Elizabeth’s sermon preached on Aug. 21, 2022

Posted by on Sun, Aug 21, 2022 in Season after Pentecost, Sermons

The 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Aug. 21, 2022

Hello, my name is Elizabeth Holland, the ministry intern here at St. Michaels and All Angels and an aspirant in the Episcopal Church. Welcome to all who have gathered online and in person.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus’ healing is criticized because he was “working” on the Sabbath. As we recall from Isaiah’s passage, “If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord.” It seems that the Sabbath is an important theme in today’s readings.

Taking time to rest, to delight in the Lord, and to do God’s work is an integral part of who we are as Christians.

In todays’ society it is easy to get caught in the web of the “time is money” mindset and it can be jarring when you are faced with an unintentional rest.

My sister, Jannie, and I took a road trip from Seattle to Florida this past winter. While we were in Utah, we saw so many amazing sightseeing opportunities like dinosaur attractions, museums, and aquariums. However, we discovered that they were all closed because we drove through Utah on a Sunday.

 As someone who is used to being able to go and experience pretty much anything on any given day, it was a culture shock to have so many businesses closed.

Jewish and Christian traditions all recognize and celebrate the Sabbath in different ways. America was founded on these Christian traditions and for many years, businesses across the country were closed on weekends, especially Sundays, to ensure people had time with their families and the Lord.

Though times have changed, there are still many places that do not work on Sundays.

Why are we supposed to celebrate the Sabbath? What is so important about this day that a synagogue leader would become angry with Jesus for healing on the Sabbath?

Abraham Joshua Heschel states: “… on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation…” (“The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. p 10)

The Sabbath is a foundational pillar of faith, straight from the 10 commandments. The eighth commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

This was clearly an important commandment. Most of the commandments have one sentence, but this one has an additional long explanation.

What does “work” mean in this commandment? Can we garden, repair a wall, cook, help a friend, and so on?

I can imagine people going up to their Rabbi’s and asking, “Can I do this or that on the Sabbath?”

And because we humans like things to be clearly laid out, the rabbis met, discussed, and then came back with a whole list of work that was not acceptable for the Sabbath. These were an interpretation of what they thought God meant, but eventually were taken as if they were   the commandments.  From our Gospel reading, we see how the interpretation of the commandment draws the focus of the Sabbath from God to following rules, and limits our abilities to do God’s work, especially on this Holy day.

The Sabbath is a day to rest and be re-filled by God, to look to him and reorient yourself back to God. Sometimes we are called to take action on our Sabbath, this may be in the form of caring for a loved one, gardening, meeting an old friend for lunch, or going to “A Holy Waste of Time” retreat, which I just came back from this morning.

Of course Jesus heals the woman on the sabbath. She is in pain and he is doing God’s work. God never stops listening to our prayers, to our thanksgivings, to our angry cries and our joyful laughter. He is always here, waiting for us to stop and rest.

There have been times when I have been so busy, I forgot to take a day to convene with God. It happens, and I am now more intentional about setting aside time and space for God. Sometimes I am with family, other times I am praying, sometimes I am volunteering my time, others still I am rocking out to music in the car. Intentional pause, praise and worship, and doing God’s work are all ways to celebrate your faith and share God’s love.

So, with todays 24/7 society that we live and work in, whether your Sabbath is a Sunday, Tuesday, or Saturday, or maybe just a few hours intentionally carved out in the week, breathe, turn to rest in God, and do our Lords’ work with thanksgiving.

If you only have a moment, there is always prayer. O God, you have created all that I am and given me the abilities to do your work. Let me enjoy the gift of the Sabbath and find comfort and peace, even if only for a minute. Amen.

© 2022 Elizabeth Holland. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.