This coming week, we’re beginning Parish Groups. One of the central reasons for Parish Groups is this table. And this year, we’re focusing on this particular theme. In a sense, every Sunday we meet as one large Parish Group. We sing together, pray together, study Scripture together, and eat together. Jesus invites us to His house, He shares hospitality with us, He shares His life with us. And when Jesus shares His life with people, they are changed. They become different people than they were before. When you trust in Jesus as your Savior, you receive a new life, new loves, new passions, even new gifts. One element of that new life that Jesus gives is the desire to share it. The new life that Jesus gives isn’t static. It has no shelf life. If you have no desire to share it, you don’t have it. You’re just going through the motions. You’re a liar, a hypocrite, a Pharisee. But maybe you’re just nervous to share it, scared, unsure, afraid of doing it badly. Well, here’s a suggestion: pay attention to the way that God welcomes you, and then ask God to give you that same kind of love, grace, and welcome for your neighbors, the strangers, and the hurting around you. Continue Reading…
Archives For Sabbath
My friend Joffre on Pentecostal Partying:
Pentecost Sunday is past. We are now in Ordinary Time. You have been given the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom is come in you. The Kingdom makes demands, it pricks in the heart. Live a life that demands the question, what meaneth this?
And if I may suggest it, perhaps you’d like to do that with the emphasis that I’ve chosen for my own good-spell telling: unapologetic feasting. Listen, these are not drunken as you suppose; they are filled with joy, and the Holy Ghost.
If you are single-mindedly obsessed with saving the world, you will look ridiculous. If you act as if God is your joy and comfort, as if all your needs will be met by him, you will look ridiculous.
Live the sort of profligately joyful life that the world could only call foolhardy. As if the resources of all of Creation were yours. Because they are; your Father has promised them to you. Suffer and rejoice. Feast in your poverty. Give alms; care for widows; you will always have enough. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Continue Reading…
This coming week many of us will be gathering together with friends and relatives to celebrate Thanksgiving. As we do so, we need to remember this meal, this Thanksgiving. This is where God is teaching us how to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is where God is teaching us how to eat together and live together in true community. The only way for there to be true communion, true fellowship, sharing a meal together with joy is through the cross. This is because the cross of Christ truly deals with sin, and this means that the past can be dealt with. The past can be forgiven, and not only may you have a new beginning with God but also with one another. At this table, God gives us Sabbath. He forgives past failures and He receives our feeble efforts: all the fruit of His own Spirit in our lives. And He strengthens us for the future, for tomorrow. He promises to give us His Spirit to comfort us and help us for the coming week. Sabbath is a safe place between the past and the future. Sabbath is a safe place between the past that frequently haunts us and the future that frequently terrifies us. And God invites us to imitate Him and His Sabbath as we go out into the world, being Sabbath to and for one another and the world. This means forgiving those who have wronged you and offering them a new start, forgetting their past and offering to walk with them into the future. This is particularly challenging when it’s your own parents, your own children, or brothers or sisters or aunts and uncles and grandparents. It’s easy to imagine being merciful and gracious to faceless people in the abstract. But those closest to us are usually the most challenging to love and forgive. The point isn’t merely that you should be nice to people and give them second chances. Don’t the pagans down you street try to do the same? Won’t they have Thanksgiving dinners too? No, the point is that our meals, our Thanksgivings must in some way come to share the same Sabbath that God grants us here. So as you prepare for Thanksgiving and as you prepare for every meal with your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, whoever, bring Sabbath with you. Come ready to forgive, ready to read the past with love so that you can walk into the future together in the Spirit.
Previously, we have seen that Sabbath pushes us outside of ourselves, commanding us to remember the people around us, guarding them, giving them life and rest, making a holy people. Last week, we focused primarily on the Sabbath building project. Sabbath is for giving ourselves and our resources to the building of God’s house. This week we look at the kind of culture over generations the Sabbath ought to create.
When sin entered the world dislocations and tensions entered the world in three areas: God and man, man and man, man and the world (Gen. 3:13-24). Sin, guilt, and death make this world a threatening place to be, and fear reigns over all of it: fear of betrayal, fear of loss, fear of death. But Jesus came “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). In the Old Covenant, the Exodus and the building of the tabernacle are types of Jesus to come: God freed His people from bondage to Pharaoh and brought them to Sinai to build His house. All of this testifies of God’s intention to reconcile all things: God and man (Passover/Sinai), people with one another (Sabbath, Manna, convocations), humanity with creation (Red Sea crossing, life in the wilderness). The Ten Words are the pattern of living that would mark this reconciled humanity, and the Sabbath command in particular is a bridge between our love for God and our neighbor. God knows that even a redeemed people will still fight and bicker and have different ideas and values. So He commanded them to have a weekly meeting (Lev. 23:3) and throughout the year have extended retreats full of meetings (e.g. Lev. 23:7, 21, 24, 35). All successful leaders and organizations know that central to accomplishing goals is regular, clear communication. And when the goal is the salvation of the world, this is even more important. Continue Reading…
Jesus is the Christian Sabbath in flesh. In the New Covenant, Sabbath is not a particular demarcation of time so much as it is a particular way of being in the world, by being in Christ, who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Sabbath rest between the times, between the past and the future. He is the holy place, the safe place of God’s presence in the now. He keeps us safe by His Spirit from the haunting of the past and the fear of the future.
But this “holy place,” this Sabbath day, this sacred “time” — is currently manifested in the Body of Christ by the Spirit. The Church is the Sabbath of the New Covenant. This is particularly, explicitly manifested in the gathering of the Church together on the Lord’s Day to celebrate the great Memorial Feast, the Eucharist. As the saints feast together and “remember” one another and care for one another and the weak and the poor and the hungry from house to house, the Sabbath is extended and shared just as the Fourth Commandment always required.
This doesn’t do away with the wisdom of setting a day aside for this enormous task, and Jesus Himself initiates a pattern of visiting His disciples on the first day of the week following His resurrection. But the Sabbath was never meant to be kept for itself; people were not made for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was always for people. The Sabbath was for being the presence of Christ in this world, for remembering covenant, keeping covenant, giving life, healing, sharing, feasting. The Sabbath was made for man. Jesus is the Sabbath made flesh, and the Church is that flesh in this world, for this world, by the working of the Spirit.
The first half of the Ten Words are all about priorities and loyalties: No other gods, honoring God’s true images, honoring and bearing God’s name/word, and the fourth commandment requires God’s people to prioritize God’s mission of building His holy house in this world.
Sabbath is For Building God’s House
In Exodus 35, God reiterates the Sabbath command a couple of times (cf. Ex. 34:21-26), all on the heels of the golden calf episode and running right into the command to begin building the tabernacle (Ex. 32). Notice that the Sabbath command is not only repeated with severe sanctions (Ex. 35:2), but there is also a curious prohibition against having a fire in your own house on the Sabbath (Ex.35:3). The key to understanding the prohibition is with what follows. As we noted previously, the Sabbath is to be a day that is outward focused, looking to give rest to others (Ex. 20:10). Here Moses reiterates the Sabbath command and then immediately relates the Lord’s command that an offering be taken up for the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 35:5-10). The Sabbath is for building the house of God, and therefore in the Old Covenant giving priority to your own house was considered treacherous.
The Building Materials
With Exodus 35 in mind, the beginning of Acts shows us what the new tabernacle looks like. The “house” of God was always aiming to be people, but in the New Covenant, the Spirit comes upon people making this explicitly and completely true (compare Ex. 40:34-38, 1 Kgs. 8:10-11 with Acts 2:1-4). This also explains the instinctive offerings of the first Christians (Acts 2:40-47, 4:32-37). If the Church is the new tabernacle made of people, then the community of the Church becomes the house. All that we are becomes the “materials” for building. This also adds significance to the New Testament language of being a body (Rom. 12:5, Rom. 12:12, Eph. 4:11-13). Continue Reading…
We return to our study of the Ten Words this morning, picking up with the Fourth Commandment. As we’ve noted with the previous Commands, the Ten Words are not just 10 Rules to live by. They are not just things to check off in your Piety Check List. These Ten Words are the Old Covenant summary of the central Word requiring love (Dt. 6:4-5). And that Word has been made flesh in Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:1). These words are the outline of a Man, and in Him, a family, a society, a way of life, the Kingdom of God.
The Text: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy… (Ex. 20:8-11)
Remember to Make Holy
Here, the central command is to “remember” (Ex. 20:8). Literally, the command is “remember the day of the Sabbath to make it holy.” The command closes explaining that we are to make the Sabbath day holy because God did (20:11). We should also recognize that the fact that God sanctified the Sabbath is a blessing (20:11, cf. Gen. 2:3). Previously, observance of the Sabbath was explicitly commanded in the manna regulations (Ex. 16:23-30). Here the command is to memorialize the day of the Sabbath to make it holy. The actions of remembrance are what make it holy. The memorial is specifically a memorial in time which is to be marked by a day off. But the entire thrust of the command is outward focused. God requires His people to think of all those they have responsibility for (20:10). The Sabbath day is the first of the feast days of the Hebrew calendar (Lev. 23:1-3) which indicates that in addition to rest and feasting, the day would also include a holy convocation, a holy gathering together, literally, a “called together of holiness.” The first instance of this holy convocation is in the Passover in Egypt (Ex. 12:16), and this marks all of the major feasts of Israel (Lev. 23). Continue Reading…
As we noted this morning, the central command of the fourth commandment is to remember. When Jesus told His disciples to celebrate this meal in remembrance of Him or as His memorial, He was indentifying the sharing of this meal as the new center of Sabbath keeping in the Kingdom of God. The Old Covenant focused on a particular period of time, carving out space in time for God’s people to gather together, remember God’s mighty acts of deliverance, and feasting together while looking out for one another’s needs. In the New Covenant, we still need to guard our time, and setting aside the Lord’s Day is a big part of that. But the more crucial point is this meal, being the people who share this meal, being a certain kind of community. The New Covenant focuses on a particular way of being together, watching out for each other, sharing with those in need, dwelling together and building the Kingdom together. Here at this table we remember Jesus our Savior – we remember how He saved us from sin and death and Satan through His death and resurrection, we remember one another, remember that we are family, remember the needs and sickness in our family, and remember our responsibility to uphold one another in love and prayer and service. But even more importantly, a memorial is something that God notices. God remembers. God was the first to take Sabbath. God is the great Sabbath keeper. God is the one who sees the rainbow and remembers; God sees His people sharing this bread and wine, and He remembers. He remembers and He visits us with His presence, dwelling with us and building His Kingdom in us. He forgives our sins, He comes to heal, He comes to rescue, He comes to answer prayer. Some come: eat, drink, and remember.
Today the sermon is on the fourth commandment. And as we gather for worship, I want to urge you to think particularly about the requirement to make the Sabbath holy. This is related to God’s command that His people be holy, as He is holy. When Moses first meets with God, the presence of God consecrates the ground around the burning bush, making it holy ground. God’s presence is holy because God’s presence is perfectly safe. There is no shadow of turning with Him; there is no blemish, nothing harmful. But sin is a virus, a poison, nothingness breaking into God’s good creation. Sin and guilt and death are black holes that suck the goodness out of this world.
This happens both individually and corporately as a body. Individually, it can be tempting to think that sin is just like coloring outside the lines. It’s not good, but not really that bad either. It’s a mistake, a mix-up, like spilling your milk. Oops, I got drunk last night. Oops, I looked at porn again. Oops, I was really harsh and critical. But the Bible says sin is a dangerous poison that destroys. Telling lies, being stingy, holding grudges, refusing to forgive, losing your temper with your wife, speaking harshly to your children: this is like a leak in your gas line, like letting your exhaust run with the garage door closed. Most people would never dream of leaving their kids in the car under those circumstances, or staying in the house with a gas leak, but your individual sinful habits are poisonous like that.
Corporately, we fail to be a holy people in so far as we don’t uphold one another. Do we pray for one another like we ought? Do we remind one another of the promises of God? Do we encourage one another in obedience? Hold one another accountable for godly disciplines or repenting of sin? Or if we see someone slipping, see someone getting into trouble do we pull them aside and gently correct them? If someone is in a bad relationship, is hanging out with fools, wasting time with stupid movies, holiness in community means speaking up. Holiness means working together to form habits and rhythms of life that protect one another, that guard against sin for one another, that give life to one another. But if we just assume that we’re supposed to mind our own business, this is a failure of holiness.
Being holy, and being a holy people is practicing being the presence of God in this world, being the life-giving presence of God for and to one another. This isn’t presumption because we have been given the Holy Spirit. God dwells in you. His presence is with you wherever you go.