commandment is nothing about a seventh day, but about the deeper recognition of the Sabbath.  As the Lord of the Sabbath said, “it was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And that deeper recognition is that we should not despise preaching and the Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Keeping the Sabbath day is about maintaining a proper reverence for the Word of God.  It is by the Word we were created.  It is by the Word that we have been saved. And it is by that same Word that we live in the promise of the resurrection. That day is coming when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Isa 45:23).” The Lord will have his Sabbath, one way or another.  The question is: Is your Sabbath one of grace or compulsion and exile? Today we are invited to a Sabbath of grace made for us, but the Lord will have his Sabbath.

Remembrance and Proclamation

Text: Catechism Christian Questions and Answers 13-16

This is the 4th Lenten Midweek service. We have been working our way through the Christian Questions and their answer from the Small Catechism. These Questions and Answers are a model of “fitting preparation” to receive the Lord’s Supper. To me they run in expanding cycles. The first cycle is the simple proclamation of sin and salvation. The second cycle expands on that from the creed. This third cycle is very Lutheran. It always goes back to faith, but it also is not afraid to ask the question “why should or do I believe this?” The Lutheran understanding of the faith has an answer. That answer might not be satisfactory to all, but it has the advantage of being how the Bible talks about the origins of faith. And it has the advantage of being grounded in the cross. We remember and proclaim the cross as the ground of our faith. This sermon meditates on that.

Two Smoldering Stumps

Biblical Text: Isaiah 7:10-17

Matthew asserts that the Virgin birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of this passage in Isaiah. Now, when a New Testament author points at an Old Testament text, he’s pointing at the larger story. The larger story that this sermon tries to preach is the story of three generations of Judah’s kings – Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz. How do we get to the prophet Isaiah telling Ahaz to ask for a sign? The story has surprisingly deep resonance for our situation today. Ahaz’s abominations and his refusal to see the signs are very similar to ours.

Mid-Wit Meme Wedding?

Biblical Text: Ruth 1:1-19

This text used to be a standard wedding text. It is also one of the texts that people use in a certain way that gets under the skin of a certain type of minister – bringing up the mid-wit meme. For my money, Ruth is the best book in all of scripture to really get the gospel. This sermon using that mid-wit meme as a start, attempts to see how Christ is in Ruth, and in so far as our marriages are icons or images or Christ and the church, Ruth’s pledge of faith is exactly right for a wedding.


Biblical Text: Habakkuk 1:1-2:4

We are ask “Why?” occasionally. The honest answer from the bible is that God just doesn’t answer “why” that often, at least not in words. He does provide an answer in the cross. But the Old Testament text for the Day from the prophet Habakkuk is one of the places where God stoops to give an answer to “Why?” This sermon is a proclamation of both the question and God’s answer. It might not satisfy all, but I find it a deep well.

Seeing What is There

Biblical Text: Luke 16: 19-31

I’m not sure a recording happened this week, and I don’t have my good mike yet to record it after the fact. The trouble with moving.

This sermon reflects on two facts of the text. Father Abraham tells the Rich man in suffering that “Moses and Prophets” are enough to be heard. It should not take a miracle to see. The second fact is that Dives (“The Rich Man”) obviously never heard Moses and the Prophets, and so he never saw Lazarus sitting at his gate. His dogs did, but he never did. The first time Dives notices Lazarus is when he “lifts up his eyes” while in Hades. In the Spiritual life, hearing is important because it creates faith. And what you believe changes what you see. And these two things have eternal consequences. The sermon develops those ideas

Counting the Cost

Biblical Text: Luke 14: 25-35

In the text we have one of the notices of “great crowds”. The fame of Jesus’ ministry can be gaged by the modifier to the crowds. And when they get to “great” he always says something like he says in the text today. It’s always a warning about discipleship. Discipleship isn’t about numbers. It’s about the heart. The disciple of Jesus has to know that The Way is The Way of the Cross. And they have to reckon that way the way of life. Also a way that we have no ability to follow in and of ourselves. This sermon is about how the way of grace is absolutely free and terribly costly.

Solid Spiritual Words

Text: The Athanasian Creed

It was Trinity Sunday. Probably the one Sunday a year where I don’t have a very specific biblical text as the basis of the Sermon. That’s ok, because the Creeds in the Lutheran tradition are part of the Confessions, sometimes called the symbols. The Bible is the Norming Norm, but the Confessions are the Normed Norm. The creeds are meaningful texts for preaching because they are faithful expressions of the faith. They are norms of doctrine and life which have been normed by the Scriptures.

In this case I had a specific teaching I wanted to cover: the faith which believes vs. the faith which is believed. Then I wanted to think a bit what it means to ponder the faith which is believed. The creeds point at that Holy Spirit given stuff – the faith which believes – while giving us sound Spiritual words to talk about the faith which is believed. Call it a teaching with an invitation to meditation on the unity of the Trinity.

Doctrine, Mission and the Experience of God

Biblical Text: Luke 5:1-11

Those first two points have unfortunately become a polarity in the church. Yet they go together. One grows out of the other. The life of faith finds its start and its proof in obedience to the Word. The text is the amazing catch of fish, but you never get to the catch if Peter is not obedient twice to the Word of Jesus. But both the faith and the mission rest on the experience of God. This sermon attempts to experience along with Peter that presence of God through obedience to the faith and the call to mission.

He Came to Make Us Holy

Biblical Text: Luke 4:31-44

The text details a Sabbath Day for Jesus in Capernaum. It is a day full of demons and healing. And what it makes completely clear is that the cosmic battle has come to earth. Christ has come to make us holy. The confrontation in the Synagogue with the demon sets the conflict. The demon thinks that “us” is mankind and the demons. The Holy One of God has nothing to do with that us. But Jesus rejects the demon’s definition of “us”. To Jesus us is God and man, God with us. And Jesus intends to make us holy. And he does this by His word. The sermon examines the authority of that word and what it calls us to be and do.