2nd Pentecost Sunday
June 3, 2018
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the Lord your God has commanded you. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work — you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do.
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
“The Lord of the Sabbath Orders Redeemed Souls: Rest!”
1) We ‘Rest’ in Jesus’ Redemption, Not Rely On Our Work to Save Us
2) ‘Resting’ in Jesus We are Worship Witnesses to Our World
Dear Disciples of Jesus the Christ,
Sunday mornings, after I retire, what will I do? No sermon to preach, no Bible study to present; no service to lead. What will I do as Sunday mornings likely become the most dramatic difference from my life as a pastor the last four decades? Listening to our Lord’s command (what we call his third commandment) – as you also listen to God’s instruction for your life – we will worship our crucified but risen Savior Sunday after Sunday after Sunday for only the Lord knows how long into the future. Maybe Monday, or possibly Saturday, we will joyfully worship Jesus, our Righteousness; our Redeemer. Hearing the Lord order, ‘Be careful to remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy as the Lord your God commanded you’. Being told, ‘You are to labor six days; do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…so you may rest,’ leaves no option other than to regularly set aside time to listen & learn every week as God speaks to us through his Word.
Sunday, we understand, is not set in stone for believers today because, while God’s people, before entering their promised land, are specifically instructed to set aside the Sabbath Saturday as their day of rest, the Lord’s day – remembering how God created the world in six days, but rested on the seventh day – when Jesus lowers himself into our place, becomes a human being who can serve as our Substitute in life & in death, Jesus fulfills God’s third commandment; Jesus fully obeys God’s will for us. ‘On the Sabbath day,’ Luke reports, ‘Jesus went into the synagogue, as was his custom.’[LK 4] Completely obeying God’s commands for us to worship, Jesus graciously gives us his obedience. Jesus credits us with his righteousness. Jesus ‘cancels [God’s] written code,’ Paul explains, Jesus ‘takes it away, nailing it to [his] cross.’[COL 2] Fulfilling God’s law for us, Jesus then suffers the law’s decree of death for our sins. ‘Therefore,’ Paul urges, ‘do not let anyone judge you by…a Sabbath day…a shadow of the things that were to come’[COL 2] – a preview of the heavenly rest we will enjoy after our life on earth ends.
Clearly, God no longer demands that we set aside Saturday as the Sabbath, the day to specifically worship our Lord. Although believers began gathering for worship on Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead — declaring us forgiven — the Lord will not let us now think Sunday is a ‘holier’ day than Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Sunday is never prescribed in Scripture as the day Christians must gather together for worship. So, it is not necessarily a sin for me to work on Sunday, even my work is not preaching. It will not always be a sin for me to shop at stores which needlessly stay open for business on Sunday. I cannot immediately be labeled a sinner if I participate in some sports creeping into Sunday morning spring, summer, fall & winter. But it is a sin, we definitely disobey God’s will whenever I walk away from Christ’s invitation, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened; I will give you rest …rest for your souls.’ As Jesus invites, as Jesus instructs us to ‘Take his yoke upon us,’ to ‘learn from him,’ with Jesus promising we ‘will find rest for our souls,’ [MT 11] our Lord’s Sabbath command – ‘Sabbath’ means ‘rest’ – our Lord’s instruction is not to set aside some specific day for ‘going to church’ but to ‘rest’ in Christ — to spiritually ‘rest’ as a result of our redemption – to, at all times, rely upon Jesus’ works, not our own efforts or accomplishments, to save us.
As changes occur in society; in our personal life, traditional Sunday morning worship services too easily take a back seat for many souls as business, recreation, personal convenience offer & almost seem to insist upon alternative uses of our time over a weekend. Asking ‘When will we worship?’ as we implement our Monday evening services for another summer almost sounds ironic, yet congregations must ask increasingly complex questions about the best time & right place for worship. However, before wrestling with ‘When’ we will worship, every Christian must individually answer two questions, ‘Will I worship?’ and ‘Whom will I worship?’
Will I worship? Whom will I worship? Only one answer is acceptable as God explains his reason for ordering us to set aside regular time for the Lord. ‘Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, & the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand & an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day holy.’ Why will we keep Christ’s ‘Rest Day’ holy? Why will we set aside regular times to worship our Lord Jesus? Why will we faithfully ‘labor & do all our work six days,’ but not fall into the trap of working “24 / 7” to keep up with the competition? While our Creator resting on the seventh day set a pattern (which also serves as a reminder of our created bodies’ need for periods of physical rest after times of labor), a greater impetus for observing a ‘Sabbath rest’ is to remember; to regularly be reminded how the Lord who freed his people from slavery in Egypt is the Lord who freed us from our slavery to sin – the Lord who is leading us to his Promised Home in heaven.
Remember our redemption (pictured by Israel’s delivery from Egypt’s slavery into the promised land of Canaan)! We were sinners, slaves to Satan who would not & could not obey God’s commands. But Jesus came to be our Savior, Jesus freed us from death by dying in our place, Jesus brings us heavenly life by rising from his grave to declare us forgiven, ascending to prepare our place in his Father’s house. We saints, we souls whom the Holy Spirit has set apart from the world by leading us to believe, to trust Jesus our Savior, to follow our Lord Jesus; to imitate Christ — we saints are compelled by Christ’s saving love to worship the Lord our Redeemer.
Redeemed by Jesus Christ, we are at rest, as a writer to the Hebrews stresses, ‘There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.’ Redeemed by Christ’s completed life, death & resurrection, we are at rest, we no longer try to earn God’s glory by what we do. ‘Let us make every effort to enter that rest,’[HEB 4] this inspired writer urges. Redeemed by Christ, we rejoice, we worship our Savior.
Will I worship the Lord after I retire? Will you worship the Lord before you really begin to work? Will we worship the Lord in the prime of our life? ‘Yes. Yes. Yes!’ is & always will be our answer. As our Lord orders, we will ‘not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but [will come together to] encourage one another all the more as we see the [last] Day approaching.’[HEB 10] Desiring every blessing our Redeemer offers as he keeps revealing himself through the Scriptures, we will ‘hear the word of God & obey it’[LK 11] — as Jesus commands – ‘Going into all the world, we will preach [his] good news to all creation.’[MK 16]
Worshiping Jesus regularly, using God’s Word, rejoicing in our redemption; celebrating the absolute, eternal rest Jesus has won for our souls, Christians become worship witnesses to our world. Nothing is done in secret. Everyone involved with the Lord’s people will know this is not a normal day. God commands, ‘The seventh day, a Sabbath to the Lord your God, do not do any work — not you, not your son or daughter, not your male or female slave, not your ox or donkey, not any of your livestock, nor the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so your male & female slaves may rest as you do.’ God’s will is clear. Every person; every animal associated with one of God’s people will know the Sabbath is a holy day set aside for the Lord, for they too will be able to physically rest, not work. Most importantly, people will be invited to learn about Christ’s rest for their redeemed souls. Sons, daughters, servants; even foreigners in the household will be invited to understand & will be encouraged to appreciate how God redeems their sin through his Son Jesus.
Worshipping the Lord our God, we still witness to our world. Our gathering together to encourage one another in Christian living is no secret. When we pencil worship services onto our calendar first, our sons & daughters will learn Christ’s redemption is most important – our children will learn from our actions thanking & praising our Savior is a higher priority in life than recreation, shopping or working. Our will to worship becomes a witness to our world as we ask our employer for a schedule freeing us to worship with other saints at Good Shepherd Sunday mornings — as other nurses might see us rushing out of the hospital in time to worship, even after we have been working all night — as our opponent notices we are a little late for a Sunday tournament because we first went to church to worship. Worship witnesses to our world ask for printed sermons to be mailed – maybe read them on our website – perhaps we open our hymnal with a worship folder to praise God privately if we are not able to be here to sing his praises publicly. Worship witnesses take the time & trouble to bring our little children & also bring our larger children to worship with us, even if they occasionally distract our attention.
Understand, we do not worship to be seen, but when we worship, we will be seen praising our Savior. Like sons, daughters, servants & aliens noticing God’s Old Testament people resting on the Sabbath Saturday, families, friends, co-workers & acquaintances will notice when we regularly worship God together. Consciences can tell them to also make time for worship, if they already know our Savior. If they do not yet know Christ, they can be led to wonder; even ask what is so important about Jesus that we worship regularly, religiously, not only if nothing else is scheduled.
Will I worship? Whom will I worship? When will I worship? Looking into the future, a number of routines might change in my retirement. Situations in your personal life will undoubtedly be different from decade to decade, maybe even from year to year as our world seems to spin more quickly. But our Redeemer’s will for us to worship him will never change. Please understand, applying our Lord’s will, we may change the times or days we gather together to praise our Savior — we may sing new hymns as we anticipate a new hymnal coming in a couple years — we will in time hear a new preacher proclaim from this pulpit God’s same old gospel truth of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But, as God’s (third) commandment for us to worship the Lord will never change – I realize I am preaching to the choir here, but this is the Word God gives us today – guided by the Holy Spirit, we will regularly gather with God’s people to encourage one another with his Word of truth because we are redeemed by Jesus’ blood; we ‘rest’ in our Lord’s forgiveness.