THE MIRACLE; RESTING with GOD
Ezekiel 20: 3 & 18-22
MARK 2: 23-28
I recently read online a letter from a mother to her 18 year old son. There were not a lot of details to her message. However she begins by sharing “my son told me that we have different philosophies on life.”
Those of us who have passed through our teen years and those of us who as parents have had children go through their teen years can probably relate to that simple statement. A parent and a child … a teenager seeking to make their own mark on the world disagreeing … “different philosophies on life.” I remember the challenges I had with dad in particular as I turned 16 … then 17 … 18 and I am not quite sure at what age dad and I once again because close friends but he never ever stopped being my father.
This woman decided to write her son a letter in which she shared “her philosophy of life.” She talked about a work ethic … being moral in all aspects of life. To be positive and she wrote “be positive in what you put out in the world because that is what you receive back. Be kind to people and always be there for family and friends. Expand your horizons. Be fair; surround yourself with exceptional people and be responsible for your own actions. Don’t judge others and try to see the best in everyone. Enjoy the beauty of nature and the entire world.”
As I read this and considered what the prophet Ezekiel wrote … sharing God’s message THE LORD GOD proclaims.
Humanity it seems throughout its history has had an awareness of some things and many have been aware of most things that THE LORD GOD proclaims but we become like rebellious, anxious, energized teens who all too quickly have other priorities. It wasn’t too many years ago that the phrase “do you own thing” was coined and it is clear if we surveyed the all too empty churches just in Gloucester County New Jersey for us to realize that a significant percentage of our neighbors have decided that “doing their own thing” on Sunday mornings matters much more than to being with friends or even strangers in a place designed to worship the Creator, the Almighty God, the Alpha and Omega … Jesus the Christ … to pause to take in the gift of God’s loving and directing Holy Spirit.
As you hear the words of the prophet it is important to remember that we are experiencing God’s message not some ALT FACT MEME posted to Facebook or Twitter. As we read the Gospel message we are hearing Jesus Christ who came to clarify the message that God the Father; the complete God … wanted humanity to understand.
Now, the beginning of what you heard from Ezekiel this morning might seem to contradict the message of that mom for her teenage son. God declares, “Don’t follow your parents’ regulations or observe their case laws or become defiled by their idols. I am the LORD your GOD!”
As I read this Scripture lesson over and over this week I wondered whether I had tossed those words at dad in rebellion … I don’t have to listen you dad but what God is trying to drive home through Ezekiel is what I consider a miracle of life for those who believe. We are not of the world … even if we have a family life that is incomplete or harmful. We are not of the world even if our neighbors hate us and condemn us. We are not of the world even if the world arrests us or worse. We belong to the Creator and its God’s rule, God’s regulations, and God’s message that we are to follow and then my friends I believe we can find rest with God.
When Jesus taught, “You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love me more than you love your own life.” He was not saying reject your family but what the Son of God, our Savior, Lord and Master was saying that God had developed this incredibly easy way to discover a life that is focused, joy-filled, and blessed with personal peace even in the middle of the storm. But, it requires us to push aside the world … not be locked into parentalism, nationalism, or any other ism but to be the people of faith who are known for our love built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ who came to teach, died for our sins, to leave the grave behind, to rise up into heaven and who will be coming back again to establish God’s Kingdom. Last week’s message talked about how we are the cornerstone of God’s church in this world but friends it means we have to be willing to accept the miracle of God’s love … and that means resting with God not with the world.
TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY … speak oft with thy Lord. Abide in him always and feed on His Word.
There was a time when every neighborhood would witness families moving from drive way to highway to church parking lot to worship the Almighty and experience the Holy. Those who did not choose a Sunday morning destination were the exception not the rule but today …. Today, we sleep in … trudge to youth sporting fields and the concept of resting with the Creator has been overcome with stress-filled calendars or focused attention to aligning with the world’s chatter.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus once again experiences the rule setting Pharisees. To those religious leaders it was more important to be held in judgment to their rules rather than to even hear Jesus. They were wrapped up in noticing who was not following their rule book and who followed those in power rather than in experiencing God.
This short reading from Mark is followed by Jesus healing including his healing on the Sabbath, which again the rule setters were quick to condemn because it violated what they were about even though it was God whose healing Jesus administered. He healed evil spirits … he brought love … and friends, his death on the cross was the ultimate miracle for you and me. Our sins are forgiven if we are in that right relationship with God. God’s love poured out to us through God’s Son.
But, Jesus was teaching something very important in the few verses that Mike read this morning from Mark’s Gospel. It is a lesson that impacts you and me in our relationship with God. And, as it always is with God … we have the power of choice. We have the ability to use our free will to abide with God or to … well, listen again to Jesus.
“The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath. This is why Jesus is Lord even over the Sabbath.”
God chose to offer humanity a 1 in 7 opportunity to put aside their world focus; our overburdened lives linked to the stuff out there. God created the Sabbath for us to rest with God.
The prophet Ezekiel shares God’s command and frustration. Again, listen as Ezekiel proclaims “This is what the Lord God says, “Make my Sabbaths holy, and let them be a sign between us that I am the Lord your God.”
Over the hills outside of Bethlehem God provided a sign to the shepherds … a star over a run-down stable …. Where a family had come to a place they were not from … a baby being born … the cries in the stable. The baby growing up and fulfilling prophecy; the young man healing and teaching … you know the rest of the story.
But the Sabbath … God declares “Make my Sabbaths holy and let them be a sign between us that I am the Lord your God.” A sign between God and us but I would argue a sign between believers and the world because if we don’t worship and give up time to the Holy then what is the world to think … if we don’t fill our churches with kids then what is our faith mission … God states that God “restrained myself” rather than pouring out wrath and anger against those not honoring the Sabbath so that God’s “name wouldn’t be diminished in the sight of the nations.”
It’s a choice children of God … worship; the singing of praises; the opening of our hearts here in church to the Holy Spirit … the pushing aside of the world for the sake of our connection gives us an opportunity to rest with the Holy. To refresh our relationship with Jesus and yes, to demonstrate to the world that we have something more than the world can give …
So, as we move forward in our days whether we are here in this beautiful church or watching online through Facebook or our website … are we ready to use our Sabbaths as days to focus on God on Jesus and to allow the Holy Spirit in?
Or, like the teenage son of the woman who wrote the letter online … are we valuing our philosophies as being the ones that matter. Are we wrapped up in our busy time in a way that hides the Lord God’s peacefulness in our lives from our neighbors, friends, and family. Do they know … is there a sign of your relationship with the Holy?
And, are you ready to shine the light on what this place can mean in the lives of children, adults, and even adolescents like us?
This is what the Lord God says, “Make my Sabbaths Holy, and let them be a sign between us that I am the Lord your God.”
Celebrate God’s love … Jesus’ salvation and the Spirit’s guidance. Be a people blessed through your rest with God. Keep leaning on the everlasting arms of God.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: