Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 2, 2024)

(Sunday Worship at the Happy Valley Moravian Church in Labrador)

To Keep The Sabbath or Not
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Preaching Texts: Exodus 20:8-11 & Mark 2:23-3:6

I hear many dedicated church folk commiserating about the drop in worship attendance since the Covid outbreak.  I, too, am sad not to see as many people in our pews on a Sunday morning. But this week’s texts regarding the use of the Sabbath perhaps should give us something to consider in this regard.

Even before the pandemic, there was great lamentation about the encroachment of youth soccer, football, and baseball on Sunday morning’s sacred hours. But why is Sunday morning attendance so important anyway?

This may be the same question that the scribes and Pharisees asked of Jesus and his disciples.  The complaint was that Jesus’ disciples were picking grains of wheat just so that they could have something to eat, but this constituted work under the Sabbath law.  They also accused Jesus of working on the Sabbath for even healing a man’s crippled hand. In both cases, they had broken the letter of the law, but Jesus said that what was being misunderstood was the letter of the law. Jesus, quoting David himself, said that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humanity rather than humanity being created to benefit the Sabbath.

So rather than complain about low attendance numbers, pastors and congregational leaders should ask themselves what they are doing to produce worship experiences and inviting environments that make being in church on a Sunday something that people hunger for.  This does not mean that we need high-tech projectors and PowerPoints or professional-sounding choirs; it means creating a space where Christian affection is authentic and felt in the words spoken or sung and felt in the shared friendship.

Sabbath, in general, is a lost art and is sadly missing from our world today. The last thing we need to do is make worship attendance something people feel obligated to do. We need to make it a welcomed rest from the hustle and bustle of daily living.  It needs to be a place where people can take a deep breath and feel God’s presence in their often hurried lives.  It needs to be an environment where souls can be renewed in their faith.

This is our mission.  This is our blessing.