Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Going to the Garden!

Psalm 39:7-13 (NIV)
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—
surely everyone is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, LORD,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”

Exodus 31:12-32:29
The Sabbath

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. 14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” 18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Reflections: The theme for today is the need for us to set apart time to be with and pray to the Lord. The psalmist reflects this theme in his crying out to the Lord in asking for forgiveness for his iniquities. He prays for God to remove the scourge from him, as he knows he has let down the Lord and has no words to say to God. He needs to hear God’s word to him. He knows the Lord is disciplining those whom He loves, but it is almost too much for him. He needs to hear the word of grace.

In our Old Testament passage, we see that smack in the middle of all the laws that God has given the Israelites is the command to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy to Him.” Notice also the key words “it is the Lord who makes you holy.” The Sabbath is a day of a lack of work, and it reminds us that producing holiness is God’s work. God sets us apart as His people to show the world that we are his. Our part is honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy by refraining from work, and God’s part is to make us holy as we honor it.

Unfortunately the leaders turned this into legalism, with all kinds of rules on what was obeying the Sabbath and what was not. They turned it into a man-made thing versus a God made thing, and the result was it didn’t do anything but bind people instead of freeing them. As Jesus said as he saw this, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man made for the Sabbath.” Do you observe the Sabbath? Do you have a day where you don’t work? “Workaholism” is a huge problem in our driven society, and reflects materialism, and our need for success and proving ourselves to others. This is not of God and God does not bless it, or those who disregard it! (Notice the harsh consequences for those who don’t obey this law!)

Finally, we see Jesus retreating to the Garden for a Sabbath time of prayer. He knew the trial that awaited him, and he knew how much heavenly strength he would need to be faithful unto death. Be sure to notice the humanness of Jesus as he says, “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.” And in his time of greatest need, his best friends could not even stay awake to pray with him. Great is the friend who will pray with you in time of need.

We face trials every day and like Jesus as we wait and watch in prayer we can pray like him, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Every day we can have a mini-Sabbath, as we set aside time to read his word, listen and pray and then we can see each trial as a time of testing to show whose children we really are.

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! For he commanded, and they were created. Psalm 148:3,5

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11

We offer thanks to you, Creator God, for all good gifts - the seasons of the year and of the spirit, and the experiences of joy, pleasure and gladness. We offer thanks also for the sorrow and grief and solitudes of life and for the strength through which we are able to meet them. We pray for those who work hard to preserve our planet and we commit ourselves to work with them this day. Amen. (paraphrased from General Liturgy 4, MBW p29)

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