Sunday Worship – 2nd June 2024 – Ordinary 9

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Baildon Methodist Church  and led by Claire Nott one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

Theme: Jesus-shaped Sabbath

Call to Worship

(verse 1 of Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘Come, let us with our Lord arise’, StF 148)

Come, let us with our Lord arise,
our Lord, who made both earth and skies:
who died to save the world he made,
and rose triumphant from the dead;
he rose, the Prince of life and peace,
and stamped the day for ever his.

Song – StF 152 – This is the day

This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!

Let us pray:

Living Lord, we praise you for the beauty of your creation, for its life-sustaining air, water, food and shelter. You looked at all you had made and pronounced it ‘good’.

Generous God, creator, redeemer, sustainer, we come here for an encounter with you, to learn more about you through Scripture, songs, conversation and silence. Help us to recognise your calling and to be open to your will in our lives.

Merciful saviour, we bring before you now any situations where we are struggling to show your love. We bring to mind a particular person or situation where we feel impatient or lack self-control. We are sorry and seek your forgiveness.

Jesus constantly assures us of his love and has sent his Spirit to help us be fruitful, to see people as Jesus does and to help us develop the gifts we need to bring about God’s Kingdom today. Amen

Our second song is based on the psalm set for today in the lectionary – Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. 

Song – StF 728 – O God, you search me and you know me

Reading: Mark 2:23-3:6

Please read through this passage a couple of times then think about the questions below.

  • What word or phrase is the Spirit drawing your attention to?
  • What does this passage tell us about the purpose of the Sabbath?

Song – StF 58 – Lord, I come before your throne of grace

As part of my application portfolio for training for ordained ministry I included a photo of my Godparents and I following my Baptism. At the final interview, the chair of the panel asked how I would use my rest day if accepted into training and ultimately being ordained. Having heard my response, he then asked me to picture the Baptism photo and emphasised that the Claire I am now is the same Claire in the photo but baby Claire’s role was solely ‘being’ – there was nothing she had to do. He made the point that in a rest day, a Sabbath, my focus should be on ‘being’ not ‘doing’. That’s a real struggle for me and I’m sure for a lot of us. Days off work tend to become days for catching up with jobs, housework, shopping and we’ve lost sight of this gift of a day that the Lord gave us, a day to rest after 6 days to do everything else in. Number 4 in the list of 10 commandments in Exodus says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

If you imagined the words of each commandment shown in a pie chart, this one would take up 30% of the diagram, yet whilst you may adamantly protest you wouldn’t break some of the other commandments, this is possibly one of the least observed. In other parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Amos, we see the development of the tradition of Sabbath or Shabbat in Judaism with the command not to work including all stages of gathering or preparing food; anybody found working would be sentenced to death. Preservation of life was an exception, so if a wall collapsed burying people underneath, it was permitted to remove the rocks to see if there were survivors and they could be given essential treatment. However, if no evidence of survivors was found, the bodies would have to wait until the following day to be removed and the rest of the wall dismantled. By Jesus’ time the Sabbath had lost some of its original function and become a ritualistic following of laws. Mark places the incidents in the cornfield and synagogue early in his Gospel to emphasise Jesus’ authority to act in a different way. The passage we read comes just after accounts of Jesus forgiving sins, of eating with sinners and tax collectors, of allowing his disciples not to fast, and, here, allowing them to pluck grain and eat it on the Sabbath while he, himself, heals on the Sabbath. It also introduces the conflict between Jesus and the powers that be, both in religious circles, the Pharisees, and the Herodians, representing the Roman Empire, conflict that would ultimately end in Jesus’ death.

Through the example of Jesus, we see that faith is not legalistic. Compassion, mercy and love take priority over ‘rules’. In both episodes in our passage, Jesus tries to reason with the Pharisees, to show precedence through the actions of David, recorded in 1 Samuel, and then attempts to touch the hard hearts of the Sanhedrin by showing the man with the injured hand. Other contemporary accounts call this man a stonemason. His injury means he can no longer support his family and, without the benefits system we have today, they would soon be destitute, resorting to begging to stay alive. Yes, the injury is not life-threatening and Jesus could have healed him on the following day but he is making the point that actions of love must be allowed to occur on the Sabbath. The bible commentator, Barclay, says that to the Pharisees religion was ritual, to Jesus religion was service, the spontaneous answer to the cry of human need. Ritual was irrelevant compared with love in action.

It’s rather ironic that Jesus asks whether it is lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath. Whilst the Pharisees don’t answer him because they know that he has a point, they immediately go out and start plotting against him; clearly collaboration with their arch enemies did not constitute ‘work’ in their minds.

I’ve recently been reading ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. In the book, he advocates 4 practices for unhurrying your life:

  • Silence and solitude
  • Sabbath
  • Simplicity
  • Slowing

He says that there’s a discipline to Sabbath that is really hard for a lot of us. It takes a great deal of intentionality: it won’t just happen to you. It requires planning and preparation, self-control, the capacity to say no to a list of good things so you can say yes to the best. We have to be prepared to give ourselves permission to take a day for rest and praise, to not feel guilty at what isn’t happening while we focus on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. The 24/7, 365 days a year culture we live in doesn’t help. If you are really struggling, perhaps visit the Isle of Harris where one recent visitor found that all the shops are shut on Sunday and even the children’s playground is padlocked on that day. I’m not advocating you go to those extremes though as Sabbath for you may include spending quality time with your family, going for a walk, watching a film, reading a book, knitting or anything else that delights your soul and allows you to find God in a day, rather than a place. If a day seems impossible, try writing ‘God Space’ in your diary for a couple of hours each week or resolving not to do any shopping on a particular day or turning off your mobile phone for 24 hours. The theologian Walter Brueggemann called Sabbath “an act of resistance” – following Sabbath means rebelling against consumer culture, materialism, hurry, and breaking our addiction to accomplishment and accumulation. 100 years ago, in the Paris Olympics of 1924, Eric Liddle was one of the favourites for winning the 100m sprint but, as the heats were held on a Sunday, he refused to compete. Instead, he took part in the 200m and the 400m, a distance that was new for him – he ended up winning, breaking the world record in the process and the events were immortalised in the film, ‘Chariots of Fire’.

Is there anything you feel called to refuse to do one day a week in honour of God?

“The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath” – it was created and designed by God himself for us and all creation to enjoy. Sabbath calls for us to be focused on acts of love, on praising God and resting; then God can look on his creation and see that it is good.

Song – StF 158 – Lord, you sometimes speak in wonders

Breath prayers

Lord’s Prayer

Song – StF 407 – Hear the Call of the Kingdom

A Sabbath Blessing (written by Pete Grieg and used each Sunday in the Lectio365 app)

May this day bring Sabbath rest to our hearts and our homes.
May God’s image in us be restored, and our imagination in God be re-storied.
May the gravity of material things be lightened, and the relativity of time slow down.
May we know grace to embrace our own finite smallness in the arms of God’s infinite greatness.
May God’s word feed us and His Spirit lead us into the week and into the life to come. Amen.

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