the fourth commandment

At MoSt Church this coming Sunday morning, Apr. 10, most of our adult Bible classes will study the fourth of the Ten Commandments (“keep the Sabbath holy“). Following are fifteen questions to help you get your mental juices flowing for class discussion. Many of these questions I have either robbed or lightly edited from two fine works, Rick Atchley’s Sinai Summit and Rubel Shelly’s Written in Stone. You’ll also notice reference to Joan Chittister‘s work on the Ten Commandments as well as Patrick Miller‘s tome.

1. We Americans today are a “driven” people. Why? Can you think of other cultures which take rest more seriously than we Americans do? How do we American Christians typically think of these people?

2. What does it mean to keep the Sabbath “holy?”

3. What happens to people when there is no Sabbath in their life?

4. “The Sabbath is prominent and pervasive in the biblical text generally; it is more often referred to than any other commandment except possibly the first and second commandments.” (Patrick Miller) Why do you suppose this is the case?

5. Four verses are dedicated to the description of this commandment with the vast majority of the text being an explanation for the commandment. What does the explanation imply about the relationship between God and humanity?

6. In Deuteronomy’s account of the fourth commandment (5:15) mention is made of Israel’s deliverance from the land of Egypt. Of what significance is this to an understanding of the meaning of Sabbath?

7. Explicit mention is made of animals in connection with this commandment in Ex. 20:10 and Deut. 5:14. What does this say about God’s concern for animals? What does it say about the proper concern humans should have for animals?

8. “Sabbath confronted two ideas in the ancient world: first, the common understanding of leisure was a privilege only of the gods; second, if humans were slaves to be used for the sake of a few freeman around them. The Hebrew Sabbath day – required – rest for everyone, slave and free, human and animal alike. The Hebrew Sabbath made equals of us all.” (Joan Chittister) Can you think of other ways Sabbath confronts the world today?

9. Are Christians to keep the Sabbath? Is there any particular day of the week that should be seen by Christians as “special?” What would you say is the meaning of this commandment for followers of God today?

10. With which are you more careful in your stewardship, your money or your time? Why?

11. How do you prioritize your use of time? Do you do it consciously or do you simply “go with the flow” of life?

12. How is it exactly that observance of the Sabbath helps you find rest in the Lord?

13. “A Sabbath heart is what happens in us when we make room for God in life. Then the quiet and space that comes from putting down today in order to live in the realm of the eternal enables us to move into a sense of the presence of God that is not strained, or forced, or affected.” (Joan Chittister) In what specific ways do you attempt to “make room for God” in your life by stopping what you would normally do?

14. If a new Christian asked you if they should continue their job that required them to work on Sundays, under what circumstances would you say yes? Under what circumstances would you say no?

15. Have you ever experienced burnout? What exactly is that helped you heal from such an experience?


Judas & Mary

Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)

Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.” (John 12:1-8 CEB)

Judas and Mary.

A study in contrasts.

Judas is cold. Mary is caring.

Judas is defiant. Mary is defended.

Judas is called a disciple. Mary is a disciple.

Judas counts himself first. Mary only counts the Lord.

Judas is tainted with rot. Mary is pure, like the perfume.

Judas calculates what could have been. Mary counts what is.

Judas is thinking, but thoughtless. Mary is now penniless, but rich.

Judas adds things up to be a waste. Mary counts the moment a privilege.

Judas grumbles, doing nothing. Mary fills the room with her silent service.

Judas measures what he missed out on. Mary’s concern is who she will miss.

Judas clouds the air with a question. Mary fills the air with a statement of love.

Judas makes a show of supposed feeling. Mary shows her feelings without supposition.

Judas forfeited responsibility and trust. Mary only grew in trust and so, acted responsibly.

Judas made a show of sounding reasonable. Mary showed worship as selfless service.

Judas is remembered for blatant hypocrisy. Mary is remembered for uncalculating love.

Holy Father, in the name of Jesus, lead me in the way of Mary. Amen.