June 10, 2012: 1st Sunday after Trinity

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS THE LORD OF EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES!

TEXT: Deuteronomy 5: 12-15

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Today I’m preaching to the choir. It’s Sunday and you’re here. You’ve come to worship God, following and obeying the words of our text, the 3rd commandment. Obviously, I don’t have to convince you of the importance of going to church on Sunday morning, because by your presence you agree.

When addressing this command of God I usually stress the positives associated with it. It doesn’t get any more positive than starting out your week with God. After all, at church He feeds your faith, forgives your sins, takes the emotional burdens you’ve been carrying around off your shoulders, uplifts your spirit, provides Godly guidance for your upcoming week, listens to your prayers and with a happy smile answers them. I’ve said many times that going to church is also like changing the oil on your car. If you do it regularly you won’t break down. If you don’t, well you’re going to regret it. You could well say that going to church on Sunday morning is the most important appointment you will have on any given week. It’s your appointment with God Almighty. And at that meeting He doesn’t seek to give you bad news, but only good news! The news that our sins are totally forgiven by Jesus Christ through His death on the cross. At church we are actually handed peace with God and eternal life via Christ’s resurrection. If we advertised that every attendee at Pinewood would receive a gold coin for free, I’ll bet we’d have a full church every week. Well, that’s exactly what God gives to each of you! He hands you the golden keys of heaven itself at no cost to you because Jesus completely paid the bill!

I

There is also the physical, perhaps I should say “earthly” component to the 3rd commandment, too. Notice that injunction: “On it you shall not do any work; neither you, nor your son or daughter, etc. etc.” And then God adds this: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

All of you know that necessary work on Sunday doesn’t violate this command of God. That is, if you have a job that schedules you to labor on Sunday and is directly related to keeping commandments 4-10—“Loving your neighbor as yourself” God won’t hold it against you. So, nurses, fire fighters, police, and caregivers have a legitimate excuse for missing Sunday worship. In today’s Gospel, where Christ is accused by the Pharisees of “working on the Sabbath” because His disciples stripped wheat kernels and ate them out of hunger, thus “threshing grain”; well, Jesus reminds them that a starving David ate the consecrated show bread at the ancient tabernacle and God understood the situation. Good Christian common sense, made holy by Godly faith and resolve, will always lead us into holy decisions.

That being said, just like the Israelites needed a time for bodily rest and a time to recharge their emotional well-being, so, too, all of us. Work doesn’t do that. Running errands like a chicken with its head cut off doesn’t do that. Rest and reflection on God’s blessings does it. That’s part of Sunday worship, too.

I know the excuses. I doubt there are any I haven’t heard over the years. But my job isn’t to make you comfortable in your excuses. It is to hold God’s inviolate command before you and test your resolve and your faith. If you fail the test you’ll “reap what you sow.” Likewise, if you pass the test. I’m not saying that some sort of plague will hit you tomorrow if you miss church on a particular week. What I am saying is that because God cares for you deeply He’ll allow things to occur in your life in order to re-awaken your spiritual hunger for Him and that sometimes those “things” are not very pleasant because we have such hard heads and stiff necks. Sometimes pain is the only thing we pay attention to—especially when we begin to take His love and patience for granted.

II

Today in America, Sunday morning worship is an afterthought for most people. Is it any wonder our nation has so many problems erupting in it? You reap what you sow. I’ll admit that going to church is very easy. So easy that it seems almost a superficial afterthought to a busy weekend. I suppose it’s the old: “What, why worry about church, I’m busy, I can pray at home, and I can read the Bible if the mood strikes. I don’t need some Pastor to tell me what to do.” Of course, the fallacy of that view is: you don’t read at home, you don’t pray much, you don’t have the strength of the saints to draw on, you don’t get absolved, you don’t commune, and thus your faith stagnates and begins to recede. Also, the view of many is that the 3rd commandment is optional and breaking it isn’t a big deal—unlike the 5th (murder), the 6th, (an affair), the 7th (stealing) or the 8th (gossip and slander). But try explaining that to God……

There is one other aspect to keeping the 3rd commandment that I don’t think many have contemplated. I’ll put it in the negative. If God Almighty appeared before you along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and tried to embrace you with a loving hug, would you spit in His face, kick Him in the shins, and tell Him “I’m just too busy today?” I really doubt any sane person would do such a thing. In fact, even the demons wouldn’t do it! And yet, when God gives us a direct command to worship Him weekly and to set a day aside for such things and we don’t—isn’t that exactly what you’re doing? And if you dare to think that God is kind and loving and doesn’t mind, what you’re really saying is: “God, you’re a liar when it comes to this commandment!” I know, that may sound harsh. Heavens, it is harsh! But it’s true.

In conclusion, instead of focusing upon the negatives of breaking the 3rd commandment, I’ll take you back to the positives. After all, worshiping Jesus Christ is our most positive experience all week long! He gives us heavenly treasures in place of our emotional sin-burdens. He gives us heavenly peace in place of inner guilt. He gives us a clean break with the dark past. He gives us a new pathway to follow which is lit by the sunshine of the Holy Spirit. “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And He also gives us a time to physically “let down” during which He renews our souls and our bodies. Our God is wise beyond knowing. The 3rd commandment, regular Sunday worship, and all that goes with it are a vital part of applying that wisdom to each of us. Amen