Narrative Lectionary Sabbath Week 3
Additional Resources for Study & Proclamation
Deut 15:1-2, 7-11; Luke 15:11-32
Sabbath for Community—We’re All in the Same Boat, Let’s Act Like It
Furthering the Power of God’s Story – Narrative Lectionary Commentary
by Daniel D. Maurer, Clergy Stuff Contributor
Ever take a boat ride? The thing about boats is that the passengers as well as the captain are all in the same predicament—without the boat, people would drown. Or at least they’d have to tread water for a while until someone rescued them.
Quarters are tight in boats, too. Just recently, my family and I traveled to Philadelphia for a vacation. While we were there, we took a ferry across the Delaware river to Camden, NJ. Docked on the opposite side floats a monster ship, the USS New Jersey, a battleship retired in 1991. While we were touring the vessel, our one son who is on the autism spectrum stated (wait, no—he yelled) how incredibly tight and steep the stairs to each new section seemed to be. He fell down once, only to scream that we were bad parents for putting his life at risk in the giant ship.
The point I’m eventually getting around to is that a boat wonderfully matches our daily ephemeral existence. With the current technology, the planet earth is our only home. Elbow room shrinks daily. People fight. Communities splinter. All in all, it’s a big mess without any end in sight.
Within every hectic day, we need time to rest, recuperate, and remember again. We need to remember the place from which we came, yes. But we also need to remember that we aren’t in a one-person kayak, either. God made human beings to live in community, and part of living in a faithful community is living/celebrating/remembering the Sabbath day to “keep it holy.”
Since I seem to have squeezed all I can from the metaphor of the boat, I’ll suggest that communal living is also like a party. Holy Sabbath requires rest, recuperation and worship, but it also means that we learn to respect others’ boundaries and needs. Real Sabbath is a way of life and an active equalization so that everyone gets a piece of cake at the party.
A particularly funny scene in the movie, Office Space comes to mind…
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I find it especially intriguing that early Jewish communities saw Sabbath as something more than simply resting or worshiping together. Sabbath, as an over-arching concept, made it applicable to all of life itself. God intended the Jubilee not only to be fair to everyone, but also to actively “activate” God’s intentions for work, rest, worship . . . life itself. Everyone was to participate, because everyone was and is in the same boat.
An especially powerful and contemporarily-relevant theme for proclamation comes to mind here, namely what preference God has as a socially-binding contract between people. Is God a socialist? Or . . . GASP . . . a communist?!
We don’t meet up to the standards of the Jubilee today. Nor do we seem to even think about it very much.
An important part of preaching, I think, is allowing questions to bug your parishioners enough that they’ll begin to think of ways they can apply it to their own lives individually, and also apply it to the community in which they live.
This final week, the Sabbath comes full circle, which it does consistently every week. But this last day begs that we at least ask the question whether a Sabbath existence is even possible, and if it is, how best to begin to implement it in our own communities.
Historical Exegetical Resources
Old Testament Reading:
Navigating the Bible: Text/Rabbinic commentary and Divrei Torah.
Rashi's Commentary, c. 1075. chabad.org.
From the Geneva Notes.
From Wesley's Notes.
At Mahlon H. Smith's (Rutgers University) Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus.
The Five Gospels Parallels, John W. Marshall, University of Toronto.
Who Is the Rich Man Who Can Be Saved? Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200).
A Canticle of Mar Jacob the Teacher on Edessa, Memoirs of Edessa (c. late 5th cent)
"The Prodigal's Return," Luke 15:20, Charles H. Spurgeon, 1858
A Provocation, Richard W Swanson, Provoking the Gospel, 2016.
"The Prodigal God," David Lose, ...in the meantime, 2016.
Bible Leads, Deeply Plaid, 2016.
"Young Man, Young Man" Lynn Miller, celebrating our creative and living God by generating art and architecture resources for congregations and individuals. Art and Faith Matters facebook page contains additional resources.
"Sitting with Sinners," Faith Element, 2013.
"The Rise and Fall of Sir Jaspar Hardmaster," John McNeil, dramatix.
Equity vs. Equality
On Sabbath Economics & Investing
Daily Devotional Feed
Free Dramatic Reading For This Text (NRSV)
Readers: Reader, Congregation
Reader: Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts.
Congregation: And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord's remission has been proclaimed.
Reader: If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.
Congregation: You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.
Reader: Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking,
Congregation: “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.
Reader: Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
Congregation: Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you,
Reader: “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”