O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
our beginning and our end:
bring us with the whole creation to your glory,
hidden through past ages
and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
sought out by all who delight in them.
His work is full of majesty and honour
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds;
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He gave food to those who feared him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are truth and justice;
all his commandments are sure.
They stand fast for ever and ever;
they are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption to his people;
he commanded his covenant for ever;
holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
a good understanding have those who live by it;
his praise endures for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
One sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’
Do you remember the days when Sundays were treated as ‘special’? Shops were shut; only truly essential workers worked; the focus was on rest, recuperation and, for many, worshipping God. Sunday, the Sabbath, was, in honour and remembrance of the seventh day of creation and the fourth commandment, a day of rest. Of course, as is the way with human beings, some took the notion of ‘sabbath’ to extremes. With a zeal reminiscent of the Pharisees, some condemned any sort of activity, other than sitting quietly at home, as contravening God’s commandment to remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). As we read the fourth commandment it should become obvious to us that God did not intend the Sabbath to be a burden. God intended our remembrance of the Sabbath to be a blessing and a gift.
In today’s reading Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees about his disciples’ apparent lack of respect for the Sabbath. This challenge was in accordance with the custom that any teacher should be held responsible for the behaviour of his disciples. However, things are not that simple. In the first instance, the disciples were obeying the law of Moses which says: If you go into your neighbour’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand (Deuteronomy 23:25). Secondly, Jesus makes it plain that the satisfying of immediate need, i.e. hunger, even on the Sabbath, had strong precedent. Jesus recalls the time when hunger pressed the great King David and his companions into consuming the Holy Bread of the Temple (1 Samuel 21:1-6). The Sabbath is a gift … not a burden.
The major Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam all honour days of Sabbath, on Sunday, Saturday and Friday respectively. Religious observance and everyday necessity dictate the integrity of some fluidity in recognizing that Sabbath cannot always be on the same day of the week … but, it should always be there!
Jesus tells the Pharisees, those self-appointed arbiters of religious good taste, that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. This is a fact that we need to cling to today in a way that has never been so important in the whole history of humanity. We live in a time and in a society that has blurred the edges of so many things, and particularly the commandments of God. Rather than working seven days in every week, as is made so easy by modern technology, we should remember and honour God’s great gift from the dawn of time. We should remember the Sabbath, the day of rest, given to us that we might live our lives to the full. Let us remember the Sabbath day, and let us treasure it as something holy in our lives.
Prayers of intercession
For the healing of all ills in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
We pray that the Church shall keep holy the Lord’s Day in reverence and worship, but never let its observance destroy compassion for those in need. Shield your people from hardness of heart and confidence in their own righteousness.
Grant to those in authority the grace not to rule in their own interest but for the good of those they govern. May those who make and administer laws have compassion on the weak and lay no oppressive burdens on them
May we, and all those around us, be alert to perceive where there is need and to give such help as we can. Bless our community with the spirit of harmony and mutual concern.
Have mercy on all who are disabled by accident or illness. Give them courage and hope in their affliction and bless those who work for their healing.
Receive into new life the souls of those who have departed from this world. May they rejoice in the eternal Sabbath where hunger and sickness are no more.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.
Prayer for the week
To your keeping, O Lord God,
we commend all whose enjoyment of life
has been taken away by sickness,
by tragedy, or by the sin of man.
May your love sustain them in their suffering,
and may your people care for them
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.