Tag Archives: Sabbath

Labor Day & Sabbath

As I listened to the news and considered the benefits of Labor Day in the United States, I found myself comparing it to Sabbath—a day of rest.


One of the biggest concerns I had for this holiday is that it really is not a national holiday in which the stores close and there is a sense of community as everyone steps away from their daily jobs for a day of rest.


The problem is that there are so many who are still working on Labor Day.  The stores, in many cases, remain open, restaurants of all kinds are still serving money.  How does a country honor workers and then still expect them to work?


The twist that this discussion developed in my head then shifted to just what is Labor Day.  If Labor Day is supposed to be a day of rest for the working force, then everything should stop and everybody rest.


That, of course, is not realistic, esp. in terms of the nation’s secular emphasis at this very time. Right now the demand on all workers is to bow down to the bosses and/or the CEOs and keep working the hours deemed necessary to be a financially successful.


These thoughts then started spinning around in my head as I hear Jesus telling me to take a Sabbath:


28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  –Matthew 11:28


Labor Day is not Sabbath, but I wonder how many workers feel a need for a Sabbath even though life demands keep them not only from the rest they physically need, but also from the need to remain in a faithful relationship with God.


Today’s society fails to understand that one day honoring the workers is not a successful way to provide honest rest.


To fully refresh and to fuel one’s life to live out the Christian lifestyle, maintaining Sabbath is a practice that needs encouraging, developing, even promoting.


The prophet Isaiah explained how to honor or to keep a Sabbath:


13 “Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14 Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”  –Isaiah 58:13-14


Compare that to the instructions Paul had for the Hebrews:


God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,

“In my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest,’”

even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  –Hebrews 4:1-13


Keeping Sabbath is a discipline that goes much further than honoring workers one day each calendar year. Labor Day is an American invention that does honor all those who work hard to keep our culture running–from farming to manufacturing to transportation and even to all the service industries that are essential to this country’s success.


Yet, keeping a Sabbath on a regular basis is a key factor to how well one manages the daily demands, the weekly workweek, the monthly budgets, and the annual reports.


By practicing a regular Sabbath, God assures us that we will receive the rest we need.  And in Jesus’ words, the rest that we receive will go beyond the earthly work experience.

Keeping a Sabbath day each week is a win-win situation.  It wins on so many different levels in our earthly lives, but it exceed even that with the promise of heavenly rest.


Labor Day needs to remind each one of us the need for weekly Sabbath.  This is one day that all individuals need to stop and evaluate the quality of one’s Sabbath.  All the bosses, the business owners and leaders need to evaluate just how honestly do they value the workers.  Are these industry, business leaders doing all they can to assure workers are provided time for Sabbath.  Rested workers are better equipped to do their best in the work force, too.


Dear Father,

All too easily we rush around in our lives,

     Wearing ourselves way too thin.

As we continue the work week and leave

     Labor Day behind,

Guide us into the practices that grow us

     In Christian fellowship. 

May we find the rest for our daily lives

     As we work to receive heavenly rest with you.

In the name of you, the Father,

      In your son Jesus Christ,

          And in the Holy Spirit, amen.


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Would you . . . Easter scripture, questions and reflections

Luke 23:32-34: The Crucifixion

. . . 32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull,[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[g]

Question A: Would you have been in the crowd?

When work is caught up and a few minutes are left to keep busy, once and a while I will pull out this little book with 1,001 questions to stimulate conversation.

One of the questions this week was: “If you could go back and witness any event in history, what would it have been. The students started listing a few, but I had to fine-tune it a bit—how about a significant world event.

The question hit me that would I want to have seen Jesus on the cross dying. Would I have been in the crowd for the crucifixion? My first reaction was I certainly hope I would not have been there, but then I thought a bit differently.

Consider whether or not you rush to watch something in person or whether you can just hear about it or whether you do not even need to know the details. Just what kind of person would you be?

Would I have been in the crowd? Probably, and I am not proud of my reasoning.

Luke 23:44-49: The Death of Jesus

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[h] And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer[i] overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.[j]48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.[k] 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

Question B: Would you have waited to see him die?

Studying a globe, the latitude for Jerusalem is about 31.80 N and the latitude for Kansas City is 39.10 N. The climate is warmer and it sets off the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern edge.

The difference in the climate would make it likely that viewing a crucifixion would be comfortable, and it was Passover so everybody would have been out at the festival and along the streets. Likely, nobody was staying home or thinking about what had to be done for Sabbath in a day or two.

Sadly, the crucifixion was considered a spectator sport, too. The Roman government may have planned a series of crucifixions simply to entertain all the visiting Jewish people.

All of those factors would affect whether or not one could answer the question of staying until Jesus’ last breath or they took him off the cross. Leaving the body up was the usual procedure.

My answer: I probably would have walked away bored—another unflattering admission.

Luke 23:50-53: The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock.

Question C: Would you have taken Jesus’ body down?

The clock was ticking and Sabbath law said all work had to be done before sundown. Passover was a huge holiday, and there were so many chores to do before nothing else could be done to have the perfect holy holiday.

There are two personality types—often referred to as Mary and Martha based on the New Testament story Jesus used to explain that it was okay to give up the tasks of hospitality to learn at the Masters’ feet. Martha was more worried about getting everything ready and Mary was unmoved from her spot listening to Jesus.

Answering this question has be reflect how well you know yourself. But also, you have to wonder just how positive you would have felt about the identity of Jesus. The Gospel of John states that this man was Joseph of Arimathea who was joined by Nicodemus, the same man who visited Jesus in the night just to interview him first-handed.

These two men risked their personal and professional reputations by requesting permission to take Jesus’ body and to bury it. That takes guts! (And there really is no other way to say it.)

Sadly, my answer would place me as a Martha frantically getting ready for the holiday meal, especially since I could do nothing the next day.

Luke 23:54-56:

. . . 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation,[l] as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

Question D: Would you have simply followed Jewish law?

The government was Roman; the religious laws were Jewish. The Roman government bent to the political pressure exerted by the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Agreeing to try Jesus for a questionable charge, kept the Jewish leaders appeased. The crucifixion was a political way of keeping positive relations between the foreign government and the local residents.

Jesus’ followers kept growing. Social changes were happening, and Jewish people were fighting among themselves. The Roman officials knew the risks. This movement was only three years old, and in the ancient culture that was such a short time it was not a major concern.

Jewish Christians had to battle a crisis of which law was God’s law. Was the Jewish law about honoring Sabbath more important, more lasting than breaking the law and taking care of Jesus’ burial?

Change does not come easily. Answering that question today seems so obvious—break Jewish law and take care of Jesus’ body. But change was too risky yet so that meant keeping the law and being safe.

Luke 24:1-5: The Resurrection

1But very early on Sunday morning[m] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

Question E: Would you have gone to the tomb?

Passover Festival was over. Sabbath was over; and even the crucifixion was over. Sunday morning the sun came up just like it always does. There are hundreds of chores to do just to clean up the mess left from a week of festivities and visitors.

No one has any time to attend to a buried body. Now the message seems to have died, too. Or has it.

The closest women disciples did not forget. They bundled up the ointments, oils, perfumes, and clothes needed to finish a proper burial and went to the tomb.

No reason to run or to hurry. The body was not going anywhere and this was not going to be a pleasant chore. The walk was quiet; there was no reason to be joyful and they were exhausted.

Would I have walked along the path to the tomb? Today, I would have to say no since I know how tired I am after a huge holiday affair. I would want to clean up the mess at home before I did anything else.

Jesus? He died and nothing appears to have changed for the Jewish people even if his message made me feel good.

Luke 24:25-27: The Walk to Emmaus

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Question F: Would you have believed—then or now?

Of course, you say. You believe. But would you have been a believer who was in Jerusalem for Passover, who witnessed the crucifixion, who walked away and observed Sabbath, and then even visited the empty tomb?

Today, the story is captured in print, it has been translated and evaluated word by word.   Scientists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians have provided evidence repeatedly that supports the written word. All this makes the question easier to answer: Do you believe?

Today’s worldwide community has instant communication in visible, in audio and even in print format. Every language can be translated by a few clicks on the computer. Why is it so hard to answer that question?

Would I have believed in the ancient days when Jesus and I lived in real time together? I think so. And as I continued living, I think I would have become even a stronger believer.

But, I also have a few doubts. During the Cold War, I asked myself how strong my faith was. I wondered if I could keep my faith during an interrogation.

Today, my experience leads me to say, “Yes, I believe. I have experienced God’s grace. I have witnessed his miracles. I have received his forgiveness. I know the is life eternal.”

given on Sunday, April 5, 2015

Luke 24:28-34:

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,[p] he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[q]

My answer: Yes, I believe in the mystery of faith. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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Year by Year, Earth Day by Earth Day: Are We Good Stewards?

given on Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day began with the story in Genesis 1:

1-2First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day One.

God created this earth, and it is our responsibility.  Sometimes we forget that.  But God left the instructions very clearly as he ended the sixth day of his creation as recorded in the last verses of Genesis 1:

He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food.
To all animals and all birds,
everything that moves and breathes,
I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
And there it was.

31 God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Six.

Day Six and that leaves the seventh day, a day God said, “Rest.”

Growing up, Dad insisted that on Sunday we rest.  He rested, I thought way too much.  Of course, the Sunday routine was get up, eat breakfast, and get to church.

No time to waste in the morning.  If we did not have any special plans with one of the grandparents, Mom would start a roast in the electric skillet, always adding the potatoes and carrots so everything would be ready when we got back from church.

Sabbath, or Sunday in our culture, was busy until the dinner was cleared from the table and the Sunday paper was opened up.  Dad was soon asleep with the paper in his lap.  He rested.  Mom rested.  My brother and I were to do our homework first, then we could rest.

Very few families follow this Sunday routine today—or at least it does not seem to be the routine.  Many are doing those weekend chores of grocery shopping, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, or whatever other tasks need to be done before going back to work Monday morning.  But while I was growing up, Sunday was a day of rest.  We were farmers, but Sunday was always kept as a day of rest.

Farming has changed though.  Drive through any country road on a Sunday afternoon, it is not surprising to see tractors running in the fields.  Whether it is planting season, or time to cultivate, or harvest time, when is Sabbath?  When is it time for rest?

Preparing for an Earth Day Sunday, looking through the support materials available on line, I found the sermon start on the Global Board of Ministry, “A Time for Rest:  Sabbath and Energy.”  After reading through it, I think it was mis-titled because the topic was the land more than energy:

The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice.

Every seven years the farmers were not to plant and harvest the land.  I had never heard that practice before.  The practice I knew Dad had used was primarily crop rotation.  Three crops, or four if you included a pasture year, were routinely rotated every year.  One field, three and sometimes four years a field was planted, cultivated and harvested with different crops—soybeans, corn, wheat, and clover or fescue for hay.

From Dad’s experience and training, crop rotation was giving the soil a rest.  Each crop drained the soil of certain types of nutrients; other crops replenished it.  At least this is the way I remember it; and I am not an agronomist, my son is.

I do not ever remember any field ever being unattended any one year and certainly not routinely left to rest every seven years.  As I read through the article, I was reminded how important our soil is.  We cannot feed a world if our soil is destroyed.  The article recognizes this concern, but cautions us about what happens if we fail to follow God’s direction:  “But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force.

Today is another year, another Earth Day; and we desperately need to remember the value of rest.  Today’s conservation techniques can work if we use them.  Stewardship of our world is critical and how to manage the soil is just one tiny portion of this world.  Consider the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all the minerals and ores of the inner earth.

Rest may be a key step to preserving our earth and the article provides the reason that rest is a critical component of our Christian responsibility:

. . . learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, and we need to use this Earth Day as a reminder of how Christians are to manage the care of themselves, but also the earth.  Our society has decided that following God’s laws and seeing the world through God’s eyes is not as important as squeezing out as much profit as possible from this earth.

The painful truth is included in the article, too:

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended, we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

The truth hurts.  The careless management of our earth is destroying our soil, but it also is destroying our air, our water, our fauna, even our inner earth riches.  The rest our human bodies needs should tell us that all other living elements of this earth need rest, too.

Dear Creator,

         Hearing the truth can be painful.

         Yet we know that if the earth is to sustain us,

              we need to work to protect it.

         As we rest, let the earth rest, too.

         As we make decisions on soil management,

              remind us of all the earth’s needs.

         When our minds rest and reflect on this earth,

               speak to us so we can find ways to speak out.

         When we hear the news of damaging practices,

               tell us what we should do as stewards of this earth.

         Let us see the world through your eyes;

              so we, too, can rest and echo your words:

              “it was so good, so very good!.”–Amen

Here is the article to which I refer in the sermon:

A Time for Rest:  The Sabbath and Energy

“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power . . .” Deuteronomy 8:17-18

         The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice. It was and remains necessary in order to let the soil replenish its nutrients after growing crops and providing food for six years.

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

Keeping the Sabbath is difficult because it requires trust in God’s providence. (Lev 25:20-21 “Should you ask, ‘what shall we eat in the seventh year if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years.”) In fact, the Israelites did not always keep the Sabbath year either. Trusting that there will be enough food is not easy. This is not just true of food but can also be true of energy production. The idea of a Sabbath year of rest, or even a slow- down, from energy production can also be frightening. But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force (Lev 26:34-35, 43-44, 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). Taking a year off of production would be impractical, and wouldn’t resolve the underlying issues of our energy economy, so it would be a mistake to take the Sabbath year as a prescription for our current situation. However, learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

[Accessed on April 20, 2012 at http://www.umc-gbcs.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=frLJK2PKLqF&b=3079307&content_id={8CDCEEFF-21F0-417A-A0C0-B401852A08A9}&notoc=1]

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