REMEMBER! (The Sabbath)

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Jehovah your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore Jehovah your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. [Deuteronomy 5:15]

How satisfying to look on your field or garden and see the green shoots of the plants begin to grow and fill out!  And every time that it rains, it seems as though the plants spring up an extra couple of centimeters. There is hope written on each plant as you look forward to the harvest and the promise of what the crop will be.

Hopefully with the wet weather we have had, with a little sun and warm weather, we should be seeing very good growth.  Imagine your shock as you suddenly realize in a month from now, that nothing in your field or garden has grown any farther.  It has remained the same size over the whole month.  What would you do?  Would you be concerned?  A whole month in the summer in this country is a very precious thing to lose.  Already you probably would be trying find the cause of such lack of growth.

Using plants as a metaphor for the believer is not new in the Bible.  Psalm 1 says: “The righteous are like a tree planted by the river of water that bears its fruit in season.”  Jesus claimed Himself to be “the Vine, you are the branches;” or He talked about the good tree that bears good fruit, while the evil tree bears evil fruit – by their fruit you shall know them.  Or how about the fields that are white unto the harvest – “pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest.”

Or how about the parable of the Sower and the Seed, where we are the soils, the seed of God’s Word is cast into us, and the question comes of whether it will grow in us so that there is seed enough to be planted in others.

Think again about your field or garden.  What if YOU were that tract of land – think of the growth of faith in all the parts of the garden of your life.  Are the plants of faith becoming brown and shriveled – dying?  Are they decreasing, losing ground?  If the physical garden outside your home were to mirror what is happening in the garden of faith, about which would you care more or less?

Over the past year or two, how much has your faith really changed over this span of time?  If a plant does not change its size over even the span of a couple of weeks, we become concerned: perhaps it needs more water; or else the soil needs to be worked over and weeded; or perhaps some fertilizer is needed; or an insecticide might be in order.  Think of the investment of time that we apply to a field or garden, how we plan, then fertilize and plow or till, then seed, then cultivate or hoe, we may apply a weed-killer, and then finally take in the harvest – we take whatever time is necessary to tend to the garden or field, we will give it what it needs.

Yet when it comes to the field of our faith, how easy it is to shortchange what it needs to grow.  Truly both the field outside our door and the garden of our faith are important; both are a matter of making our lives what they need to be – one is our life on earth, but other affects our life forever with God in His Kingdom.  Considering that the field of faith is of far more value, compared with the time and the attention that we will give the earthly garden, have we given the spiritual field the time and attention that it requires?

In a worst case scenario, wheat or corn should at least be able to replace themselves.  How mature is your faith so that it too can bring about seeds for planting somewhere else?  How are things going – how concerned are you about the field of faith in your heart as compared to your concern for the land that surrounds your house?

This is what the Sabbath day is all about.  It is a time for checking the growth of faith in our lives – it’s our “stroll” through the fields to see how things are going.

Think about what the Sabbath meant to the ancient Israelite: a WHOLE DAY was to concentrate on the Lord – not just some hour or two “tip of the hat” to the Lord before you went on to other important things.  It was a day in which no work was to be done – you had to eat either cold cuts or leftovers, because you couldn’t even cook.  Think of that – 16 hours of not being able to do anything.  We are a nation so obsessed with having to achieve that that length of time of “doing nothing” would pretty nigh well kill some of us.

But Jesus reminds us that the point of setting aside the whole day was not for the sake of an arbitrary rule or regulation, to make the Sabbath an end to itself.  Notice the “THEREFORE” in the last verse of the Old Testament lesson – “Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath Day.”  The Sabbath was to hinge on something important and necessary that came just before the “THEREFORE”: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

Multiple studies have established that depression is a widespread challenge among psoriasis patients, which can modify the progress of time medical science has invented the medicine purchase cheap viagra that is generic medicine. When the adrenal gland dysfunctions, it will create emotional stress, fatigue and mental levitra from canada confusion. And, so was born the term opt in. Go to ‘s official website, learn about the ingredients and how long it takes to cure your sexual disorders. Here’s where the spiritual growth comes in.  “Don’t ‘do nothing’ on this particular day,” God told His People, “But rather spend this time really looking at the Lord, your God – or better, Jehovah, your God, – Jehovah or YHWH, that special Name that centers on the Covenant that God made with His People.”  During the time of your worship, how much of the time do you spend taking a really good look at that special Covenant Lord that is our God?

In your compelling drive to achieve, in your expectation to be entertained, how much have you slowed down to take a good long hard look at your God?  Why else do you think that we have the cross here at the front – for mere ornamentation?  Or rather to reflect the very foundation for why God commanded the Sabbath – “REMEMBER that you were a slave … and that Jehovah, your God, brought you out … with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

This is what praise is all about – this is us, stopping long enough to see God.  Humbly we bow our heads and really see God in all His power and Glory, in all His majesty and wonder, to see His grace, His love, His forgiveness; that in our praise we find our throat catching, our eyes watering, our mind staggered to see the outstretched arm which the Israelites never dreamed would be nailed to a cross, out of love for you and me; as we see that mighty nail-pierced hand that would smash the power of death and hell, out of love for you and me.

I can’t do these things for you, the service can’t do them for you, the sermon can’t do them for you.  Only you can stop your “whirlwind to achieve” to – to REMEMBER – remember that you were a slave, a slave to sin – a slave to desire, a slave to greed, a slave to habits, a slave to fears, a slave to hatreds, a slave to resentments, or anger, or selfishness – a slave beaten down, a slave compelled, fearing, hating, controlled, helpless.

REMEMBER that you were a slave – and Jehovah YOUR God brought YOU out.  That’s why we worship on Sunday instead of Saturday – our Sabbath has moved!  This is the day of the week when the outstretched arm which had been nailed to the cross is raised in blessing, is raised in triumph, demonstrating its power and authority by crushing the bands of death – REMEMBER! –  REMEMBER! God Himself tells us – this is YOUR worship!  This is not something that is done to you or done for you, YOU must remember, YOU must fill your praise with the wonder at the mighty things God has done – FOR YOU!

But there’s even more that the ancient Israelite would never have even dreamed about: imagine, that that outstretched arm that was nailed to a cross has stretched out again, but this time toward you and me in Baptism.  What a staggering thought to remember this day!  How often have we realized that in Baptism, God – because  HE wanted to – stretched out His arm to gather up you and me and pull us close to Himself, blessing us, placing upon us fantastic wonders and privileges.

And then to look up now again and to see Jehovah’s outstretched arm comes to touch US yet once more in flesh and blood, to touch our tongues, our hearts, our lives; where Jesus Himself comes personally in the bread and wine of Holy Communion to YOU and ME; where the mighty outstretched arm of God comes to lift us back on our feet, strengthening us, emboldening, empowering us.  It is here where He takes His forgiveness and applies it to our sins, known and even those unknown, that we bring before Him.  LOOK!  REMEMBER!  “Therefore Jehovah your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

St Paul only intensifies the fullness of our praise as we realize how we are but “earthen vessels” or “clay jars.”  Going to Cowley today, I was impressed with the thought of me, a minuscule creature slowly making his way across the vast globe, taking an hour to travel an infinitesimally small distance, surrounded by the various greens of the fields and grasses; with majestic mountains with valleys filled with snow; the clouds carrying tons of water from one place to another, and the Psalmist’s words struck home: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” [Psalm 8:4].  Why should God have such interest in us?  We but clods of dirt of this world – of all the vast number of worlds and galaxies, why should we be so important for the God of the universe to take such individual attention in regard to you and me?

Here we are, with our failures, our foolishnesses and stupidities, our bumbling ineptitudes, our insecurities and feeblenesses – who are we?  Yet in us, the mighty outstretched arm of God, which is God the Holy Spirit Himself living in US.  What TREASURE – what treasure is to be found in the clay pots of you and me.  REMEMBER!  REMEMBER! “Therefore Jehovah your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

So what’s been happening with the field or garden of your faith?  Are there brown and shriveled areas, infestations of destructive spiritual pests, has there been a need for the application of the elements needed for healthy growth?  Will you care, will you spend the time, as much as you would for the growth of plants in your physical field or garden?

Start today by filling your worship with the praise that comes as you truly REMEMBER as Jehovah-God Himself bids you to remember.  Fill your praise with the wonder and joy that comes as you really look again at the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God, stretched out on the cross, and stretched out to touch our lives yet once again in Word, and Baptism, and Holy Communion.

But don’t stop just here in this service!  Begin to set aside more time, if not today then throughout the week, time to REMEMBER, perhaps as you read the Bible, or as you sit with a Bible study, or think through a devotional – or whatever you do to set aside time to do nothing but “REMEMBER that you were a slave … and Jehovah your God brought you out … with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

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