St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-03-2018

St. Matthew’s Sermon 06-03-2018

For Humankind; for All Humankind

1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, Mark 2:23-3:6

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I’ve talked to you before about how, when Jesus calls up a phrase from the Old Testament writings, we have to look at the context of those words in the scriptures to find the whole of what Jesus is calling our minds to.

In his time, there is little doubt, that the hearers would be familiar enough with the Scriptures to catch-on easily. But today, with so much of our focus being on the New Testament writings, we might not be so quick to get his point fully.

As I prepared for writing today’s sermon I noticed that there are two such references in Jesus’ speech.

The first takes us back to David when he and his companions were hungry and ate the sacred “bread of the presence”. Looking back at that story we find that David was on-the-run when this occurred. Saul was after him wanting to kill him so David and those loyal to him were skipping from place to place until God would reveal a plan for their salvation. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)

Now, knowing this we might see today’s Gospel reading with a fuller understanding having noticed the parallels of David having his life threatened by king Saul and Jesus’ life being threatened by the Pharisees and those loyal to king Herod. It adds a bit more to the story than just the comparison of the Disciples plucking heads of grain with David eating bread reserved for the Priests.

The second, and the one that I will focus on today, is Jesus’ reference to the Sabbath. This calls our minds to the fourth of the Ten Commandments which I’m sure, in this case, you are all familiar with. It reads “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

Still, if we go back to the book of Exodus where it is first written we find there is a bit more to it than that. In its entirety we read…

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  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 animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”.  (Exodus 20:8-11 NRSV)

Did you notice, with my not-so-subtle emphasis, that this isn’t only about God and it’s not only about you! It is all inclusive; sons and daughters, servants, animals, and, yes, even the alien; the non-member of the community; every-one and every-thing!

Then, Jesus makes yet another point to further our understanding as he says “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath…”

With these words He makes it clear that this Commandment to keep the Sabbath isn’t intended to be a burden for humans to bear. It’s not a demand of God for God’s benefit, but a gift; the gift of taking one day out of seven for rest. And not only rest from labor but rest from all the concerns in life that demand our attention; rest from seeking more security, more self-sufficiency, or being more in control of one’s life.

As Jesus brings this into the conversation and we look back to the context of the fourth commandment, he is calling on us to draw in the whole of them as well, not just that one.

These ten rules to follow, along with all the Law and all the Prophets that he brings into conversation elsewhere, and the entirety of the teachings of the New Testament are not intended to be a burden for us to bear. They are the basis for our freedom; our liberation from self inflicted enslavement; the omission of the burdens we place on ourselves when we follow our own, human, ways rather than listening to the ultimate wisdom of God.

And there’s still more. All of what we heard in today’s reading starts with the Pharisees’ complaint that Christ’s Disciples were unlawfully working on the Sabbath. Then they are watching Jesus to see if he would ‘work’ on the Sabbath by healing the man with a withered hand.

Jesus knew what they were thinking and “he was grieved at their hardness of heart”. We might think that Jesus is grieved at their hardness toward him, and that may be so. But there is another character in this story, the man with the withered hand.

So the tension isn’t only between Jesus and the Pharisees and not only between Jesus and the man; it is a three way conflict. The Pharisees are, indeed, in conflict with Jesus but they are now involving an innocent man in need of healing. Their “hardness of heart” is found in the fact that they would use the underprivileged man as bait in their ploy to charge Jesus; holding their own destructive desires above his most basic need.

Jesus could have waited until the Sabbath passed to heal the man. It would only be until the next morning and, with no work being allowed on the Sabbath, the man would not have needed use of his hand until the next day anyway. But, no, Jesus heals him right then, right there in front of his adversaries; a thumb-of-the-nose toward them for sure.

His reasons are two parts: 1) Per Jesus, no one should suffer one-more-minute because it is the Sabbath; especially because it is the Sabbath. And 2) The rule of the Sabbath, along with all the other teachings of the Bible are not intended to place burdens on humankind but to lift burdens; especially those in special need of God’s healing power like the man with the withered hand!

God’s Word is given, not to burden humankind, but for the benefit of humankind; for the benefit of all humankind. Look at the world around you, and look at yourself, and if you see God’s Word being used to burden anyone or to cause or even prolong the suffering of anyone or anything; know that it is not what God intended; it is not the way it’s supposed to be.



1 Samuel 3:1-10
3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
3:2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room;
3:3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
3:4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”
3:5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
3:6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”
3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
3:8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.
3:9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
3:10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”


Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
139:16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
139:17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
139:18 I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.


2 Corinthians 4:5-12
4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
4:11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Mark 2:23-3:6
2:23 One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
2:24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
2:25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
2:26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”
2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;
2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.
3:2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
3:3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.”
3:4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.