Worship preview for 6/3

From Advent until Pentecost Sunday, we have taken a journey which has followed our Lord’s earthly ministry. During these Sundays after Pentecost, the church now is instructed in the life which we are to live. In God’s kingdom, we are to live according to God’s law. But even in the directions given in the law, we see Christ for us. The law was not given so that we could earn God’s favor, nor does our following of the law benefit God. The law benefits us.

This week we begin a continuous reading from 2 Corinthians that will last six weeks. Therefore its themes won’t necessarily align with the theme of the day established by the Gospel reading.

In the Old Testament reading we hear the Third Commandment and remember the proper relationship that we are to have with the one true God. In the Epistle reading, St. Paul says the good news of that relationship with God through Jesus is kept in our fragile lives—showing that the power is God’s, not ours. In the Gospel reading, Jesus instructs his disciples that salvation does not come through the slavish keeping of the commandments; but rather on following Christ through faith.

The hymn of the day is “O Day of Rest and Gladness” (ELH 485), drawing on the Sabbath day of rest themes from the Gospel and Old Testament readings. Additionally, verse 2 includes the ideas of light and creation from the Epistle reading.

The Gospel reading:

Mark 2:23-28

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus for allowing his disciples to pick some wheat to eat on the Sabbath (‘working’), Jesus recalled how David, their role model, also had broken a ceremonial law for a higher purpose (1 Samuel 21:1-6). The details of the ceremonial law could be violated in the interests of the blessings God wanted to give to human beings through that law. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man.” He means, “Look, I know what the Sabbath is for, and I’m not breaking its blessings.”

Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Jesus sees himself as an authority over the law, to say what it really means and what it is really for, and to say that he is here to keep it. Most Pharisees saw the Torah as a fixed point of reference and had debates with each other about how their teaching was most faithful to it. But when Jesus teaches, it’s reversed. He makes himself the center and talks about the Torah’s relationship to him and his teaching. Jesus knows the principle of God at work behind the law, and that trumps the Pharisees’ human customs and interpretations.

The Old Testament reading:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

In the Third Commandment God gave two blessings—bodily rest and spiritual re-charging. The Sabbath rest day pictured the spiritual rest God had in store for the Israelites and for us through his Promised One. We were slaves to sin as Israel had been slaves in Egypt. But just as God delivered his people from Pharaoh, so Jesus delivered us from sin and death by a mighty blow to Satan on the cross and empty tomb. No one can find peace and righteousness in following the Old Testament Sabbath law, but we can find peace and righteousness in the better and lasting rest of the gospel. Spiritual rest is ours now by faith. It will be ours to experience for eternity.

The requirements of this Old Testament Sabbath law are not binding on us today. Sunday is not a New Testament Sabbath day. But the principle behind this law for rest and worship is still binding on us—God is concerned about our spiritual re-charging with him. The New Testament requirements for our worship life are: gather together (Hebrews 10:25), hear the Word (Luke 11:28), eagerly study the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and share the message of the life-giving Word (Mark 16:16).

The New Testament reading:

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

The spiritual rest God wants for us is created through faith in Jesus as our Lord, brought to us by his Word. At the time of creation, God had said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” That same God uses that same Word to bring the light of Christ into our hearts. Remember that on the day of St. Paul’s conversion a light from heaven penetrated the darkness of his heart (Acts 9:3). If Jesus Christ could bring light to Paul’s dark heart, he can do it for anyone.

But the spiritual rest God wants for us does not mean freedom from suffering and persecution. St. Paul contrasts the splendid treasure of the gospel with the messengers of that treasure. The messengers are just fragile jars of clay. But this is not pessimistic. God still gets his work done through us. St. Paul here expresses the great theme of Christianity—the theology of the cross. Everything seems opposite than human reason expects.