Thursday, July 14, 2011
One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying 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 was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 2:23-3:6
We live in a vacation town and by the looks of it, folks who come on vacation have no idea that anyone really lives here. Some of them bring piles of things with them from home, to make their vacation experience more like home. Some carry tons of things on big carts onto the beach, as if the beach alone were not enough for them. Most are trying to get the very most out of a vacation. They need a respite and almost push themselves to the brink, trying to run, bike, surf, drink, party - you name it - every minute until it is time to go home. They have clear expectations for what a vacation should be.
In the Gospel story, there religious leaders have very clear ideas about what a sabbath is and how it should eb observed. Anyone not abiding by the rules was in big trouble. Ancient cultural norms became the strict guidelines, despite the need, the person or the place. Meting out punishment seems to give the leaders pleasure. Into this life of rules Jesus offers another way to look at the sabbath, a time to rest in the arms of God. For healing, for renewal, for compassionate care.
Today, I am reminded that we need to practice sabbath, to be watchful that we are resting and returning to the arms of God for shelter, healing and peace. Too many of us take the opportunity for sabbath as an opportunity to push ourselves, to use up all the pent up expecatations we have. And yet God's expectation is also an invitation. "Come unto me, all you that are weary and heavey-laden and I will give you rest."