8/23 Message “Doing Good”

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23 August 2020 Sunday Message Doing Good”

Call to Worship; Matthew 12:1-8

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Tithe, Offering, and Intercessional Prayers; Father in Heaven and all other places imaginable. Lord, we humble ask that you bless the giving of ourselves to you in the service of your Kingdom here in this world at this time. Thank you for all that we are and all that we may yet become in you.

Amen!

Message Reading; Matthew 12:9-14

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Message: Doing Good”

Today is a continuation of our discussion last week on the difference of living your faith or following rules and laws. Before we start, I want to clarify that I am not talking lawlessness. I am speaking to the fact that real rules and laws serve God through serving you and I in order that we may more fully praise, glorify, and magnify His Holy and precious name. They remind us of right and wrong and are serious business. When we internalize them through our love for God and others we are transformed. Born again.

I am excited to once again make a case for our Lord’s consistency throughout all of human existence. Once again in today’s passage we follow the Lord as He takes a real life situation (an ambush by the Pharisees using a person with a real impediment trying to trick the Lord), Jesus will instruct all of us, what really is important to God.

What is so great about these passages that cover our Lord’s instruction, is that they are still relevant to today’s modernity. Yes today’s message reveals our Lord’s thoughts, and Jesus is speaking directly to you!

We start today’s episode of “Our God Is Right”  from our “Call to Worship” with Jesus and the guys walking through the fields on a Shabbat; Matthew 12:1-8

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees were unwavering rule keepers and enforcers. Quick to correct others and in an effort to keep the law while maintaining their own exulted positions in society, they became roadblocks between people and God. The law of the Sabbath refers to the 4th Commandment in Exodus 20:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor 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.

Also found in Deuteronomy 5, and in both cases God goes into detail why the Sabbath is important. Suffice to say, the Sabbath is important to God. He gave us a Sabbath in order for all of mankind to have a chance to step back and reflect on what is important in life. God. And so what are the Lord’s thoughts about Sabbath in this passage? Jesus continues the discussion:

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Beginning with the last first is that Jesus as the Son of Man is the perfect representation of “all God and all Man”. The Sabbath is the perfect intersection of the two, where man was given the Sabbath to rest and contemplate God. We Christians in out of Church celebrate the Sabbath on the Lord’s Day, Sunday. As a fulfillment of the old into the New Covenant. The Day that Christ arose, celebrating God’s power to overcome death with resurrection of His own, and for His own.

From the beginning in Jewish Law, life and death have always taken precedent over the requirement to keep the Sabbath rules of refraining from work. Rabbis have gone to great length to describe what constitutes work and what does not, on a Sabbath. Case in point in the Talmud (a Jewish commentary of the Old Testament) from Maimon on shabbot states;

 “if a man had an ailment in his throat, he might not gargle it with oil, but he might swallow a large quantity of oil, “and “if he was healed, he was healed” (i.e. it was very well, it was no breach of the sabbath)

By the way, before one gets the idea that this is an attack on our Jewish ancestors who deserve our deepest respect and thanks for scripture and instruction… Keep in mind, being legalistic is a very human condition. How many times do we catch ourselves using rules to control other people when using a little kindness could have corrected a situation, if indeed any correction was really needed to begin with?

Compassion was built into the Laws of the Torah, care for animals and human life always trumps rules. Hence the hungry David and company, or the hungry Disciples of Jesus, may eat as needed on a Sabbath. This kind of mercy is consistent by God throughout scripture. Unfortunately, people in their zealousness, sometimes push God’s compassion, mercy, His love to the side for human observances, Sometimes, in the extreme. Both in the Old Testament and in today’s church in the here and now.

When I am more concerned with what someone else is getting away with instead of how much God has given us, what can I do to make things better, it’s easy to get off track and miss the mark. Thankfully, scripture repeats this lesson over and again for us to grow and mature from.

This is not a call for being Co-Dependent (spoiling and enabling people with the tools of their destruction), and lawlessness, but a call to know the people and situation before inserting myself and trying to correct something I know nothing about. Rules are important. They are there to serve and help us, to remind everyone of what is right and wrong. And to stay on track.

Indeed, Jesus is not attacking the faith of His Father or our fathers. In fact He quotes Hosea 6. I am going to cite versus 4-6

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth-
then my judgments go forth like the sun.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

In this case, Jesus cuts to pieces the pettiness of the Pharisees, and killed the self-righteousness of the rule police by quoting scripture back their way:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice”

I might add, God is not looking for a shallowness that disappears like the morning dew. Almost as quick as the departure of the people who were looking for God and were corrected right out of their search, scarred out of church, or just giving up in disgust by my self-imposed roadblocks of purity and sainthood.

After Jesus provides perfect instruction to the Pharisees, our self-righteous sin squad follow Jesus to their Synagogue, as we pick up the passage from today’s Message Reading; Matthew 12:9-14

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

In Luke 6:6, 7, the man is described as having his right hand maimed, which is even more crucial in Middle East Society (both back then and still today) with a person’s right hand being used for things lofty like working, greeting, and eating, and the left hand allocated for less than elevated activities. Meaning this was a critical injury to our man with the shriveled hand. (Livelihood and survival)

Plain and simple, this is ambush time by our self-righteous friends of the law. They have attempted to trap Jesus into either saying He can’t help the man because it’s the Sabbath and healing is considered working, or getting Jesus to heal the man and then they could charge Him accordingly.

Once again our Lord lives and teaches by example by asking if they would help a fallen sheep on the Sabbath. The answer is yes because it is compassion on animals, and livelihood. Since a man is even more important than a sheep (even in this confused modern world that we live in), it’s appropriate to help a person. In other words, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Then Jesus heals the lame man because the man’s situation is more threatening, than the needs of the self-righteous to be right. The Lord’s love for the lame man heals him. The Lord’s love for the Pharisees, leads Jesus to teach them a higher truth than mere observances:

Loving God with all that you have and all you are, and loving your neighbor as yourself. (My paraphrase) and God picks your neighbors. (Reflected in scripture)

Jesus can get to this point immediately because He is the Son of God. We need to get there by living our faith, following the Lord’s example instead of rule regimens. So are we free to do as we please knowing that we have freedom in this faithwalk in the Lord that we share? What do you think?

Example: A while back I was mowing my yard on a Sunday afternoon. Is that OK? Am I not free to do good on a Sabbath? Well, yes I am, but am I now taking an instruction that was given in the administration of mercy, and warped it for my own satisfaction? Have I made a new rule. (My new made-up rule, is that it’s OK to mowe on Sunday’s.)

Here are a couple of things to think about before I create a new observance, and why my new rule might be good but bad for me;

  1. First, I know that some of my neighbors have a faith that proclaims keeping the Sunday-Sabbath; meaning no work, no shopping, focusing on God at home and at Church, reading scripture.
  2. If I am showing them my freedom in the Lord by flaunting my faith by being disrespectful, negligent, and in their face cruel, where is my mercy, goodwill, and Christian Fellowship?
    1. On the other side of the dime, if someone else is doing something I think inappropriate, am I automatically offended? Do I know if the person is even conscious of doing something offensive? Is there a way I could lead by example instead of living by grudge?
  3. Once again, it all rest within what’s going on in your head, and in your heart!
  4. Just who am I attracting to the Lord’s fellowship by the way I live and act?

By the way, I am not saying it’s good or bad to mowe, or do anything on a Sunday. That’s your job to figure out. Many times, in flaunting the strength in my faith, even by reciting scripture to justify my actions or attitudes, I have just revealed my weakness and immaturity in my faithwalk in the Lord. Finally, it doesn’t matter if I believe it’s OK to do something, especially if I know it’s hurting my neighbor. And my neighbor includes people outside my faithwalk and church, people that God picks and not me.

How does all of this relate to picking grain in the field to munch on, or healing a lame man on a Sabbath? It all resonates back to where we reside in our hearts and minds. We are on this incredible walk in time and space. Provided with all that we need to thrive.

The tools that God has given you and I are love and compassion. Love for God, and compassion for others, and through these tools, we have it within us to create hell on earth for other people and ourselves, or the provision of love, kindness, and mercy for our neighbors. As a reference, we have a scripture passage from last week; Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Walking humbly with God, acting justly, loving mercy does not involve plotting ways to kill someone that disagrees with us. (What the Pharisees were planning for Christ) It doesn’t make room for carrying deep anger in your heart without a thought of forgiveness and grace. In this case, the Pharisees are an example of where we end up when we go down the road of replacing God with anything. Laws, observances, self-imposed dogma, and ourselves, are many times used as a substitute for worshipping, trusting, and following, Christ.

To determine if mowing on Sunday, or any other activity is appropriate, we must look into our own hearts and attitudes. Are we doing something to spite, or prove, or to flaunt, instead of building up others in God’s service? My prayer for you, is that you may find your way this week in the discovery of the Lord, and your selves!

Amen!

Benediction; Numbers 6:24-26

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”