Weekly worship: Sunday 3 June
A reflection for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Some laws are there to be broken – some are unjust, others are designed to be discriminatory and to deliberately disadvantage sections of society. There is a long history of people of faith defying authority and questioning unjust laws. The Quakers and the Continental Anabaptist movement before them are notable amongst those who have taken a courageous, principled and moral stance against those laws of the state for which they have a conscientious objection.
In the present day, there are those who resist paying taxes to produce nuclear weapons, or who give support for refugees – the undocumented migrants and asylum seekers – in defiance of the laws of the state. There are others who campaign against the onerous interest levied on the debts of the poorest individuals and countries.
The clash between moral principles and the force of law was understood in William Shakespeare’s time – in his play ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ the money lender Shylock may have had the right to claim his pound of flesh, but was the law right?
A day of life, dignity and freedom
Some situations in contemporary life are ripe for new ways of thinking and they invite us to take a fresh look at the rules we have lived with until now. This does not necessarily mean confronting the laws of the land, but rather having another take on the conventions or rules by which we do things. Alternative trading schemes and the movement for a basic income are fresh approaches that challenge the prevailing economic models of our society which have repeatedly failed people living in poverty.
In our reading from the book of Deuteronomy, God ordained that the sabbath shall be a day that all may rest from their labours. It was to be a day in the week to restore life, dignity and freedom in thanksgiving for the release from bondage that the Israelites had experienced. It was to be a God-centred rest and a sign of their salvation.
Where’s the God of joy gone?
In Mark’s Gospel we read of how the Pharisees had ruined the sabbath rest with their rigid rules. But the very salvation brought by the Exodus and protected by the sabbath was now being proclaimed by Jesus in his treatment of people who are poor, excluded, sick, and vulnerable. The Pharisees didn’t understand why Jesus should eat with tax gatherers and sinners, those considered unclean and marginalised – or why he might want to see his hungry followers fed on the sabbath. He put their needs above the petty laws of the religious elites.
Questions for us are whether we have ended up controlling the freedom that Christ brings with a list of dos and don’ts. Have we reduced life to mere technicalities? Has a Sabbatarian mentality driven away the God of joy and fun? Can we accept the challenge to confront those laws that dehumanise, discriminate and don’t care about real people, and their needs?
Come and celebrate with us!
We have heard that the day of rest is made for us –
an opportunity for creativity
for delight in eating together
for enjoying each other’s company.
Jesus, our Guide and our Friend,
you have shown us that the rules and regulations
should save us, not shackle us,
free us up, not lock us down.
So we celebrate that you offer us life before death,
and the Spirit of God in place of domination.
Pointers for prayer
Pray for a sabbath rest for all Christian Aid partners who work tirelessly to empower and equip communities across the world to reclaim their dignity.
Pray for respite from conflict for our sisters and brothers in South Sudan Pray for a lasting peace and a reliable supply of food for all who live there.
The weekly pointers for June have been provided by Gray Featherstone, Jean Harrison, Ben Humphries, Peter West, Timothy Woods who were colleagues at Christian Aid, and together contributed to ‘Stories Worth Telling’ (published 2013), a series of reflections on lectionary readings, inspired by Christians Aid’s partners and friends around the world.