Sermon on the Fourth Commandment
Text: Exodus 31
Catechism Q&A 103
Theme: God desires for his people to live deeply as they honor a pattern of Sabbath.
Goal: to encourage believers to live deeply as they honor a pattern of Sabbath in their lives.
Need: We live shallowly.
Introduction: The picture of our surface dwelling life:
Theme: God gives the fourth commandment to encourage his people to live deeply by honouring the pattern of Sabbath.
1. Sabbath is a pattern living deeply. Not just a day.
a. Our Sunday is not the Sabbath. It is the Lord’s Day.
b. Our Sunday is the day that we practice the depth of Sabbath rest.
c. Sabbath/ deep living is for gospel ministry and education.
2. Sabbath/ deep living is a pattern of resting from sin.
3. Sabbath/ deep living patterns life in eternity
Most of us are familiar with the term mid-life crisis. Perhaps some of us have experienced such a mid-life crisis. Often the crisis comes with immense amounts of self doubt, wondering questioning the path taken in life, feeling like who you are has been decided by others and not by yourself. Not everyone experiences a crisis as they say goodbye to youth and embrace the reality that they are aging, but some do.
An interesting pattern has started to immerge where young people today often go through something of a midlife crisis. Its so pronounced that it is actually being called the quarter-life crisis.
John is 19 years old. While most of us might be thinking, Oh to be 19 again, John is thinking Oh to be 16 again. Most days he gets up and goes to school. He doesn’t really know why he is still going. Truth is, his college degree doesn’t even guarantee him getting a job at Wal-mart much less a position in the field. It drives him crazy knowing that he needs 1-2 years experience before he will get a job. His friends have all moved away. The feeling of inadequacy and purposelessness can’t be ignored. He wants to have a more meaningful life but instead he just finds ways to cope with the meaninglessness of his life. TV. Internet. Computer games. Fantasy sports. Anything to help him forget that he doesn’t really like the insecure life he seems to be stuck with.
Could we put our own name in there? Do we also live kind of on the surface of really living. Do we move from one type of entertainment or coping mechanism on to the next? The culture in North America today makes us surface dwellers. Surface relationships. Surface intelligence. Becoming Jacks of all trades, master of none.
Is it possible that God knew that we could fall into these sorts of surface patterns in our life? Is it possible that the God who loves us so much has a different plan than for us to get caught in the spiralling problems of self doubt and discontent? In fact, what we find in God’s word is that from the very begin, God imbedded into the fabric of the universe a pattern that encourages us to escape the shallow and surface sort of life. The pattern of Sabbath, created by God and commanded in the fourth commandment shows us that God wants us to experience life to its fullest. To live deeply.
Now how, so? I thought the fourth commandment was about going to church on Sunday. Well not quite.
The fourth commandment says, “8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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. 
Honor the Sabbath day.
To get at the heart of this command we have to understand that the command is calling us primarily to have a rhythm to of Sabbath rest in our life. The command to have a Sabbath day rest every seventh day is closely equated with the command that we hear in Leviticus 25. What does it say there? The land must have a Sabbath year rest every seventh year. And then the next section of Leviticus 25 says that after a seventh Sabbath year comes the GREAT Sabbath year. The Year of Jubilee. The economic and social Sabbath year where land servants are freed and debts are cancelled.
Remembering the Sabbath day is a call to living deeply in the rhythm of Sabbath.
And Sunday is not the new Sabbath for believers. Christ did not institute a new day of Sabbath. Sunday has become the day of worship because believers commemorate the resurrection of Christ. Sunday is not the direct equivalent to the Sabbath. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath.
What we understand from Q and A 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism is that part of this rhythm of Sabbath and deep living is “gospel ministry and education for it” as well as “regular attending the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.”
Living with these practices as part of the regular rhythm Sabbath in our lives may move us into deeper living and closer fellowship with Jesus Christ. It’s one way that we can avoid falling into the trap of the shallow life. The electronic gadget filled life. The life in a spiritual rut. Remembering the Sabbath day calls us to the deeper purpose.
Just look at that list of things that we do in as we Sabbath together on the Lord’s Day. We look to God’s word for direction and purpose. We acknowledge or brokenness as we approach the Lord’s Table the and Baptismal font experiencing God’s grace. We humbly come to God with requests showing that he through Jesus Christ hears our cry’s and has the power to change our world. We discipline ourselves to live beneath our means by giving away to the minstiry of the kingdom through our offerings.
These activities as we practice with a Sabbath rhythm move us beyond our shallow existence toward the depth of living as God’s chosen people in the world. Perhaps there are ways we could further establish this depth in our lives. Wouldn’t it be incredible to celebrate a Sabbath year together at some point? Imagine what would that look like for us?
That’s the first thing we need to consider as we seek to remember the Sabbath day. It’s a command that calls us to live deeply in the God-ordained rhythm of rest.
The second point the catechism helps us understand is that Sabbath rhythm helps us establish the rhythm of being free from the power of sin. Question and Answer 103 continues by saying, “Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways and let the Lord work in me through his holy spirit.”
Part of this Sabbath life is the rhythm that is mentioned earlier in the catechism. It’s the rhythm of continually having the old self die away and the new self come to life. As we rest we rest from the shallow life. That includes the sin that so easily holds us back. The true Sabbath then, again is not a day that we honor but a life that we lead continually. We do not take a day off from sinning on Sunday like we might take a day off of work. And in the same way that we are called to be worshippers every day of the week, we are called to be holy every day of the week.
When I was in elementary school, I dreamed of someday playing on the South Christian High School varsity basketball team. My brother and I would pretend that we were coming out on to the basketball court with the pep band playing the school fight song. It was great. The High School also had a summer basketball camp. We would spend the day learning from the coaches of the varsity basketball team. One thing the coaches emphasized over and over and over again is you have to practice the form of your shot. Every day they had everyone in the camp shoot 36 free throws. By the time the week was done we had shot 180 free throws. On top of that we also were told to go home and while we relaxed watching TV or whatever we should lay on our backs with our basketball and just shoot the ball up into the air. Practice the shot. Every day practice the form. Work on the proper form. Make the basket.
Everyday must be a Sabbath of rest from sin. Practice it every single day. Practice the rhythm of not living by sin. But learn the proper form of a deep life. That is life that does the good works that Holy Spirit moves in us to accomplish. Acts of kindness, charity, love. Using the gifts of the Spirit to build up Christ’s body and further his kingdom here on earth.
In the second part of the answer of Q&A 103 is what we can highlight as a third point to what we can understand about remembering the Sabbath day. And this can offer us a tremendous amount of encouragement as we might reach the moments of crisis. Mid life. Quarterlife. During times of self doubt and feeling stuck in a rut. This is what we can understand and take hope in. As we fall into line with the biblical pattern of Sabbath in our lives today we begin to experience a already here and now what eternal rest will be. By establishing the rhythm of Sabbath we welcome the fullness of eternity with Christ into our lives right now.
The catechism says, we rest from our evil ways and let Christ work in us through the holy spirit . . . listen to this “and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.”
Right now. Already in this existence. Its true that at times our lives might feel like anything but a glimpse of paradise, but as conform our lives to a rhythm of Sabbath will start to establish a rhythm and depth to our lives that goes far beyond the banal existence of life in the blue glare of our TV, computer or Blackberry. When we live out Sabbath rest and depth every day we experience true existence. We experience existence of life in the over powering shine of the presence of God. In eternity we are told we will have no need of the Sun lighting the planet. We will live in the presence of Christ the eternal light.
Right now is an amazing time in the history of the world. We live in the period of time that has seen Christ work miracles and bring flashes of that sort of perfect rest on this planet and left that healing work to his apostles. We live in the period of time that has heard Christ’s voice on the cross shout “It is finished” as he breathed his last as he accomplished the defeat of sin. And we heard Christ’s voice say put your hand in my side and your finger in my hands, stop doubting and believe, as he calls us to believe that he has come to life defeating death once and for all. We live in the period of time when the kingdom of God is here already and still not yet completely. We can experience the beginnings of Sabbath rest today. But the fullness of that Sabbath is yet to come.
In the meantime, what ought we to do. First of all, we can stop putting our focus on Sunday. Sunday is not the Sabbath with the warnings and stipulations like we hear from the Old Testament. We shouldn’t scorn a neighbour who does yard work on Sunday. We don’t put that person to death for not remembering the Sabbath day. We do encourage each other to spend a day listening to the preaching of God’s word, the public prayers, the offering, and the sacraments. We do encourage each other to establish times to fight against consumerism and the gods that often crowd out our celebration of God our father.
But yet we see that on Sunday’s we come close to the eternal Sabbath. As Andrew kuyvenhoven says, “On that day, in our assemblies and in works of mercy and mutual exhortation, we share “in the Holy Spirit,” and we taste “the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.” (Heb. 6:4-5) And we learn to rest ever better, says the catechism, to “rest from [our] evil ways| on “every day” of our lives.
People of God remember the Sabbath. Get rid of the shallow common life. Live like its forever by the power of Christ through his Holy Spirit.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ex 20:8-11). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.