Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Reflection on Mark 4:35-41

Where do you find peace in the storm?

Peace eludes the disciples as they battle the waves and waters that are threatening to swamp the boat. Struggling against lines that are being pulled to the point of breaking in the storm’s wind, bailing water a bucket at a time when the sea easily dumps 40 buckets in the boat at any given moment, and struggling to find a direction to point the boat in a confused, chaotic sea all lead the disciples to look at Jesus, who is sleeping through it all, and ask, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”

Those words, or ones like them, have passed through the lips of millions of followers of Jesus. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”

They came from the lips of those early Christians who were thrown into the middle of Roman arenas with hungry lions. As the lions approached, death lurking and waiting to pounce at any moment, the question escapes from under the breath, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

They come from the lips of the one who sits at the edge of the hospital bed, holding helplessly onto the shoulder of one who clutches the pink bucket, waiting for the next upheaval to arise. Wishing that there was something that they could do, anything, to take away the pain and discomfort, they mutter as people pass by the hospital door talking and laughing, “God, don’t you care about this suffering?”

They come welling up inside the mother who has who has fled under the cover of darkness from the gunfire and rapers of female bodies on the streets while clutching her toddler close. And, the phrase returns as that toddler is ripped from her arms as she seeks asylum. “Jesus, ten piedad!” “Jesus, have mercy” she cries out helplessly.

Some storms we can handle. Some storms cause the sea waves to rise in predictable ways. Though the waves may be 30 feet tall, if the waves are all coming from the same direction, we know to turn the boat directly into the waves. If you courageously face the waves head on, you know that you can cut right through them and will make it safely through the storm.

The storms of life are no different. Though stressful, most of us can handle one crisis at a time without a problem. Do you have a disagreement with someone? Just face the problem head on, deal with the person directly, and you will likely make it to the other side of the problem just fine.

The problems come when the waters become dangerously turbulent in what seafarers call “confused seas.” Confused seas are exactly what they sound like. They do not have waves coming from any single direction pushed by any single storm. Rather, a multiplicity of storms have caused the waves to be pushed from multiple directions, and there is nowhere to turn the boat so that it might be safe. Waves, crashing from both the front and the sides causes the boat to rock uncontrollably and be overwhelmed by the spray. The waters start to flood the boat and the wind starts to tear at the lines.

In such a storm, where no one knows which direction is the right one or the safe one, the disciples call out to the sleeping Jesus in the back, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing!”

And, when the pressures and dangers of life attack from every angle, and life degrades to worse than overwhelming…when you lose much, much more than you can possibly gain...you have no choice but to cry out, “Jesus, don’t you care? Do something! I thought that you saved. Then do some saving! Why am I forgotten in all this?”

“Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing!” Those are probably some of the more honest words ever spoken in scripture. They come out of a desperate, broken hope that cannot see the end to the storm. They express the very moment when faith has died.

And, those words are right here, preserved for all time in the Bible! What I find most fascinating about it all, is that these words of dead faith are right here, preserved for all of us to read and see. Even the disciples had (How does Jesus put it?) “No faith!” Written right there in black and white, not hidden from the sight of anyone, we read that the disciples had “no faith” because life had become insurmountable.

I actually find comfort in the fact that even Jesus’ closest friends at times had “no faith.”

Christians in the West put so much emphasis on having enough faith, that when we are not able to somehow conjure it out of nowhere, we feel like spiritual failures. As if faith were a commodity that you can just go to the grocery store and buy more, sitting right next to the Doritos. And, who doesn't need Doritos in desperate times? But, you cannot find faith sitting there for sale. You cannot just go get some more.

Nor can you simply wish for more faith. You cannot just get up in the morning and decide, “You know what, today I’m going to trust in the power of Jesus!” Because, quite frankly, sometimes when you look around for Jesus you find that he is asleep in the back of the boat. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” the disciples chide.

So, I’ll ask the question again, “Where do you find peace in the storm?” The funny thing is that the answer has something to do with that nap that Jesus is taking in the back of the boat.

When we are in the throes of the horrific, we look to the back of the boat and see Jesus sleeping and assume that Jesus is not paying attention, or that Jesus does not care. But, that is an assumption, based on our perception of events. But, we can look at the sleeping Jesus in a completely different way…in the way that Christians from Asia tend to see Jesus.

When I went to India, I visited a beautiful little Christian temple. It was similar to Hindu temples where people could just stop by and pray whenever they got off of work or walked home from school. In the center of the temple was a statue of sorts that represented Jesus (in the style of a Hindu temple); but, when you looked at the representation, rather than seeing a cross or a man dressed in robes with arms outstretched as you would elsewhere around the world, you see a lotus flower.

A lotus flower is like a beautiful lily that grows on the water. I asked the pastor, “Why is there a lotus flower rather than a cross.” And, he responded, “Because Jesus is our lotus flower. No matter the storms that send the waters into chaos, the lotus flower always remains peaceful and beautiful, floating above the chaos. That is Jesus. He is peaceful in the storm because he knows that the storm does not win. He is peaceful in the storm because he has power over the storm. All he needs to is say three words, “Peace, be still” and it is.

This story of the storm is trying to tell us something quite profound. When in the throes of chaos, we tend to look back at the sleeping Jesus and assume that he does not care. But, the story is actually telling us to take a second look. Maybe, we should stop and ask, “Why is he so peaceful.” "What is it that he knows that I do not know?" If we stopped and considered the peaceful Jesus, we would see him rise up, stretch out his arms and whisper into the screaming wind, “Peace be still,” and we would see the storm waters fall to a silent rest.

Where do you find peace in the storm? Do not waste time berating yourself for not having enough faith, or for the inability try to conjure up some non-existent courage. After-all, only God can get water from a stone.

Rather, simply look toward the back of the boat and see Jesus. See him, peaceful, as the boat thrashes about on the sea. Consider why he is so peaceful. Consider that he knows something that you do not.

In him you can see that a peace that rises above the stormy sea is our true reality. Peace is the true reality. Where do you find peace in the storm? Take a deep breath, look to Jesus, and see the power of peace. Jesus is our peace.

In that hospital room where the family member held the shoulder of the loved one, helplessness spread across his face, it was fascinating to look at the face of the man who was violently ill. Of course, you could see the strain that comes with all the gut wrenching, but beyond that, there was a peace about the man.

He was asked about that peace a day later. “Why were you so peaceful while everyone else panicked?”

He pointed to the white board on the wall facing his bed. At first you could not see what he was pointing at because it was so small, but sure enough it was there. Stuck into the corner molding of the white board was a postage stamp sized picture of a cross. Pointing to the picture he said, “When I feel that I am losing control, I just look to the one who brings peace.”

In other words, he simply looks to the back of the boat and realizes that peace is resting close by. Peace is not far away. Peace is there. Jesus is there. "Peace, be still."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reflection on Mark 4:26-34

There is an inherent danger in sharing personal stories when preaching. The danger is that the story will make the conversation about me, rather than about God.

But, this story does not do that, because it is not about me really, it is about how God’s kingdom comes about. It is about how all God’s kingdom comes about in all of us. The story is a call story; my call into the ordained ministry.

When I first started college, I was a theatre major. As I envisioned the direction of my life, I assumed that it would be somewhere on the stage. I assumed that I was going to be in the spotlight; an actor. I took the lead role in my very first college play, and I savored every minute, every sentence uttered, and every movement cast about on the stage.

But from the wings, the voice leading me toward the designing and building of sets was calling my name, and that is where I increasingly started to devote my passion. That was where my life was going to lead: scenic design.

Then, along came the required religion course. Most students thought the required religion course to be something you just survived in order to move on in life, but I was captivated by looking at religious thoughts in new ways.

I was blown away when I was told that St. Augustine did not view sin as things that we do wrong, but rather as a state of being where we are turned away from God, which causes our lives to spiral out of control. I had never thought of sin that way before.

I was captivated by the open question, “If Jesus was the Son of God, the perfect one, why did he need to be baptized? What sin needed to be washed away?” I did not know the answer, if there is one, but I took on the challenge and took a stab at it in a paper that was passed around the religion department.

Even with that, up to that point, religion was just a passing passion. Its study was a hobby of mine, a hobby that I could take to Broadway with me and fiddle around with on my free time as I designed scenery for live theatre.

The real turning point in my life came in the form of two sentences. After receiving an “A” on one of my religion papers, one of my religion professors stopped me in the hall as I passed his office and he said, “Your paper was really good and thoughtful. You should consider doing this for a living.”

That was it. Two sentences.

It was as if he took a handful of seed and threw it into the hallway, hoping that at least one seed might take root. He had no idea if any of it would grow or not. He did not have the time to sit and cultivate the seed as I moved on in life and went on to take new courses, and then move on to new places.

That is not how seeds work anyway. You just scatter them and a seed will “sprout and grow, [you] do not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” It was only two sentences, but I would not be in this ministry without them.

The kingdom of heaven is built on so tiny of a foundation. It is as if a stone mason works days and days to cut a single slab of granite. He does not know where it is going to fit in the cathedral, but without that slab the cathedral cannot stand.

Just think about that. Just think about how big God can make all of this little stuff.

In the church, we call this “the discipleship of encouragement,” because church people like to have a least four word long phrases. You have not made it in life until you have produced for yourself a standard four word long phrase.

“The discipleship of encouragement” is simply scattering seeds. Encouragement is looking at a person, seeing the love and passion that God has put in them, and...well... encouraging them to keep living out those passions.

It is acknowledging the passions of deep religious thought in a young adult.

It is acknowledging the care for the forgotten one by a child on the playground who always plays with the new kid.

It is acknowledging the hard work and long hours that someone puts into helping a struggling neighbor build their house.

It is throwing out those little seeds of God’s “Yeses” to all the goodness we see happening every day. It is say: “Yes, that thought is a good one.” “Yes, that love is pure, don’t lose that.” “Yes, that hard work, sweat, and love is worth it in the end.” It is scattering little seeds of encouragement everywhere and just stepping back and letting the kingdom to come and God’s will be done.

Going back to that stone mason who cuts the granite, biblical scholar NT Wright points out that we do not build the kingdom of God. That man who cuts that single stone has no idea what the completed project is going to look like, or even if it is going to be completed in the first place!

He does not build the kingdom. But, he does build for the kingdom of God.

He is not in charge of building Jesus’ entire world of love and grace for all. Jesus is going to do that. The Holy Spirit is going to tool that project. But, he does cut one stone toward that end.

We do not build the kingdom of God. It is built as God sees fit. But, we do build for God's kingdom.

These small words and small actions can be powerful instruments that God uses for the kingdom.

And, it is the power of the small and seemingly insignificant acts of goodness that make them even more important, because equally small amounts of fear and hatred can have just as powerful of an effect.

The singular phrase, “We don’t need your kind here” shouted out the window of a passing pickup truck was enough to make a brown skinned friend of mine decide that it was time to pack up his family and leave. An entire family’s life was uprooted, friends at school disrupted, family stability knocked off kilter, and friendships put at a distance all because of one sentence. Seeds of evil can be thrown out just as easily, and they too sprout and grow of their own accord.

But, one minor detail that I would like to point out in the parable of the mustard seed is that the mustard seed produces a huge weed. Almost no one intends to plant a mustard bush (except mustard farmers I guess). But, God is able to take even those mustard bushes and create a home for the birds.

The seeds of evil will be overcome by Jesus. All evil dies on the cross with him and only love is given a chance to sprout up to new life.

But, that truth, that hope in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ who can take the worst of things and transform them into something new and beautiful should in no way give us a warrant to spread seeds of fear and discord. We do not need to make Jesus’ work any harder! No.

We are the people who hope for the kingdom of God. We are the people who search out the goodness. We are the people who plant seeds of encouragement and love.

We are not the people who create the great, huge garden called the kingdom of God, but we do plant for that kingdom of God. I cannot plant a garden whose vastness extends beyond the horizon, but I can plant a single watermelon seed. Or, maybe even several, because lots of delicious watermelon eaten in the summer on the porch is truly a gift.

I can scatter seed for the kingdom of God. And, maybe, at some point, one of those will take root, and God will cause it to grow, and with that seed of encouragement God will produce the harvest of Jesus’ love for the world.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Reflection on Mark 3:20-35

Jesus is about to challenge your ideas of what is important in life and what is not; and it will change you. Jesus is about to challenge some of your most fundamental beliefs about family, your friends, and all that you find most important in life.

Let us start with one of the most basic of values that we teach our young children. It goes something like this: “Who you hang out with says a lot about who you are, so hang out with good people.”

It goes without saying that we would prefer to have our children hang out with straight A students, who tend to follow the rules, and who have loving and supportive families.

It also goes without saying that we would prefer that our children not hang out with those who have discovered drugs and exhibit behaviors that seem awfully rough around the edges because of the abuse they suffer at home.

Not only that, but we do not want our kids to be touching any snot-nosed kids, and I mean "snot-nosed" literally. We do not need those kid's nasty germs taking up residence in our own home. In other words, there are people who we want in our children’s lives, and those who we want out.

Jesus’ family was no different. Imagine his family's genuine concern when they learn that Jesus is touching desperately sick and contagious people, lepers, and hanging out with those who are sinful and disturbed in mind. What kind of filth is Jesus picking up along the way?

Those sorts of people are pushed to the edge of the community for a reason. Many of them can literally infect the community with their disease. Who in their right mind walks out to them? Many of them are like a corrosive chemical on paint. If you let them touch what is pristine and shiny, they will destroy in seconds all that has been beautiful for years and years.

Only someone who is out of his mind hangs out with such people. Only someone who is crazy (or maybe even possessed) cares for these dregs of society.

That is the most positive construction that the scribes could put on all that Jesus was doing. He had to be crazy. He had to be out of his mind. He had to be possessed by a demon or worse. He, obviously, had spent too much time around these people, and now a satanic had infected him and settled in his soul. The Scribe's proof of this infection is Jesus' ability to call out the demons and they listen. Only Satan can order his minions around. Jesus must be infected.

Jesus was not the first person to be accused of doing evil while doing good, or was he the last. Dr. Martin Luther King was accused of upsetting the peaceful order of the nation with his words of equality and actions of peaceful resistance in the face of racial injustice. That is being accused of evil while doing good.

A number of pastors in Argentina were accused of harboring death and infection when they set up hostels for AIDS patients who had been thrown out of their homes. They touched them, offered shelter, offered food, and offered a new family. They were shunned as the patients had been. That is being accused of evil while doing good.

Even now, some women are maligned for speaking up about sexual abuse perpetrated on the part of powerful men. “Why did they not speak up earlier?” they are accused. As if shame and depression are a reason to allow despicable harm to continue to be perpetrated on future girls. They are shunned for taking a stand. That is being accused of evil while doing good.

Many people have been accused of doing evil while they were actually doing good. Jesus was not the first, nor the last.
Blaspheme against the Spirit of truth and healing is nothing new. It is a hardness of heart…a hardness of uncaring that is an impenetrable shell, and is therefore unforgivable because it refuses to acknowledge it is in the wrong. When you refuse to see goodness as goodness, and love as love, you are truly lost.

Jesus challenges our sense of with whom we should hang out. Jesus challenges us to go to the edges of town and touch the untouchables, because it is they who need the healing. Jesus changes the basic value that we learned as children from, “Who you hang out with says a lot about who you are, so hang out with good people,” to, “Who you hang out with says a lot about who you are, so hang out with those who need love.”

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Preibe, is famous for saying, “If you draw a line in the sand, Jesus will always be found on the other side.”

In other words, if you draw a line which separates those who are in and those who are out, Jesus will always be on the side of the line with those who are out. Jesus is the healer of the ill and the savior of the sinner. He is the Lord of new life and redemption, and you cannot do any acts of love or redemption without hanging out with those who are considered the outcasts and sinners.

“Who you hang out with says a lot about who you are, so hang out with those who need love.”

This leads right into a second value that Jesus upends, that of “family first.” You hear it on the radio, “family first.” You hear it coming from the lips of grandma and from the expectations of dad. Family always comes first.

I once was invited to attend a Christian men’s conference for the first time. At that conference, it was made clear by the presenters that family should always come first.

They even laid out a clear plan for how men should greet their family when coming home from work: First you kiss your wife, because she is your partner in this thing called family. Then you kiss your children, because they are next in line of family importance.

As a father, they explained, you are the head of the family and all praise or scorn for the family falls on you. Therefore, it is up to you to be utterly devoted to loving your kids and shaping them into the kind of people God wants them to be, and utterly devoted to your wife so that she finds no reason to be unfaithful. In other words, family comes before anything.

In the gospel story, Jesus’ family agrees. As the accusations against Jesus fly, the family arrives at his home to take him away; to shelter him and reprove him of his crazy ideas; and to persuade him to stop hanging out with these crazy, unsavory people. Jesus' family come to protect him from the authorities before they take too much notice. They come to protect a family member. Family first.

But, here is the thing, Jesus does not need the family’s protection.

Jesus is the one who is in the right. He is the one who heals the sick and brings good news to the sinner. He is the one who is works continually to tie up Satan, the strong man of this world, and desires to set the world free from Satan's influence of sin and death. Jesus is the one who acts out of love.

Do you want to know who Jesus’ family is? It is not his mother, brothers, or sisters who would protect him and keep him from healing the discarded and loving the unlovable. It is not those who would keep him from facing the threat of the cross. They are not his family. Following Jesus does not look like what our society thinks of as “family first.”

Jesus asks those gathered around him, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him [who followed him, learned from him, and sought healing from him], he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

That is Jesus’ notion of family values. Blood is nothing. Those who love as Jesus loves are Jesus’ family. Those who receive God's healing and forgiveness, and then offer it to others, are Jesus’ family.

I told you that Jesus would challenge you this morning. Jesus is challenging you to love in the face of a world that prefers to divide rather than heal. Jesus is challenging you to include rather than draw lines of exclusion. Jesus is challenging you to be who you were created to be, creatures of love.

You are his family after-all. You have been loved into this world through the wide open arms of Jesus. So, go ahead, and open your own arms wide. Love as you have been loved.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reflection for the Parents of the Graduating Class of 2018

Parents, do you feel it in your house?

It is the same thing that been happening your entire lives. It started that very first day when the umbilical cord was cut and you mothers could no longer feel your child’s every kick. The birth was joyous, of course, but the separation was rough all the same.

It happened when they took their first steps and they no longer needed your hand to get around. It was a great day of freedom for them and freedom for your own arms, but the sense of separation was tangible all the same.

It happened again when they got on the bus and left you behind. They rode off to new adventures at school, and you walked back to a quieter home. It was a wonderful step forward for them and a little bit of relief for yourself, but the tears still came as you walked back into the house.

And, certainly, you have felt this one coming. The symptoms look something like disagreements between parent and child that have happened quite recently that probably resulted in the quick closing of doors or the raising of voices.

It looks a lot like the child is pushing away, seeking freedom and independence, and the parent might look like they are agreeing. “You want to do it all your own way? Fine! Go live under your own roof and do it your own way!”

It might look and sound like that, to some degree at least.

However, it could also look like a sudden clinginess on the part of the parent or the child…a clinginess like you have not seen since they were four years old and looking with fear into their preschool room for the first time.

Whether it looks like conflict or looks like a sudden need for togetherness (or a mix of both) it is all the same thing: grief.

God is sending these graduates on in life, and there is nothing you can do about it but grieve the loss of them and the way things used to be. Whether they are going off to college, a trade school, work, or the military, the old part of their life is done, and a new one is starting.

The words of Isaiah come to mind: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Well, one thing is clear, we perceive it all right. But, what we may not have allowed to sink in fully enough is that God is about to do something new with their lives; and it is unknown; and it is scary; and it is not under your control; and it is coming…soon.

How do parents deal with such a thing? How do you deal with the loss of your child and their childhood?

How about you try doing what faithful people have been doing since the ancient days of Israel; give them your blessing.

It is hard enough to leave and move on, but it is even harder if you do not have a blessing to accompany you on the way. Bless your children in the name of the Lord, that they may go with the heart of God filling their soul. Bless your children that they may have the grace of God in Jesus Christ with them every step of the way. Bless your children that they may also have your love with them every step of the way.

The ancient blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 goes like this, certainly you’ve heard it before:

The Lord bless you and keep you,
the Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy
the Lord look upon you with favor
and give you peace.

We often hear this blessing coming from the pastor as we leave the church, but imagine tonight that it is actually a holy blessing from a parent to a child as they move on to the new things that the Lord has in store.

As you look at your child, you say, “The Lord bless you and keep you.” You say that because you can no longer protect them. That is now fully up to the Lord. It is scary to let them go, but they need to know the truth, the Lord will be with them the whole time.

You say to your child, “the Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy,” because you know the next step in life is a lot of trial and error…you have been there before…you’ve made all the mistakes that 20 year olds make and figured out the successes…you know. But, you want your child to know that they are held tightly in the forgiveness of Jesus’ cross the whole time. They can try, fail, be forgiven, and try again. The Lord’s mercy is there always.

You say to your child, “the Lord look upon you with favor” because you want the best for them, and they need to know that. Sometimes it might not seem like it from their perspective, but they need to know you desire the very best for their future. They also need to know that the Lord also wants the best, so you ask that they may thrive in God’s favor.

And, finally, you look them in the eyes and say, “and give you peace” because what more could you want for their lives but to live in ways of peace. May they have peace, and may they be a source of peace to those around.

I do not have a lot of wisdom to give you parents beyond that, because letting go of someone is actually pretty simple...you just let them walk away, and at the same time it is one of the hardest thing you will ever have to do. But, a giving a blessing will help.

Parents, please stand now, look at your child, and repeat after me:

The Lord bless you and keep you,
the Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy
the Lord look upon you with favor
and give you peace.


Reflection on Mark 2:23-3:6

Do you know what people need who have been enslaved for years and forced to work non-stop out in fields and in stone quarries?

As Moses scrambled over the rocks on his journey up Mount Sinai, God looked down below Moses to the base of the mountain where the mass of people rescued from Egypt were gathered. A close look at them revealed them to be a broken and run down people who had obviously been forced to work under years and years of slavery. God looked down on God’s own people and decided that they needed something very special.

God still looks down upon his people, and, in fact, is looking down upon you today, and sees that you too need something very special.

God looks at you and says: “You need a gift. It is a special gift. It is a gift that will heal your pains, allow time for protective scars to form, and restore you to life. I give you, O weary and tired people of God, a day of rest.” God gives God’s people the gift of rest on the Sabbath so that we might truly live once again.

For God, rest is not a luxury item. Rest is not something only the rich get to enjoy when they finally amass enough wealth and employees to deserve it. Though the rich would love to add one more day of production to their employee’s work day in order to squeeze out just a little more product in order to gain a little more revenue, God sees the world differently.

The world was not created so that a few might rest comfortably under the work of the many. The world was created as a gift to all who came into existence.

Your life is a gift. You are a gift. And, you deserve to rest.

When God inscribed the prescription of rest to a tired world on those stone tablets given to Moses, God included people that might have been surprising to the rich of the world. God demanded that these must also be allowed to rest: “the resident alien in your towns,” as well as “your male and female slaves” that they “may rest as well as you.” Even the animals get the gift of rest!

I wonder, in today’s world, where those who are struggling at the bottom of society are encouraged by those at the top to take on a third job in order to make ends meet, if God looks down at them as God did the Israelite people under slavery, and says, “You deserve some rest.”

I wonder, in today’s world, where you are allowed only two months tops to grieve the loss of someone who tended your wounds and hugged your soul to healing, if God looks down and says, “You deserve some rest.”

I wonder, in today’s world, where children are taken from their mother’s arms at the nation's border, are kept locked up as if they did something wrong, cry their nights away, lonely, and are forced to face judges by themselves, if God looks down at them through a rain of tears and say, “You deserve some rest.”

And, I sure do hope that God looks down kindly upon mothers and fathers who have not been able to get a full night’s sleep for over four years due to little children waking up in the middle of the night. I sure do hope that the promise of Jesus where he says: “I will give you rest,” is a promise that actually does come true, some day, very soon preferably. Maybe?

The Sabbath is a gift of God directly for all who need their lives restored.

One day there were 13 men traveling through a field. They were hungry, so 12 of them gleaned some grains from the edges of the field (as they were allowed to do), and they ate.

They needed nourishment. They needed energy for the days ahead. They needed their lives restored in the most basic of ways.

Just as an $8 pizza tastes like a slice of heaven after a long week of backpacking living on trail mix and packets of oatmeal, so too the grains must have tasted heavenly in the mouths of those who were traveling. There was only one problem, it was the Sabbath.

The Pharisees of that town, pointing to the disciples making their way in the field, asked Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

So, here’s the thing. Since the Sabbath is a gift of rest for everyone from our heavenly Father; what do we to those who refuse to observe it?

For those Pharisees, this is not just a question about those lowly people who pluck grains of wheat. It starts with them though. If we let them decide to work of the Sabbath, then will employers be allowed, in the same way, to demand that we work on our day of rest? Are those in power allowed to make us slave away on the Sabbath so that they may eat their luxurious meals? It is a slippery slope you see.

What do we do to those who refuse to observe the Sabbath rest?

Later that day, Jesus entered the Synagogue and saw a guy with a withered hand. The Pharisees were watching closely to see if Jesus would do a little bit of work. Of course, Jesus being the type of man that Jesus was, healed the man.

Now, you must understand that Jesus could have healed the man, who presumably had the withered hand for years, on any of the other six days of the week. In this instance, Jesus blatantly works on the Sabbath. Jesus blatantly, in the eyes of all who would judge his actions, heals the man on the Sabbath day of rest.

What do we do to those who refuse to observe the Sabbath rest?

The Hebrew Bible says that we should put them to death, but as one who has missed a few Sabbaths in my lifetime, I am not sure that we need to go that far. After-all, refusing to rest seems to offer its own type of death. It is the slow death of fatigue and stress that never finds relief. Those who refuse to observe the Sabbath rest punish themselves, no external death sentence is required.

But, here is the thing, Jesus was not refusing to observe the Sabbath rest when he allowed hungry people to eat and healed a deformed man from his pain and struggle.

Do you remember the God who was looking down from heaven upon the people who were tired from their lives of slavery? Do you remember the God who gave a gift of rest to a tired people? Do you remember the God who showed mercy? Well, that God did not go anywhere.

That God saw the hungry disciples, and gave them grains of wheat to nourish them on a day of hunger. That God saw the man with the withered hand and gave him relief on a day intended for healing and life.

“The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath,” Jesus declares.

The Sabbath is more than a day of rest, it is a day of healing and wholeness. It is a day devoted to restoring all creation to a place of vibrant life.

All those years ago, Jesus started a Sabbath movement that we have somehow let wane, but it need not be forgotten any longer. Jesus started a movement that saw the Sabbath not only as a day of rest, but more as a day of giving life!

I encourage you to be a part of this newly enlivened movement. I encourage you to give life wherever you see that it is needed on the Sabbath.

This is what I mean: if there is someone you know who is sad and suffering, this is the day (the Sabbath day) that you give them a call of love. This is a day of giving life after-all!

If your neighbor is literally hungry, this is the day to literally feed them. This is a day of giving after-all!

We are a Sabbath people who follow the king of the Sabbath. We are a people who not only rest on the Sabbath, but also give life, just as our savior Jesus Christ did for us. Go out and be a person of the Sabbath.