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Sabbath: The Sequel -- Patrick O'Connor preaching -- Mark 2:23-28

If you were with us the last time I preached here at First Pres San Anselmo a few weeks ago, I promise you are not experiencing déjà vu. Three weeks ago, we visited part of our morning’s Scripture text with us exploring the need of a personal Sabbath, but today I want us to expand our idea of Sabbath rest as we consider what Jesus had to say. As a refresher, Genesis 2:1-2 says this:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.

If part one was a look at the spiritual discipline and practice of personal Sabbath rest, today we’ll look at the ways in which we can embrace the concept and theme of Sabbath in our world, and how this concept of Sabbath rest has influenced our planning for Family Ministries this Fall.

In our text from Mark, we find the Pharisees once again trying to poke at Jesus and his disciples, which certainly seems to be their schtick. In this instance, the religious rulers of the day do not understand why the disciples are breaking the most basic of Sabbath law: working. “But Jesus,” they said, “how dare your disciples break another one of our many laws! What say you?” I understand why Jesus is an example of grace, because I’m sure my answer would have been to just yell back in response “BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY, YALL!” but that is why Jesus is Jesus and I am not. No, instead, Jesus sees the opportunity to teach, and recalls for them the story of David visiting the town of Nob on a secret mission from the king. David asks the high priest for some bread (which for our biblical scholars listening was in fact the priest Ahimelek and not Abiathar according to 1 Samuel 21:1-7, which could complicate a different sermon in a different time). David asks for bread but the priest only has consecrated bread on hand, which was not supposed to be shared with anyone but the clergy at the temple in Nob, and yet the priest agrees to share the consecrated bread with David and his companions, breaking the rule. Jesus then connects this story back to Sabbath with the idea that human need transcends law, and that perhaps Sabbath was about something more than what the Pharisees saw.

Walter Bruggeman sees Jesus’ understanding of the Sabbath as resistance and alternative. For Bruggeman, the gift of Sabbath to Jesus lives “outside the domain of empire and its colluding empire systems”. That Sabbath is for those who are “’weary and heavy laden,’ made so by the insatiable requirements of our society- in its taxation for the sake of imperialism, in its social conformity that urges doing more and having more, in its frightened intent that there should be no “free lunch” for anyone, in its assumptions that there is a technological resolution of every human problem, in its pathologies of greed and control.”

Both the story of Jesus and his disciples and the story within the story of David and his companions are stories of satisfying hunger- the need for bread and sustenance to carry on and do the work to be valued over the law of empire. I find it interesting that Jesus connects the idea hunger back to the Sabbath. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that Sabbath is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, rather it’s about addressing and honoring the act of rest and restoration. For the disciples in that moment, Sabbath was about being fed, because they were physically hungry.

What is it that you are hungry for? What is it that your soul craves in this moment?

Being an expat of the South, I am always craving something Southern. Whether it’s my great grandmother’s banana pudding, some fresh fried chicken or fried okra, sweet tea, the list is quite exhaustive and never ending. Earlier this week, I had a conversation with my great grandmother on her 96th birthday, and of course food was brought up. We talked extensively about all the memories she has of feeding me grits as a toddler, the time I snuck into the fridge and secretly ate half the pepperonis off a pizza she had prepared for lunch that day, and our family’s staple Thanksgiving and Christmas dish: cornbread dressing. I told her that I’ve been craving her dressing for some time, but I was too afraid to make it. I realized in that moment that I was afraid of messing it up and ruining and dishonoring the memory of Grandmama’s dressing. But her response to that fear stopped me in my tracks: “Patrick, my child, make the dressing. Make it with love, and it will feed you well.”

Pausing to ask the question “what is it that my soul craves in this moment?” is an act of Sabbath.

Back at the beginning of the pandemic, local minister and poet Lynn Ungar was wrestling with the idea of how to embrace community and emotional connection when physical connection was no longer viable or safe. On March 11 of this year, Lynn sat down and penned the poem she titled “Pandemic”: