Week of Proper 12: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above: God Reposing on the Sabbath, From a Russian Bible (1696)

Image in the Public Domain

The Freedom of the Sabbath

AUGUST 2, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Leviticus 23:1-11, 26-38 (Richard Elliott Friedman):

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them:  YHWH’s appointed times, my appointed times:  Six days work shall be done, and in a the seventh day is a Sabbath, a ceasing, a holy assembly.  You shall not do any work.  It is a Sabbath to YHWH in all your homes.

These are YHWH’s appointed times, holy assemblies that you shall proclaim at their appointed time:  In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, ‘between the two evenings,’ is YHWH’s Passover.  And on the fifteenth day of this month is YHWH’s Festival of Unleavened Bread.  You shall eat unleavened bread seven days.  On the first day you shall have a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.  And you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH for seven days.  On the seventh day you shall have a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them:  When you will come to the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, and he shall elevate the sheaf in front of YHWH for acceptance for you.  The priest shall elevate it on the day after the Sabbath.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Just:  On the tenth of this seventh month, it is the Day of Atonement.  You shall have a holy assembly, and you shall degrade yourselves.  And you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  And you shall not do any work on this very day, because it is a day of atonement, to atone for you in front of YHWH, your God.  Because any person who will not be degraded on this very day will be cut off from his people.  And any person who will do any work in this very day:  I shall destroy that person from among his people.  You shall not do any work:  an eternal law through your generations in all your homes.  It is a Sabbath, a ceasing, for you, and you shall degrade yourselves:  on the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening to evening, you shall keep your Sabbath.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, saying:  On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Booths, seven days, for YWHH.  On the first day is a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.  For seven days  you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  On the eighth day you shall have a holy assembly, and you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  It is a convocation.  You shall not do any act of work.

These are YHWH’s appointed times, which you shall call holy assemblies, to bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH:  burnt offering and grain offering, sacrifice and libations, each day’s thing on its day, aside from YHWH’s Sabbaths and aside from your gifts and aside from all of your vows and aside from all of your contributions that you will give to YHWH.

Psalm 81:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing with joy to God our strength

and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

2 Raise a song and sound the timbrel,

the merry harp, and the lyre.

3 Blow the ram’s-horn at the new moon,

and at the full moon, the day of our fast.

4 For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

5 He laid it as a solemn charge upon Joseph,

when he came out of the land of Egypt.

6 I heard an unfamiliar voice saying,

“I eased his shoulder from the burden;

his hands were set free from bearing the load.”

7 You called on me in trouble, and I saved you;

I answered you from the secret place of thunder

and tested you at the waters of Meribah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

9 There shall be no strange god among you;

you shall not worship a foreign god.

10 I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Matthew 13:53-58 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left the place, and came into his own country.  Here he taught the people in their own synagogue, till in their amazement they said,

Where does this man get this wisdom and these powers?  He’s only the carpenter’s son.  Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers?   And aren’t all his sisters living here with us?  Where did he get all this?

And they were deeply offended with him.

But Jesus said to them,

No prophet goes unhonoured except in his own country and in his own home!

And he performed very few miracles there because of their lack of faith.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Israelites, when slaves in Egypt, did not get a day off.  So the Sabbath indicated freedom.  The Sabbath was a gift.

Down time is also a physical necessity.  The body requires a certain amount of sleep, and a dearth thereof leads to unpleasant consequences, especially if this is a pattern.  So the Sabbath is also a recognition of the fact that we need down time during the week.  Not everyone can keep his tradition’s designated Sabbath.  Members of the clergy, for example, must take another day as their Sabbath.  But everybody needs one.

Within Judaism and Christianity factions have devised restrictive Sabbath rules.  Pharisees of the First Century C.E. frowned on Jesus healing on the Sabbath,  and on his Apostles gleaning on the Sabbath out of hunger.  But our Lord and Savior reminded them of three facts:  (1) It is lawful to perform a good deed on the Sabbath; (2) David and his men ate set-apart bread when they were hungry; and (3) Professional religious people at the Temple had to work on the Sabbath.  I think also of the Puritans of colonial New England, who frowned on people singing to themselves in public on Sunday.  It is wrong to transform the gift of the Sabbath into a burden.

So, recalling the reading from Matthew, I note that former neighbors were not the only people Jesus offended.  This was the fault of the offended parties, not Jesus, who was exactly the person he needed to be.

May you, O reader, be more nearly (more so over time) the person you need to be–for God, of course.  And, as part of this, may you find the Sabbath to be the gift God has intended.  Savor it.  Keep it.  Honor God in so doing.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-freedom-of-the-sabbath/

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