Entries in Nevada (2)


Closing Prayer at Presbytery


God be with those serving on our behalf
For those working with refugees
For those bringing  help to substance abuses and those leaving abuse,
For those bringing relief to flooded communities.

Let us leave hear but stay together
blessed by food and your spirit
matching the service of others
with our efforts to do good better

Redeemed by Christ
in whose name we serve and pray.



Good Sabbath

Luke 13:10-17 Christ Presbyterian, Garnerville

Listen to “Good Sabbath”

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“Good Sabbath” is a greeting among the Jews. If you could design a perfect sabbath day what would it be? Brunch? Going to church? Sunday comics? A good nap? Football? Being with family? Sleeping in until noon?


We struggle with what a Good Sabbath is. Sunday is now the second most popular shopping day of the week. I used to go out with a group of church folks to dinner every Sunday after worship and considered all the people working to keep the restaurant open, including our members. What is a good Sabbath, taking off work to go to church and then having servants work to bring lunch?

Struggling over what a Good Sabbath means is as old as creation. Exodus 20:11 roots the Sabbath in creation, in recording the 10 commandments,

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Before the revolutionary war in this county, by law Sabbath would include church attendance. Activities from car sales to sales of alcohol to shuffleboard have been excluded from the Sabbath day’s activities in the effort for a Good Sabbath. In 1961 the Supreme Court described a Good Sabbath when it upheld mandatory closing laws:

“However, the State’s purpose is not merely to provide a one-day-in- seven work stoppage. In addition to this, the State seeks to set one day apart, (apart) from all others as a day of rest, repose, recreation and tranquility - a day (on) which all members of the family and (all the) community have the opportunity to spend and enjoy together, a day on which there exists relative quiet and (a) disassociation from the everyday intensity of commercial activities, a day on which people may visit friends and visit relatives, who are not available during normal working days.”

- U.S. Supreme Court McGOWAN v. MARYLAND, 366 U.S. 420 (1961)

Creation as rest is where our friendly, neighborhood Pharisee gets his idea of what a Good Sabbath is. Note it isn’t just about one day of rest but also specifies six days for work. We’re closed today, come back tomorrow. The Pharisee is reminding people of this traditional and Biblical definition. He makes a good point. While it is allowed to save someone’s life or care for an urgent medical need, in this case, there is no reason to break the Sabbath, she can wait until tomorrow if she has survived these many years.


Pharisee = Presbyterian

Now I have a public service announcement. When you are studying scripture that includes a Pharisee, read it at least once with yourself as the Pharisee. This will be helpful because the good Pharisees back then weren’t too far from the place in society and religion that good Presbyterians hold today. They were the community leaders, the respectable people, the folks you wanted to be a reference for you. They were sincerely religious and upset about how secular culture had become. And finally, if you needed any more evidence of how they are our spiritual companions, they liked their religion done decently and in order.


If you can’t quite put yourself in the story as a Pharisee, then at least, don’t dismiss them as foolish folk. Consider them instead as good, sincere, intelligent, and devout religious folk of their time. You would like them as neighbors and friends. Our friend here is faithfully quoting the practical and traditional view of Sabbath, that had been followed with good effect for centuries, that needs no redefining: if something can wait until after the Sabbath, then it must wait. And the unasked healing of a decades long, non-life threatening condition, could certainly wait another day.

In deference to our spiritual forebearer, lets wait a bit before considering Jesus’ response to the Pharisee.


Free to Rest

What is a good sabbath for a slave? A slave never rests. Only free men and women get to take a day off. In fact in Deuteronomy 5’s listing of the 10 commandments the freedom to rest is cited as the reason behind a good Sabbath. After almost the same wording about resting on the Sabbath as Exodus 20, Deuteronomy has a different final verse as the reason for the command to rest, rooted not in creation but in salvation, freedom, liberation:

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

- Deuteronomy 5:15

Jesus points us that it is allowable even expected to untie an animal on the Sabbath to lead it to food, water, and shelter. Now strictly speaking, untying is work and not allowed, but an exception is made so an animal doesn’t have to suffer. Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater, can’t we treat this daughter of Abraham, this child of God, as well as we do an animal? Releasing her from Satan’s bonds must be allowed, even celebrated on the Sabbath, when we remember that God released us from the bondage of our oppressors.

The Sabbath is not just rest but freedom for all people even for animals! Both Deuteronomy and Exodus state that no work is done by human or beast, by slave or free, by Jew or foreigner. The sabbath is a celebration of freedom not the banning of activity, but the declaration that, at least for today, no one works as a slave to another.

We Don’t Have to Rest, We Get To

We dig under the rule and find the reason, not just we need to rest because God did, but that we can rest because of what God did. God has provided a good creation for us, God has led us into freedom. My favorite Psalm verse: “It is vain to rise up and early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil, for the Lord provides for his beloved while they sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) combines the idea of freedom from work and rest in the provision of God.


We easily slip into the idea that faith is following rules, forgetting where the rules are rooted. When one of my children would ask me in a whining tone if they HAVE TO do something, like go on a family trip, or to church service, or sports or music practice, or anything requiring effort; I tell them: no you don’t HAVE TO, you GET TO. You have a family to love and spend time with, we have the time, money and interest to take a trip, you have freedom of religion and a God who welcomes you in worship, you have opportunity to learn in school, or play a sport or learn music, you GET TO, not HAVE to. You GET TO have a sabbath because you are free from toil, from oppression, from having to work constantly. You GET TO rest. It isn’t about the burden of following rules, but the reality of God’s grace that frees us from slavery. If the sabbath is a job, you’re doing it wrong, in fact backwards. Sabbath isn’t an exchange of chains.

Approach life and faith as Jesus shows us here, following the will of God to make people free, to lift them out of bondage of working like a slave for others, even if that other is religious rules and rites that bind instead of free people. May we all be freed from our own and others bondage of body and spirit. Enjoy the creation that our Good God made and blessed as good.