Lectionary 9 B

One of the geekier moments this week: a citation in an editorial insert in a quote in a footnote! And some stuff about our nature and God’s knowledge and sabbath.

Semicontinuous Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
-- Psalm 139:14-16

Verses 14 thru 16  are quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 1: Original Sin (SD 1.36) as part of the scriptural evidence "that even after the fall [human nature] remains the creature and work of God" (SD 1.34).

Verse 16 is quoted a bit later in Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.4) as part of the scriptural evidence that God know everything that has, is, or will happen, for God exists outside of time since God created time. This is called God's foreknowledge, and is different that predestination.

Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
-- Mark 2:23-28
They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
-- Mark 3:2-4

Chapter 2:23-28 and Chapter 3:2-4 are cited in a footnote to The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments: The Third Commandment (LC 1.81, n. 63) as one of several places in the gospels where this commandment was weaponized against Jesus, despite the ways the religious leaders of the day also broke this commandment.

Chapter 3:2 is cited by editorial insert in a quote from Luther in a footnote in the same area of The Large Catechism (LC 1.84, n. 66). Enjoy the minutia! The Luther quote is from Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments (LW 40:98) as Luther presents his meaning of this commandment. The point is not rest simply for the sake of resting, but taking sabbath--intentional time set a side to gather for hearing God's word, thanking God, and praying to God as a congregation. This can be done on any day, and Luther would have it be done every day. Rest, however, is taken as needed rather than legislated.


I don't know if you wrestle with the difference between Luther's understanding of keeping the sabbath day holy and the modern argument for more time off. The religiously legislated time off that has led to creation of sabbath settings in modern appliances might overlap with Luther's idea that the commandment to honor the sabbath day is about intentionally spending time in God's presence, but they could also be entirely opposite.

Luther makes the argument that rest is not actually the point of the  third commandment because all creatures will naturally rest as they need to. Rather, sabbath is about intentionally and gladly dwelling in God’s word together. This sabbath is not about physical, mental, or even spiritual recuperation, but intentionally spending time with God and others.

Not that rest is a bad thing, but if all creatures experience rest simply because they are creatures, then the commandment about sabbath is not the same. Why? As Jesus tells us, sabbath was made for us; we were not made for the sabbath.

Rest will inevitably happen as exhaustion wins out. But gathering to dwell with God’s word and others—sabbath—does not inevitably happen. 

True, technology has made the resting of religiously legislated time off more manageable, and this time off might be spent dwelling with God and others, but there’s no garuntee. As we’re getting into summer and vacation, how many congregations will see a decline in weekly attendance? How many of us go to church when we’re on vacation? How many of us embrace any excuse to miss church?   Are we looking to the rest that all creatures experience at the expense of the sabbath that God gave us?