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The Third Commandment

Exodus 20:1-17 Luke 6:1-5

Pastor James F. Wright

St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Wed, Mar 15, 2000 

The Catechism:

P: What is the Third Commandment

C: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

P: What does this mean?

C: We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The first three commandments teach us about our relationship to God, and the last 7 about our relationship to other people.

From the first commandment we know only the true God is worthy of the worship of our hearts.

From the second commandment we know how what is in our hearts should be spoken with our lips. The name of God is holy to us.

Now in the third commandment we learn of the right use of our days. God gives us an opportunity to cease from our labors and hear from his goodness.

Most people think Sunday is part of the week end, but really it is the beginning of the week. Sunday was the day God began his work of creation. When he was finished, it was Friday. On Saturday he rested.

God gave his Od Testament people a day of rest also. The Sabbath was a time required where no work would take place. The curse of the garden of Eden was lifted. Men live by the sweat of their brows, but on Saturday God commanded all to rest.

Through his perfect obedience Jesus fulfilled the commandments and the whole law of God. "I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them." Those who live in Christ are freed from slavish obedience to the law of God. They are freed to live as the people of God.

God still desires us to rest from our work and make time to hear from him. We are no longer obligated to cease all work on Saturday, the given Sabbath. But God wants us to stop what we are doing and spend time listening to him.

We have the perfect example in Jesus during the week of his crucifixion. From the time he came into Jerusalem on Sunday until his death on Friday, he was about the work given him to do. Then, on Saturday, he rested from his labor until Sunday, when he rose victoriously from the dead, showing all what his work had accomplished in overcoming sin, death, and hell.

This is why the early Christians chose Sunday as the day for their worship, and we have carried that tradition on today. Sunday morning is the weekly anniversary of the resurrection. As God began to create on the first day of the week, and as Jesus recreated his people on the first day of the week by his resurrection, so we also meet on the first day of the week to celebrate and look forward to the first day of the new heaven and earth that will come with Christís return. (Although no one can predict the day or the time, I have a hunch it will be a Sunday, if weíve kept the calendar right according to Godís design.)

Here we are tonight before God on a Wednesday night, a testimony to the freedom that comes in Christ, that God demands no certain day be observed, but only that it is his desire that we meet together regularly, gathered by the proclamation of his word and His body and blood given and shed for us.

Why then, is it so hard to come to church some times? We have all had times in our lives when we stayed away from church or didnít enjoy coming to the house of the Lord. As a pastor I have the opportunity to visit with people who havenít been to church in a while. While they know it is good to go to church, and they admit it makes their life better when they go, they still have a hard time getting up and going.

This is evidence that the flesh, that is, those tendencies and desires deep within us, are still fighting and resisting the good and gracious will of God.

Why is it so hard to get up on Sunday morning and come to the altar of God, when we get up every other day of the week and go to school or work? We say, "Itís my only day to sleep in," or "I need this time for myself."

How true! We should rest from our labors. But it is not only our body that needs a rest. Our souls need rest too!

Our soul needs a rest from the fear of death sin has brought to it. Our soul needs to hear again that the blood of Jesus was shed for it. Our soul needs to be washed clean again, and our soul needs to be strengthened so that it may live faithful to God in this life.

But, oh, how we overwork our souls and do not give them rest! The workplace is getting harder today because of the demands on our time. Where we used to have to work Monday through Friday, now more and more jobs are requiring evening and weekend hours. Even Sunday mornings are not the sacred time they once were.

Many people have to work two and even three jobs to make a living today. That leaves little time to gather with other Christians for the healing rest of the soul.

And children, they are pulled every which way also. Sports practice, trips, and family vacations keep them from worship also. When can the family come together to hear the word of God and rest the soul?

The Catechism warns us that we should not despise preaching and the word of God. When you have no time for something, you show that you care nothing about it, you despise it.

Take your mother for example. If you say you love your mother, you better call her on the phone regularly, visit her once in a while. Other wise she might think you despise her. Watch out, because she might cut you out of the inheritance.

How much more is this true about God? Take time for God. You have plenty of time to work and pursue your interests. If you donít have time for God, you better reexamine your life. Many people are required to work on Sundays, but there are other times to come to church, like Wednesdays in this congregation.

I realize that tonight I am preaching to the choir, so to say, because most of you are regular attendees of the divine service. But careful study of this commandment shows us how our heart should be oriented toward God when we walk through that door back there. We should not view going to church as a burden, another commitment on a full calendar, an obligation we must fill to meet divine or human requirements. We should see this place as a haven from our busy and stressful lives. When we come here to the altar of God itís TIME OUT to rest our souls and be filled with Godís love.

We are committed to making sure it is God who is speaking here. The emphasis will always be on the Scriptures and letting God speak, not stories and the words of men. We hold preaching and the word of God sacred. It should never be replaced by anything else.

That is why the psalms say, "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord." It is a joy to remember the Sabbath day, the time when we let God speak to us. We keep it holy when we say no to the human desire that would rob us of our due rest. Amen.

Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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