In our reading of the gospel of Mark this week we come to chapter two verses twenty-three through twenty-eight. Here we hear Jesus speaking about plucking grains of wheat on the Sabbath and being challenged by the Pharisees as to the legality of this work being performed on a day of rest. There are many thoughts regarding the keeping of Sabbath. In United States history there was a period of time when “Blue Law” prevailed. A Blue Law was a law that prohibited certain secular actives on Sunday. The name is derived from Samuel A. Peter’s “General History of Connecticut” (1781) which listed stiff Sabbath regulations; the work was printed on blue paper. These laws were “rigidly moral” being found in the strictest Puritan, Bible-oriented community. Then there are our own family interpretations of how we spend the Sabbath: go to church and rest; go to church and then work. There are a variety of ways in which we interpret “keeping the Sabbath.” What we read in Mark this morning is not out of the norm for communities in the United States.
The Marian text raises several questions:
Is the text about work/labor?
Is the text about Rules and regulations, that is, legalism?
Is the text about hunger?
Or is the text about the creation of a sacred space?
A quick reminder that we hear these words in the context of Advent. In the season of anticipation, expectation, and hope of the coming birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What I think about when I reflect upon Mark 2:23-28 during the season of Advent and the expectation and hope of the arrival of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:1) is the Sabbath not just as a time of rest from one’s labors (Genesis 1:1-2:3). Nor is the Sabbath just a reminder of our liberation from the bondage of sin or in Israel’s situation liberation from Egypt as they prepare to enter the promise land (Deuteronomy 5). Nor is it a reminder of the changing of the Bread of the Presence, every week signifying God’s generous provision of food and the necessities of life. All of these elements are present I believe in Mark, however, what I see and hear is the Kingdom of God. Practicing Sabbath is taking time out from the labor of six days a week for a brief moment to experience the Kingdom of God. To experience peace beyond understanding. To experience rest from our labors, liberation from our sin, to experience God’s generosity in all the necessities of life.
When you hear the words of the LORD Jesus in Mark 2:23-28 what do you hear?