Saturday, June 17, 2006

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, June 18, 2006

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 18, 2006
Main Street Living; St. John's, Howard
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 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 manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  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.
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“What do you do for a living?”
“Well, I’m a Pastor.  I’m a farmer.  I’m a teacher… I’m retired… a homemaker… a student…” How many times have you heard and answered that question.  It’s probably the most asked question whenever you meet new people.  Think about it and what it means.  Think about what we are saying to each other as we ask and answer that question…
There is some value in what we do; teachers teach… farmers produce food… homemakers raise children.  They are important tasks, that need to be done and important people take them up and do them.  And lots of us take not only our identity from our work but many of you are what you eat, in a sense.  You can always tell the farmers they’re gathered around the back of church after the rain discussing the rainfall (or lack of it).  If you’re a farmer people expect you to act a certain way, and most often you oblige.  The cap, the work boots, and piece of straw in you mouth.  
Teachers too, have identity in what they do.  Whenever we think about doing something for children we look to teachers first.  After all they know what they’re doing… Mechanics have long standing oil under there fingernails and homemakers wear aprons.  People are expected to act certain ways because of who they are… There is an identity in what we do.  You might even say who we are, is determined by what we do.
If you really want to see this principal at work in a big way spend a day in High School.  Practically nowhere is it more pronounced.  Walk through the hallways and you’ll soon identify the jocks, geeks, brains and nerds.  The kids divide pretty much by what they are good at.  There’s a structure to who’s who.  Kids who are good at sports are always at the top of the stack.  They’re the ones that everyone is sure will be successful in life.  They’re the one everyone wants to be like.  They are the ones who are valued, by the High School culture.  
What you see in our children there is exactly what we’ve taught them.  Every day we tell them, if not in words, then in actions, that people have worth because of what they do.  Sports figures are highly valued in our culture, just look at the salaries!  These people are valued highly; weather or not they are good role models.  The estimation of firefighters and policemen has risen since 9-11 but, I’ve noticed that when the state budget gets tight they’re the first positions to go.  How many of you have said the teacher’s salaries are, too low?  It is clear to see that they are not nearly as valued as others.  That’s the society we live in… people have value for what they do.  
Many of you may know who Red Green is.  It’s a show out of Canada shown on Public Television.  One of the characters is Winston Rothschild III.  He emphasizes this very point.  He’s a sewer man.  He owns Rothschild Sewage and Septic Sucking Services.  It’s funny to see him speak as if he runs a fortune 500 company, while he wears hip waders.  Everyone else knows he’s a loser because he’s just a sewer man.  It’s funny, but it’s what we really think.  
If you think you’re not really guilty, think about how you react to people you meet, when you find out their occupation.  Everybody wants to be a friend of the new doctor.  The smelly beggar that walks into church off the street is asked to leave.  You and I size up people by where they live, what car they drive, what kind of clothes they wear, and mostly what they do.  Our problem is that we place value on people for what they do.  What a selfish way to live.  Actually what we do is value people because they bring value to our own lives.  We value people because they do valuable things for us.  We value people not for who they are but for what they do.  What a sinful way to live.  
And by now you are wondering what this has to do with the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Pastor, shouldn’t you be telling us that we need to come to church?  And complaining about those who don’t bother to show up?  Shouldn’t you be giving us good reasons to study the bible or ways to stay awake during your sermons?  What does this commandment have to do with how we value people?  
Well listen again to what God says about the commandment.  
On [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.
Who’s included?  I think it pretty well hits all the bases.  It’s everyone; even the ox and the donkey are to rest from their work.  Work hard 6 days and rest on this one!  Everyone is equal.  Everyone needs the rest.  It doesn’t say everyone except those important people whose work we can’t live without.  The Sabbath observation puts all work aside; from farming to banking, from scooping manure to serving coffee.  The work all the same in the eyes of God.  
Well that’s not really quite right.  It’s not really the work that God sees as equal.  It’s just that He doesn’t value people because of what they do.  He doesn’t value hard workers over lazy ones.  He doesn’t value farmers over migrant workers.  He doesn’t value business men over business women.  In God’s eyes people are the same.  He values them all equally.  
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28
No levels, no value based on occupation, all are one St.  Paul tells us, “one in Christ Jesus.” And that gives us the clue as to why God thinks this way.
Now listen to why God gives us the Third Commandment?  Listen again,
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.  
God rescued the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  They were slaves, the lowest class of people in Egypt.  Their work was considered to be to low for Egyptians to do.  They were valueless in a very wealthy society.  And God brought them out of that condition with a mighty hand.  They had value to God what they did and actually not even because of who they were, but because of what God did for them.  They were slaves, lost in their condition of no value.  But God did something about it; He gives them value by what He does for them with a mighty hand.
Now it’s hard to miss the connection here, to us.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) We were slaves to sin.  You see it everywhere in your life, not to mention how we classify people according to what they do for us; friends, neighbors, enemies, and children.  We put them all on a scale and measure them by what they do for us, or do against us.  We can’t help it, there’s something in here that does it something so very much a part of us that we can’t even change it just because we want to.  It’s sin.  Sin just shows itself in this ugly way.  It lives right there in our hearts, making us a slave to these kinds of actions.  We might be able to change our outward actions, by trying to treat everyone the same, but right there in our hearts and in the recesses of our minds we still feel the same.  Sin makes us valueless, as we try to boost our own self-esteem by standing on the heads of others.  And the thing about being a slave is that there is nothing you can do about it.  You’re a slave and a slave you’ll always be, unless someone else, gives you value and does something about it for you.  We are bound to slavery too, worthless, children of slaves in the same predicament as the people of Israel in Egyptian slavery.  
But, God gives us value by setting us free.  Just as God’s redemption gave the Children of Israel worth, God’s redemption also gives us worth.  So how much value do we have in God’s eyes.  Luther says it well in his explanation of the Third Commandment:
… not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…
How much are we worth to God?  Look at what He did to give you value!  He shed His innocent blood, and He suffered death, even death on the cross!  How much value is that?  How much are you worth to God?
Now think about all the people you interact with every day.  Think about the people you see out there, sitting at coffee, dragging a sprayer through the field, answering the telephone and pumping gas.  Look at them the way God does.  See the value God has given them in Jesus Christ.  And think about how different your relationship with these people can be because of what God had done for that person in Jesus Christ.  Remember Jesus loved you so much that he gave his very life for you; you are priceless in His eyes.  
And finally think about this.  Most of the people in the world, and even those living around us, don’t know about how much God values them.  Still in their minds they think they have to do something to have value to God.  “If I’m a good person, if I do the best I can, God will save me.” People think that God values people like we do, but He doesn’t.  God valued the world in this way:
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16
What are you worth?  I guess it depends on whom you ask.  That’s actually why we gather together in worship on Sundays, to observe the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.  Through God’s Word, He continually speaks to us and tells us how much He loves us, how valuable we are to Him.  We are all washed clean of our sin through baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There’s no upper class or lower class here, according to God.  It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, a doctor, a farmer, or even a postal worker.  God loves you and values you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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