June 06, 2021

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Epistle Lesson;2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 126

Gospel Lesson; Mark 2:23-28                             

Sermon Text; Deuteronomy 5:12-15


Our Sermon reading for today, is the Third Commandment.


Observe the Sabbath Day by setting it apart as holy, just as the LORD your God commanded you.  Six days you are to serve and perform all of your regular work, but the seventh day is a sabbath rest to the LORD your God.  You are not to do any regular work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your ox, or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the alien who resides inside your gates, in order that your male servant and your female servant may rest like you.  Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt, and the the LORD your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the day of rest.


These are your words.   Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



I was a student pastor, or vicar, at five, little, country churches in northern Iowa.  The members at one of these little, country churches was basically all relatives.  There was an old farmer and his wife, and then their kids, and their grand-kids. 

This old farmer was like a big, 'grizzly bear' of a man.  But, he was as gentle and kind as could be.  He set a great example to his family.  He was regularly in church every Sunday.  

The old farmer's wife was a force to be reckoned with.  You knew when she was in the room.  And, she also set a great example for her family.  She was in church every Sunday, too.

One Sunday I was conducting service in this little, rural church, and there was the farmer, his wife, their kids, and grand-kids.  It just so happened the farmer decided to sit with one of his children, and a bunch of grandchildren.  Several rows behind him, his wife decided to sit with one of the other children, and some of their other grandchildren.

I don't know if you know this, but farmers work really hard.  And when they sit down, they get tired.  Did you ever see somebody in church, when their head starts to bob?  Well, that is what started to happen to this old, 'grizzly bear' of a farmer.  His head would bob, and then he would jerk it up.  He tried to pay attention, but then his head would go back down.  Again, he jerked it up, and tried to pay attention.  But, finally, his head went down, and rested on his chest.  It looked like he had fallen sound asleep.  At which point, his wife, who was a force to be reckoned with, and was several pews behind him, grabbed her hymnbook. 

I thought to myself, “No!”. 

She cocked her hand back, and she launched it.  It was a direct hit, right in the back of his head. 

Now, I am trying to conduct a service, during this.  I thought to myself, “Well, the service is over now, because she just woke up this big, 'grizzly bear' of a man.” 

When the hymnbook hit him in the back of his head, he lifted his head up, and nobody did a thing.  And then, he paid attention during the rest of the church service!

Now, the Bible says,

“Keep the Day of Rest holy”. 

If the primary part of that commandment is to rest, well that farmer, falling asleep in church, was keeping that commandment pretty well.  And, anybody who is at home today, sleeping, instead of being in church, would be keeping that commandment pretty well.  But, that is not the main point of this commandment.  The main point of this commandment is to sanctify.  It says you shall keep the day of rest holy.  So, what does it mean to make that day of rest of holy?

Now, before we talk about that in particular, our text today talks about the fact that in The Old Testament, there was a day set aside when people were to not work at all.  It was The Sabbath Day.  It was Saturday.  People were not to work.  It was because the LORD had delivered them from the land of Egypt.  The LORD had rested on the seventh day, after He created the world.  And so, there was no work on the Sabbath Day.  The people were to use that time to gather to hear God's Word. 

So, why don't we rest on Saturday, on The Sabbath Day?  The reason is because in The New Testament, the Holy Spirit, (this is not our decision), the Holy Spirit has told us we do not need to set aside a specific day, like Saturday, where we do no work, and go to church on Saturday.  In Colossians, two, verses sixteen and seventeen it says, (this is the Holy Spirit speaking),

“Don't let anybody judge you, anymore...”

(In other words, don't let anybody tell you this is wrong.) 

“Don't let anybody judge you, anymore

in regards to what you eat or drink...”

(In The Old Testament, there were things you could not eat or drink, like pork, for example.  The Bible is saying don't let anybody tell you that is wrong anymore, if you want to eat pork.) 

“Don't let anybody judge you, anymore

in regards to what you eat or drink,

or with regard to a New Moon, or religious festival...”

(In The Old Testament there were religious festivals the people had to celebrate, like Passover.  We don't do that, anymore.) 

Then it says,

“Don't let anybody judge you, anymore

in regard to what you eat or drink,

or with regard to New Moon, or religious festivals,

or with regard to the Sabbath.”

In other words, don't let anybody tell you you can't do a lick of work on Saturday, anymore.  Don't let anybody tell you it is a sin, if you chose not to go to church on Saturday.  Scripture has freed us from any particular day that we go to church.  It says,

“These were all a shadow of what was to come. 

The reality has come,

and that is Christ.”

So, that was all pointing forward to Jesus.

But, that does not mean The Bible has released us from a particular day of worship.  In our Catechism we say,

“You shall keep the Day of Rest holy. 

What does that mean?

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

You know, when The Bible says to keep the day of rest holy, the question is:  “Am I personally sanctifying this day of rest?  Am I seeing to it that for me, it is holy?” 

Now, what makes this day holy?  What is happening here that makes it holy?

Back in the time of The Reformation, there was this thing being taught, prior to The Reformation.  It had something to do with something called 'relics'.  Actually, the German word for 'relics' is 'heiligtum', which means holy things.  People were taught that there were actually relics, or these holy things, that were connected with the saints.  For example, you could maybe have a bone that belonged to St. Peter.  Or, you could have a snippet of clothing that had once belonged to St. Paul.  Or, you could have a button that maybe belonged to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Or, you could have a sliver from the cross.  And, supposedly there was this huge collection of these relics or, heiligtum , holy things.  In Germany, there was a place where there were 19,000 of these holy things, or relics, all gathered together in one place.  The people were taught that if you went in the presence of those holy things, those relics, well then, it would make you more holy.  And, it would enable you to get to Heaven more quickly, when you die.  It would enable you to spend less time in Purgatory.

The Large Catechism was written, and there is something really interesting in the Large Catechism.  Here is what it says.  It picks up on that whole idea of heiligtum , holy things, or these relics.  To paraphrase:  You know, all of the relics, all the heiligtum in the world, all of the bones of all of the saints, and the clothing of all of the saints, they can't make a single person holy.  They can't make us holy at all.

Then, our Large Catechism says, regarding scripture, This is the real relic, the really heiligtum, the real holy thing.  This is the real thing that can really make you holy, because this is the holy Scripture, the holy Word of God.  The Holy Spirit speaks through this.  The Holy Spirit works through this to cause you to be holy.  That means He brings you to faith in Jesus, as your Savior, so God sees you as holy, for Christ's sake.  He works through this to create in you a desire to live a holy life.

Our Large Catechism says this.

You want to sanctify the holy day.  You want to make the holy day holy.  Use the thing that makes you holy.  Use the Word of God, because that is the only thing that can sanctify us, or make us holy.”

That is easier said, than done. 

There was once a pastor who was invited to go to a country where it was illegal, literally illegal to be a Christian.  These Christians, these illegal Christians invited this pastor to come from America.  They wanted him to teach them, so he bravely went.  They met in this secret place that had no windows.  It was dark, and people would sneak in.  There were guards at the doors, just in case somebody from the government was coming.  It was really scary. 

This pastor was amazed how many people showed up.  They were literally, literally risking their lives to hear the Word of God.  This happened day, after day, after day.  This pastor thought, “Wow!  This is just amazing!  These people have to risk, risk that kind of danger, just to hear the Word of God.”
The pastor went back home to his own church, back in America.  He thought, “Man, here in America it is so different.  We can get the Word of God wherever we want to.  We can get it on our computer.  We have Bibles at home.  We can watch it on TV.  We can go to church.  It is everywhere.  It's everywhere!”

Then, he thought to himself, “What is so stunning is that there are members in my congregation who are willing to make even greater risks, than those people who risk their lives to hear God's Word.”

Here is the risk he realized people in his congregation were willing to make.  He said, “There are people who are willing to risk, in my own congregation, not hearing The Word, not coming to church.”

You see, that is even a greater risk, than risking your life to hear God's Word.  You could lose your life, if you hear God's Word.  But, if you don't go to church, if you don't hear The Word, where the Holy Spirit works, what is at risk?
I want to read something out of our Large Catechism.  But, before I do that, there used to be these categories of sins that were made up.  They were called Mortal Sins.  One of them was called Acadia.  You have probably never heard of that before.  But, Acadia basically means laziness.  It is this whole concept that I have had so much, and I am so filled up, I am so satisfied that I don't really want anymore.  I am just going to sit around, and be lazy.  It particularly relates to the use of The Word of God, laziness regarding use of The Word of God.  It is kind of like, remember when the Children of Israel were out in the desert for forty years, and they complained to God about the food they kept getting.  They said, “We are tired of this same food.” 

Well, it is the whole concept of becoming lazy, about hearing The Word of God, and coming to church.

Listen to what our Catechism says.  Here is what is at danger.

“In the same way those conceited fellows should be chastised  after hearing a sermon or two, become sick and tired of it, and feel they know it all, and they need no more instruction.  This is precisely the sin that used to be classed among mortal sins, which was called Acadia.”  

Then our Catechism says this.

“It is a malignant, pernicious plague with which the devil bewitches and befuddles the hearts of many so that he may take us by surprise...”

Listen to that. 

“Take us by surprise, and stealthy take The Word of God away from you.”
If there is one thing the devil wants to do, it is to take The Word of God away from you.

It goes on, and says this.

“Let me tell you this.  Even though you know The Word of God perfectly, and you have already mastered everything in The Bible, still  (consider this) still you are daily under the dominion of the devil who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares, and to kindle in your heart unbelief, and wicked thoughts against all of these commandments.  Therefore you must continually keep God's Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears.  For where the heart stands idle, and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in, and does his damage before we realize it.”
So, The Word of God, this regular hearing of The Word of God is so important, because Christianity is not a spectator sport.  It is a battle for our souls, and the devil would love to keep you away from The Word, so he can slowly sneak your faith away from you.  So, we believe it is so important for us to keep this commandment, to set aside a day where we rest, as it were, from our labors.  I want you to listen to this.  For every part of the Catechism, there is a hymn that was written back in the 1500's to back up that part of the Catechism.  There was a hymn written regarding The Ten Commandments.  It was written by Martin Luther.  The title of the hymn is These are the Holy Ten Commands.  I want you to hear what it says about The Third Commandment.  It says it, so well.

You shall observe the Worship Day

That peace may fill your home, and pray.

(Now listen to what it says about work.)

And, put aside the work you do

so that God may work in you.

You see, that is what happens here in church.  You put aside the work you do.  You are here.  You are resting from your labors, so God can do His work in you.  Through The Word, the Holy Spirit is working in you.  Through the Word the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin.  He causes us to see our guilt.  He causes us to see our need for a Savior.  If I didn't see a need for a Savior, I would be in big trouble.  So, the Holy Spirit works through The Word to do that.  Then, He works through The Word to give me the rest I could not get anywhere else.  It is Jesus who says,

“Come onto me all you who are weary and burdened

and I will give you rest.”

He gives us that rest that has been won by Jesus. 

-He gives us rest from guilty consciences. 

-He gives us rest from trying to earn God's favor by our own good works, which we cannot do. 

-He gives us the rest of knowing Jesus lived a perfect life in our place.  He did all of the work.  Jesus died on the cross to pay for all of your sins.  You are forgiven and they are washed away. 

-That brings rest to our souls.  And that rest to our souls, the Holy Spirit uses, then, to save us.  That saves us. 

-That same Gospel message enlivens us, and it causes us to say, “I want to live for my Savior.” 

Who do you think it is who is probably most apt, most apt to go home and teach their children Bible Stories?  It is people who come to church. 

Who do you think is most apt to want to teach Sunday School?  Well, it is people who come to church. 

Who do you think it is most apt to want to give offerings to support The Word of the Lord, so God's Word can spread?  It is people who come to church. 

You see, God's Word changes us, and it enlivens us. 

Who do you think is most apt to have children at home that want to obey, and listen to Mom and Dad, or listen to their teachers?  It is people who come to church, because the Holy Spirit works through that. 

Our Catechism, our Large Catechism says this.  “When we ponder The Word, and hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit.  It always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, and a new spirit of devotion.  It constantly cleanses the heart, and its meditations, for these words are not idle, or dead.  They are affective and living.”

God's Word is not idle, or dead.  It is affective and living.  And so, Jesus says,

“Man was not made for the Sabbath. 

The Sabbath was made for man.”

God made this day for us, so that we can gather around His Word, and through that Word, the Holy Spirit convicts, comforts and strengthens us, and sends us out to live for Him.