Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning I wish to begin by telling the story of a young women in the 19th Century named Rachel Oakes Preston who set the foundation for a new church body to come together. Oakes Preston one day was studying the scriptures. When she came to a conclusion that the entire Christian Church had been disobeying the Third Commandment “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”
Oakes Preston came to the realization that when Moses was given the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath was Saturday not Sunday.
This is why if one were to go to a Jewish Synagogue they have Friday night services. The reason for this is Jews consider the day of rest to be from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday or the 7th day of the week.
Rachel Oakes Preston soon found a group of followers who agreed with her conclusion and soon the Seventh Day Adventists were born. The defining mark of Seventh Day Adventists is how rigidly they hold to Saturday as the holy day of the week.
For example, about twenty-five years ago, The New York Times told the story of a high school football player named Mo Edwards. What made Edwards different from his teammates is that he would practice with them all week, but never play in the games. The issue was not that Edwards wasn’t a good player. Edwards was such a good athlete he would eventually receive a Division One Track and Field Scholarship. Edwards would have been one of the team’s star players had he suited up. Only Edwards refused to play because his Adventist faith considered playing in Football games on Saturday a form of idolatry.
For not only will Seventh Day Adventists not play football on Saturday, they won’t shop, work secular jobs, or participate in various forms of entertainment. The Seventh Day Adventists take the Sabbath so seriously it’s not uncommon for them to spend the Sabbath in services for up to twelve hours.
So, the beliefs of the Seventh Day Adventists challenge us to explore what we believe and practice about the Sabbath. Are we disobeying the Sabbath by using it as an excuse to shop, attend movies, or play golf? Was my Dad right when I was in Middle School and High School when he said “If I was not going to be in Church then I would not be allowed to watch the Vikings play”? Is it wrong to have Church on a Sunday as opposed to Saturday? Are we disobeying the Third Commandment here this morning?
The answer to this question boils down to what we understand the purpose of the Ten Commandments to be.
If we understand the Ten Commandments to be a test of our salvation as many do, then we are failing in these regards.
This brings us to today’s Gospel lesson from Luke 13 in which Jesus challenges many of assumptions about the purpose of the Sabbath.
The Gospel lesson begins with Jesus teaching in a synagogue, when a woman approached him with a hunchback and she had this affliction for eighteen years. As soon as Jesus sees this woman’s pain and suffering, he called her over to him. Jesus placed his hands on her and freed her from her disability. This woman then went on her way, glorifying and praising God.
This healing by Jesus though was not an event that was to be universally praised. This encounter greatly troubled the rulers of the synagogue, where he was teaching. These men clamored “How dare Jesus break the Third Commandment by healing this woman on the Sabbath”. They figured he could have just as easily healed her any other day of the week.
As soon as Jesus heard this belly aching, he sought to use it as a teaching opportunity. Jesus sought to illustrate the true purpose of the Sabbath. Jesus reminded that in attendance how “no one is able to keep to Sabbath either literally or perfectly.
As an example to illustrate his point, Jesus asked those in attendance “Do you not untie your ox or donkey from the manager and lead it to water on the Sabbath?” Jesus expresses how one could argue that any form of exertion on the Sabbath violates the principle of the Sabbath being a day of rest. Jesus’ point being simply, that it’s impossible to keep the Sabbath as some understand it.
What Jesus was seeking to point out that in his encounter with the hunchback woman a greater good was being served then the Third Commandment, the good of one’s neighbor who had been suffering for eighteen long years.
Jesus whole point to those in attendance was to illustrate the reason that the Ten Commandments were given. How the Ten Commandments were not given as a set of demands for worship, rather the Ten Commandments were given for the sake of ourselves and the world around us. So, therefore we should worry more about the spirit of the law (protecting humanity) rather than the letter of the law (our ability to keep them).
Let me give another example how these principles apply by talking about the Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill”. A while back I was visiting someone in their home. When I go see people whatever topic that is on their mind that day tends to come up whether it is Baseball, Cooking, Weather, or Politics. This gentleman started talking about the Iraq War to voice his opposition when he mouthed the words, “What part of Thou Shall Not Kill do people not understand?” This raises the question of are we as Lutherans hypocrites for believing that Military service can be a proper expression of vocation in God’s kingdom? Did not Jesus say “Whoever lives by the sword dies by the sword” ?
I think as we look at the issue of serving in the Military we need to recognize an inherent tension. The tension between placing ourselves as a judge, jury, and executioner before our neighbors against the tension of being confronted by forces that seeks to take innocent life. We fight the tension between life being regarded as casual against life being regarded as sacred.
For example, in the 3rd chapter of Luke, a Roman solider or Centurion approaches John the Baptist and asks “What must I do to inherit Eternal Life?” John the Baptist’s answer was not to tell this young man to give up his profession of soldiering rather John’s answer was “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your wages.”
In the 13th Chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul describes governments as having the right to use force as a way to preserve and protect from all evil.
For Paul and John the Baptist knew that our ethical choices are often much more complex than whether an action is good or bad. No one who has ever served in the Military would describe having to take another life as the type of thing that should be celebrated. Pulling a trigger is a sad reality of conflict brought forth over human sin. We must never be numb to the costs of war, yet we must acknowledge that sometimes the cost of action is less than the cost of inaction.
A final example to look would be the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery”.
A few years ago, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who is a pastor down in Iowa. He had been studying the scriptures about divorce and marriage which led him to a couple different conclusions. The first conclusion was that divorce should only be allowed in cases of adultery. The second conclusion was that remarriage should only be allowed after one’s spouse has died. He stated that if we believed anything else then we violated the Sixth Commandment.
These beliefs this pastor held are nothing new. Plenty of churches hold similar positions about divorce. When I came across this e-mail, I had to point out how I did not agree with his conclusions. My point was that he had a fundamental misunderstanding of the Ten Commandments.
1. Do we understand the Ten Commandments as our response to God or do we understand the Ten Commandment’s as God’s response to protect us from human sin?
2. The reason, Jesus speaks of divorce being allowed in Mark 10 is simple, “Because people’s hearts were hard”. Jesus point is broken relationships are a byproduct of human sin.
For no one would ever celebrate a divorce or claim for the circumstances behind it to be anything, but painful for one’s self and one’s children. No would ever say that one should not strive to go to the very ends of the Earth to see to it that a marriage works.
So, when we answer the question of whether to allow divorce it’s more complicated then whether divorce is good or bad? The divorce question boils down to the same principles affecting Jesus as he healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath. The principle of what is best for my neighbor and the world around me.
For often times through reasons of physical or verbal abuse, adultery, or general human conflict, the answers to divorce are going to be highly complex. Just as the question of whether to use military force are more complex, then whether killing is bad or good.
These questions all boil down to how we understand the Ten Commandments. Do we understand them as God’s test for us to take? Or do we view the Ten Commandments as a way to protect ourselves from the worst of our instincts? Are we ruled by Law? Or are we ruled by Grace? Do the Ten Commandments forbid us from understanding a variety of ethical situations in a broader sense then simple black and white terms? The answer for today’s Gospel text from Luke 13 seems to be no.
Why do we as Christian people worship on Sunday as opposed to Saturday? The answer is because while Jesus rested on Saturday, it was on Sunday that he did his greatest deed in overcoming the power of sin by his resurrection.
We meet on the first day of the week as opposed to the last, so worship may serve as an opportunity for rebirth. We gather as an opportunity to begin your week by hearing about the forgiveness of sins in a world that is continually unforgiving. We worship on Sunday as a weekly anniversary that our victory has already been won, so we may now be set free be his in not only this life, but the next. Amen
 Exodus 20:8
 Cavanaugh, Jack. “Athlete Picks Worship over Glory.” New York Times 5 Jul. 1987: Online
 Luke 13:11
 Luke 13:12
 Luke 13:13
 Luke 13:14
 Luke 13:15
 Luke 13:16
 Exodus 20:13
 Matthew 26:52
 Luke 3:14
 Romans 13:1-7
 Exodus 20:14
 Mark 10:5