I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. The Scripture says, “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.” If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty, for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
OMG it must have really made the Pharisees crazy when Jesus said this! If there was one thing that was sacred to Jews it was the Temple and the sacrificial system. There was nothing greater than the Temple! And if there was another thing that was sacred it was the Sabbath! In a couple of sentences Jesus dismisses both of these things in favor of kindness.
Furthermore, he says that the Son of Man (Everyman – See Day 74) is in charge of the Sabbath. Another inflammatory statement! But it shouldn’t be because the Sabbath was created for the benefit of the ordinary people who had to work 7 days a week with no rest and no time for worship. (See Day 113). There were very few specific directives about the Sabbath – people were commanded to “sanctify it,’’ “rest,” and “do no work.” The religious leaders were more than willing to fill in the blanks and create a lot of specific and somewhat arbitrary Sabbath rules regarding sanctification, rest, and work. In other words, then as now, the people have to decide what’s appropriate, and it’s all OK as long as the spirit of the Sabbath is observed. I think that’s what he means. The people have to decide what guidelines will help people rest, recharge, and connect with God. They are free to decide whatever they want, but they have make sure it’s all kind.
Christians have pretty much dismissed all of the Sabbath rules except for going to church for an hour in the morning. Other than that there aren’t any rules or guidelines. Maybe it doesn’t matter, I don’t know. But I do think that churches today need to work more on the kindness thing. I’ve looked at the “vision statements” and “what we believe” lists for hundreds of churches and I don’t recall kindness ever being listed as a priority. And yet what Jesus says he wants on the Sabbath is kindness.
Of course the church’s priorities often don’t seem to line up with those of Jesus. For example, the liturgy of the church generally doesn’t include recitation of what Jesus calls the most important commandment:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-41).
I think if we repeated this Great Commandment every week we would be a lot kinder. It would keep us grounded. It would keep love on the front of our minds. Of course, I understand why it isn’t part of the tradition of the church. Jesus is quoting part of the Shema, the great prayer that Jews repeat every morning and evening. It’s that darned Christendom thing (Day 99). I guess they didn’t want to include something so important to the Jews in their Christian services, even though Jesus said it was a summary of everything that God wants us to do. Even so, you would think they might have included this simple statement in their liturgy.
Instead, the church has us repeat the Apostle’s Creed all the time:
So instead of focusing on God’s commands for our lives – to love God and love one another – we repeat the beliefs of the church, some of which aren’t even in the Bible. For example the part about descending into hell – not in the Bible. And then there’s the part about Jesus being God’s only son. Why, then, did Jesus teach us to pray, “Our father who art in heaven…” The Apostle’s Creed is really a pledge of allegiance to the church and its beliefs, while the Great Commandment is more like a pledge of allegiance to God. There’s not one little bit of kindness in this creed. Absolutely nothing about love.
My husband belongs to Rotary International, a secular organization committed to peace and good works. Every meeting they recite the “Four Way Test:”
I think Jesus would prefer the Rotary Four Way Test to the Apostles Creed. I mean, the Apostle’s Creed is just a statement of belief, it invokes neither action or effort. Without action, a belief is just an abstraction. Suppose for example, if a violin represents my relationship with God and mankind. Now think about this – I may sincerely believe that the violin can be played. I may deeply believe in the violin and its ability to produce music. But unless I put in many disciplined hours of practice I will not be able to play it. It won’t make beautiful music on its own no matter how much I believe in it. I have to commit to making it work, and I need to play it. Belief is not enough.
There you go. That Apostle’s Creed doesn’t lead me anywhere. It just sits there. I can believe in God, Jesus, the holy catholic church and all the rest of it without ever doing anything God wants me to do. Unless I actually do what God wants me to do, I’m not going to have a meaningful, Spirit-filled life. I’m not going to be a true disciple.
Which brings me back to kindness. Jesus wants kindness, not checks in the offering plate or musical spectaculars or grand oratory in the churches
He wants kindness more than anything. He wants that Shema love. So that’s what I need to do – love. Not believe in love. DO it.
And churches need to remember that they exist to help people grow in the faith; people were not created to support the churches. Churches need to be places of rest and spiritual refreshment. They need to keep it simple so that the focus can be on God, so the Holy Spirit can have a little room to do some ministry. Churches need to be places of relaxation. And kindness. Never forget kindness. Otherwise we may wake up one day and find that God is leading everyone to quit the church and join the Rotary.
What does this scripture say to you?