Deuteronomy 5: 12-15
MARK 2: 23-3:6

March 7, 2021 – SEASON of LENT

This morning finds my mind wrapped up in numerous songs from my memory bank and I just want to sing … perhaps because I am also considering a more challenging question and it is focused on where I am standing … a place of worship; a location where I can tune out the world to focus on God who created the universe and whose love gave us Jesus. Music pulls me out of my funks with regularity … music lifts my soul when I am down … but at the end of the day it is my God who rescues me. “Joy to the world the Lord has come … let earth receive her king.”

This is the first Sunday morning in March in the year 2021. A day … a moment in time when we will go to the Lord’s Table and I am again wondering why we limit ourselves to mere moments … I am questioning the limitations on the Holy Table, which find United Methodists amongst many other Protestant denominations which have established on their church calendars only the first Sunday of the month for Communion. Did they think we should only be hungry for the Sacrament once a month? That when Jesus said ‘when you gather … have this meal’ meant just once a month?

Of course I have heard the voices … ‘And, pastor please move us along quickly because we have things to do and places to go even in this time of pandemic. Don’t ever push that hour limit because breakfast-out awaits and a friend just mentioned a new series on Netflix to binge watch and after all it’s Sunday there’s sports on TV … and there are things to do, places to go, television to binge … oh wait, I already mentioned those priorities didn’t I? And, Pastor, can you reduce your message on Communion Sunday’s so we can get through it all quickly?

We heard this morning from the Scripture of God, at least as good practicing Christians we do identify this book as the Scripture of our faith; our Holy Book and the source for what we claim connects us to the Creator, don’t we? You and I heard the declaration from the Torah, which is actually recorded in more than one location in our Bibles but this morning’s reading was from the book of Deuteronomy which declares, “KEEP THE SABBATH DAY and TREAT IT AS HOLY!” Do you? … Do I? … Treat any day of the week including Sunday’s as “holy”? Can you identify any days from any month of the year that you have set aside exclusively as holy? Or even just one day all 24 hours of it just one day of the year as a HOLY DAY for you to consider God? Get closer? Worship?

Easter … we have to get our candy don’t we …. Christmas, well forget Christmas Day too many presents and things to eat; I do miss Christmas cookies by the way …. Christmas Eve, well that’s when we get ready for Christmas Day’s present openings and our planned journey’s to be with family or family coming over on Christmas Day but please a nice short service of less than an hour with the lighting of candles for Silent Night LESS THAN AN HOUR PLEASE it’s Christmas Eve after all and there are things to do … Good Friday NAH …. Maundy Thursday forget about it … Palm Sunday … not really.

Out of the 365 days of the year I have a real question that is bothering me about me and I hope it might start bothering you about you … THE LORD GOD COMMANDED ….that’s the BIG GUY/GAL who weaved together the universe if you happened to be amongst many who only casually consider God most days … GOD COMMANDED … “Keep the Sabbath Day and treat it as holy.” And, friends God didn’t mean that you keep it WHOLLY W-H-O-L-L-Y for yourselves but we are to treat those days (And, they are plural days not just one day) as H-O-L-Y for God because we believe. And, because the God we believe in … more powerful than any of us and more loving than any of us … commands us to do it. But, we don’t like obeying do we?

You see, in this season of Lent particularly but truthfully year round … if people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ cannot afford the time investment to set aside days in the year … hours in the schedule for God as the Bible teaches us to do … then why should non-believers think we buy into what we say we believe in?

The season of Lent offers us 40 calendar days to invest in setting our faith on the right path even as we avoid chocolates or other things we “give up” until Easter’s incredible feast of the given up stuff; that is what Easter is all about right? The stuff we gave up for 40 days … Or do we remember HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> by connecting with God that day and making EASTER HOLY?

I am troubled these days by all those who have abandoned the church … they find readily available excuses … the pastor is not perfect; by the way if you haven’t noticed I am a man with many faults … they do get pointed out to me regularly, even more shortcomings and in fact I am a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness perhaps more than most of you. The church abandoners … you see they at one time might have stepped inside a church but now have left it aside for their Sunday morning binging and brunches and youth sports leagues … these people have noticed the politically focused church leaders on TV who align themselves with causes that only enhance their own power and wealth busily creating rules that come from their minds often contradicting Jesus … rules from their masters in the world just like the Pharisees did and so many of our neighbors, friends and family members avoid church especially young people with children.

Perhaps they look to their friends and family members who still belong to churches but choose not to become mission focused … who skip more weeks of worship than attend worship services and on those skipped weeks perhaps God is abandoned completely … they notice church attenders whose priorities include mocking those they disagree with rather than loving all as their Jesus insisted and just how many children see their parents reading a Bible on the sofa at night? Finding a quiet corner to pray in by themselves? Getting excited about spending time in church even virtually? Do they ever notice extra joy and less fear from those who still are aligned with church?

Jesus declared “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans were not created for the Sabbath.” So, I believe one of the changes we each need to make during this season of Lent is reassessing how we worship … are we comfortable shouting hosannas to God … do we bow down in homage to the Creator … do we find an urgency to sing the hymns … I so hope you are singing and praying at home with us today BTW.

Yes, I am challenged but one song that keeps coming back to my mind today is ‘LORD PREPARE ME to be a SANCTUARY. Pure and holy tried and true. With Thanksgiving I’ll be a living SANCTUARY for you.’

Friends, we are the ones on this day, when we celebrate one of the Sacraments of the church, who can bring about change but it must begin with each of us. I truly believe that when we set aside time for God …. When we get excited about raising Hosanna’s with our voices praising the Holy Creator of all things whose love brought Jesus to us that we will be lifted higher … we will feel better about life and we will make a difference in the world!

We heard Jesus declare to those power-focused rule setters, the Pharisees … “When David was in need; when David was hungry … David went into God’s House and ate the Holy bread and he gave the bread to those who were with him.” And, God’s love shone through them … they were made better and revitalized, reenergized, and were living testimonies to what God can do for those of us walking this earth as humans in need for forgiveness, direction and love … in other words we need God. We need Christ! We need the Holy Spirit!

But, we need to be willing to be the living Sanctuary for God on this earth when we leave our time of worship … we need to celebrate our time with God but then we need to show our joy in our faith throughout the week … we need to find rest from the world in our faithwalk through our songs of faith, through our prayer, and through God’s Word. But we also need to set the world aside … so God can be our focus blocking the text messages and emails instead becoming still in the presence of God and the Holy Spirit and through the stillness we can find our peace and we will be taken higher by God because our priorities will be put in the right order. And, others will notice … they notice when we change; when we no longer mock our neighbors choosing instead to love them. When our use of the language no longer includes using childish names as put downs and when we stand up for justice for all not just our side.

When we start to truly give God the quality time God asks us to give up God will take us higher … God will make us the children in God’s family and others will notice.

Jackie Wilson’s song is so fitting in these moments of contemplation of where you and I can be going from these moments forward. I can relate them to prepare me to become a Sanctuary … if you are old enough I hope you know the song “Your love, liftin’ me higher than I’ve ever been lifted before. So, keep it up, quench my desire and I’ll be at your side forevermore.”

Jesus returned to the synagogue … He was being watched by the rule setters who stood against justice and who insisted their way was the only way … their rules wanted to limit God’s power … Jesus love and healing power was something they wanted to be in control of by laying down their rules … those folks are out there today trying to destroy churches where God is worshiped for all.

Today we come to the Table of the Lord virtually so wherever you are this morning you can share … we will be letting God’s power work … God’s love to embrace and touch us all rather than allowing human rule setters declare that humans must decide who takes Communion. I have always celebrated the United Methodist Church’s love for all because we declare the Table of the Lord is for all … worship is for all … those attempting to restrict worship to only those like them are doing exactly what the Pharisees did … they watched Jesus and then wanted to charge Jesus … wanted to arrest Jesus for showcasing God’s love … a love worthy of our bowing down to God; shouting Hosanna’s to God and giving up Netflix for the sake of our faith … don’t worry you can still watch Netflix at other times.

Jesus saw the man with the withered hand and he said to the man, “step up to where people can see you … STEP UP as you experience God’s love … STEP UP MAKE LOVING AND WORSHIPING GOD TRULY MATTER … Jesus said, ‘STEP UP WHERE THE PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU” “Is it legal to do good on the Sabbath? Is it legal to save lives on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees wanted to bring Jesus down … but it is through the Sabbath that we are healed … it is through the Sabbath that we can bring the Light that saves lives … and the man was made healthy.

We are in the season of Lent … a time of repentance, a time to reenergize our faith … a time of revival. Are you willing to begin to let God take you higher and higher through God’s love by returning your love to God? Are you willing to let the world see that you have been made healthy through your worship and praise of God … WILL YOU STEP UP WHERE PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU … STEP UP HIGHER AND HIGHER in GOD’s LOVE showcasing God’s love in all that you do and say and write?

God does love you … we come to the table knowing God is willing to forgive our sins! God will even forgive a sinner like me. God’s healing love is available for all … how much longer can we hide the joy we get from God’s love?

PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART … and the world will be a better place! God certainly has shown incredible love for all humans … it’s time we give some love back.

The Lord God has commanded … KEEP THE SABBATH DAY and TREAT IT AS HOLY!”


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