Take Your Sabbath!

This sermon is based on Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.  Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this message at Resurrection on July 22, 2012, the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.


Dear Friends in Christ,


I hope you have your sense of humor with you today at worship.  Here are a few bulletin bloopers that some of you undoubtedly have heard before... 


(one missing letter makes a big difference) Smile today at someone who is hard to love.  Say “hell” to someone who doesn’t care about you.


(one changed letter makes a big difference) The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.


Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.  Please, use the large double door at the side entrance.


Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions.  She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of the pastor’s sermons.


Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa will be speaking tonight at Calvary Memorial Church.  Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.


We need more laughter in our lives and especially in church.  Isn’t it true that taking a little time off from the seriousness of life can be a very good thing?


The sermon today is for busy people, anyone who feels overworked and in need of some down-time to become refreshed and renewed.  Does anyone here fit that description?       (I will be asking worshippers to tell me some of the places they are going this summer that will be renewing and refreshing for them). 


Jesus’s words in today’s gospel were given to his 12 disciples: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  It sounds pretty good to us today and seems to have sounded really good to those disciples.  Why does Jesus offer this invitation?  We’re in the 6th chapter of Mark and the disciples have just recently returned from their mission among the people of Galilee.  Remember they went two by two and preached and taught and did healings?  They are worn out.  Then comes the bad news of the death, by beheading,  of John the Baptist.  And Jesus knew they needed some rest and relaxation.


Psychologists today talk about major stressors in our lives.  They give ratings to these stressors and give warnings if the numbers are too high.  Times of stress can include getting married, losing or changing jobs, having children or hoping to have children, experiencing health problems, the death of a parent, marital problems, and separation because of military assignments.  The disciples and Jesus himself certainly had lots of stressors that they contended with.  Now Jesus is giving them some advice that is ageless and divinely-inspired.


Do you remember the idea of Sabbath rest?  The idea certainly originated in God’s creation of the world in 6 days and his resting on the 7th.  It is one of the 10 Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.”   Wise people ever since, both believers and non-believers, have recognized that having some down-time, some time to put away work and thoughts of work, is good for everyone.  It rejuvenates, refocuses and refreshes. 


So Jesus is being practical as well as faithful.  Come on guys, get in the boat, put away the cell phones and I-pads, push out into the lake where they can’t get to you, tell some stories, know some jokes?, enjoy the cool breeze, take a nap, let’s  do a little fishing.


Did you ever consider how  pastors observe Sabbath rest?  For all practical purposes we work on the official Sabbath.  I told some of you that as a third generation pastor I have no concept of the idea of waking up on a Sunday morning  and thinking: “Do I want to go to church today or sleep in?”  I don’t know what Sunday morning brunches are.  But Mondays are a different matter for Pastor Carol and me.  We look forward to our days off to get refreshed and refocused.  When you are co-pastors and married, you have to work at not working on your days off.  Carol and I have a ritual we often perform on our days off.  We’ll talk a little bit about church and then one of us will say: “It’s time.  The first one to mention the “c” word (that’s church) owes the other $10 and we shake on it.  So far, Carol owes me more that I owe her…


But back to the disciples who are out on the lake as Jesus asked.  The part that is skipped in today’s gospel reading is what took place after they followed his advice.  They arrived at the other shore and the people caught up with them again.  They wanted to hear Jesus and he did not disappoint them.  Then it came time to feed the people and Jesus seems to have forgotten his advice to the disciples about not working.  He said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”  Then the miracle occurs when they find 5 loaves and 2 fish and Jesus blesses them and they are multiplied and the disciples distribute enough to the people so that all are satisfied. 


Then Jesus dismisses the crowd and tells the disciples to get back in that boat and go out into the lake once more.  He goes off to pray and in the evening he wants to join them but they are out in the lake, fighting a wind, and so he decides to walk out to them.  As is so often true in Mark’s gospel, these disciples who had just seen the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 are mystified by Jesus walking on the water.  Mark explains that “their hearts were hardened.”  In other words, they did not really appreciate who Jesus was, and would not until after the Resurrection.


Now we come to the second part of today’s assigned gospel reading.  We note that the disciples are not even mentioned here.  They are there, but the focus is on Jesus.  People believed in him and he went about preaching and healing the sick.  Mark ends our gospel reading today with these words: “They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”  The most amazing thing occurred in the lives of the disciples who were watching.  When the focus is on Jesus and what Jesus can do, they found themselves amazingly re-invigorated.  They forgot about how tired they were and instead marveled at the greatness of their God and the presence of Jesus who had chosen them as his disciples.


How do you find true refreshment and refocus in life?   Could rightly observing Sabbath rest be something you need in your life?   Some people hear Sabbath rest and think of sleeping in or being a couch potato or doing nothing.  Other people hear Sabbath rest and think it only means worship and Bible study.  Other people hear Sabbath or Sunday and think: Day off!  I can do whatever I want!  As people of faith in the 21st century, we need to adapt our  observance of Sabbath rest to what is realistic, while still being true to the essence of God highly recommends for our welfare.


Let me end this sermon with  ways you and I might do this:


·         Do worship every Sunday and be with the community of faith; if every once in awhile

you take a Sunday off, I think the Lord will be understanding.  May I suggest you can still be in prayer some time on that Sunday off?


·         If you work on Sunday, you still need your Sabbath rest.  Pastor Carol and I do that on

Mondays.  It may be that you can still worship on Sundays but will need to find another day to relax.


·         Consider what happened with the disciples…Be open to seeing God at work in your everyday life and further participate in reaching out and helping people.  You might just find this to be the greatest way to be renewed and refreshed and in love with life.


·         Maybe this is what Jesus really meant when he said, “Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

Thanks be to God.  Amen!