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Wed, Mar 29, 2017

Delight


Duration:8 mins 35 secs

On Ash Wednesday we began our Lenten journey around the theme “Living the Sabbath” by talking about grace and how we need to open our hearts and hands to receive if we are going to experience God’s grace. In our second service, Tim Owings invited us to live the Sabbath by sitting down, by stopping our work and busyness, so that we might be fed by the Lord. The third week we were invited to know the freedom of the Lord by laying down any and all burdens which prevent us from being the children of God we are created to be. Last week, we considered how “Living the Sabbath” introduces us to a life of gratitude. We might be grateful every moment for “it could have been otherwise.”

This evening we take a final step along this journey of “Living the Sabbath,” this time into the practice of delight. First hear about Jesus’ visit to his hometown and teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. He reads from the prophet Isaiah and presents a particular vision for living the Sabbath, including “the year of the Lord’s favor” which is an Extreme Sabbath which we will come back to on Maundy Thursday.

Luke 4:14-21
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Special Music

Here also these words from Isaiah 58:13-14.
13 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;[a]
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

There was once a preacher who decided that a visual illustration would add emphasis to his Sunday sermon. So, at the beginning of the sermon he placed four worms into four separate jars.

The first worm was dropped into a container of alcohol.
The second worm was placed into a container with a lit cigarette and filled with smoke.
The third worm was put into a container of chocolate syrup.
The fourth and final worm was placed into a container of good, clean soil.

Then the minister preached his heart out and went on for quite some time. At the conclusion of the sermon, he picked up each jar in turn and reported the results:

The first worm in alcohol – dead
The second worm in cigarette smoke – dead
The third worm in chocolate syrup – dead
The fourth worm in the good, clean soil – alive and thriving

So the preacher asked his congregation, “What did you learn from this demonstration?” From the back he saw a hand go up quickly and he heard, “As long as you drink, smoke, and eat chocolate, you won’t have worms!”

And ... that pretty much ended the service!

Now there are some in the Christian family who would frown on me telling jokes like that during the season of Lent. Not to say anything poorly about our brothers and sisters in faith, but part of their tradition is to “bury the Alleluias” during Lent. Alleluia is a word that they just don’t say from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Lent is not a season for celebration and delight.

If you add on top of the season of Lent that we here at Reid Memorial are talking about living the Sabbath, you get a double whammy of seriousness. For the Sabbath is not a day for frivolity and laughter, right? I was once talking with an older congregation member in another place about how her family observed the Sabbath when she was young. She told me that in her house on Sundays, there was strict Sabbath observance to the point that it was ok for her to cut out paper dolls from the newspaper, but she was not allowed to play with them. Yes, the Sabbath is not a time for jokes and play and delight – it is a serious day, a day for quiet and reflection, a day for worship and contemplation.

Or is it?

It seems that Jesus presents a different version of the Sabbath. Over the course of this series, we have seen Jesus heal on the Sabbath and promote freedom from bondage on the Sabbath, all leading to spontaneous declarations of praise and glory to God. We might even say Jesus encourages shouts of Alleluia!

The prophet Isaiah makes it even more explicit in the few verses we read a moment ago. Hear those verses again:

13 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;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

If you live the Sabbath, if you call it a delight and not a burden, if you stop running all over it in your own attempts to be righteous, then you shall take delight in the Lord. And the image next is amazing: you will ride upon the heights of the earth; you will soar with the eagles in the sky, and be fed by the Lord as a mother bird feeds her young.

Can you even imagine that – living the Sabbath not as a burden but a delight, not sitting quietly looking at paper dolls you cannot play with, but soaring through the sky like an eagle? One of our family’s favorite rides at Disney World is an attraction at Epcot called “Soaring.” When it is your turn to enter the theatre and seated with a shoulder harness. As the ride begins, your car is picked up in the air and your feet dangle free. A huge screen appears in front of you and begins to show a movie which gives every impression that you are flying over various parts of California. In order to heighten the experience, as you dip down near the ocean sprits of water hit your face; when you soar over orange groves it actually smells like oranges. It is a truly amazing experience because you really feel like you are “soaring.”

That is what living the Sabbath is like, calling it a delight, soaring with the eagles. To live the Sabbath is to be ready, at any moment for delight and joy; to be prepared to burst out with an Alleluia even in the middle of Lent. Theologian Karl Barth puts it this way:

In respect for life [the Christian] … is ready, then, not merely to hurry on with his own work, but to pause in gratitude for what life really is as the gift of God before and after and over all his own works. To this extent joy has an affinity with what we earlier described as the holy day that interrupts, concludes, and above all initiates the working week. And the readiness for joy might in this sense be regarded as merely an application of the Sabbath commandment.

So my friends, live the Sabbath as a delight. Pause in gratitude for the gift. Shout Alleluia from the rooftops and laugh. Take a walk, no not a walk – a stroll, without trying to actually get anywhere. Play a board game with your kids or your grandchildren. Set aside time for “purposeless” enjoyment and delight. Yes, don’t hurry back to the work and toils of the day – taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

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