"The Battleground of Time"#85-40
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 3, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:The Battleground of Time)
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Mark 2:23-3:6
"Come unto Me, ye weary, / And I will give your rest."
O blessed voice of Jesus, / Which comes to hearts oppressed!
It tells of benediction, / Of pardon, grace, and peace,
Of joy that hath no ending, / Of love that cannot cease"
Isn't that a sweet invitation? The words were written in the 1800s by William Dix and they reflect Jesus' invitation, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Dear Jesus, You are the Son of God who came from eternity into our world of time and space to be our Savior. We pray that Your Holy Spirit will constantly lead our thoughts and feelings to the rest You promise us. Teach us not to measure the days of our lives by the demands others make upon us, but rather to treasure always our life in You. We are not praying only about an hour in church or minutes of devotion. Fix our thoughts and affections ever more constantly upon You, You who can fill our daily duties with the joy and strength for living that comes through believing Your Good News. We ask this in confidence that Your promises to us are true, and upon Your promises we can build our lives. Amen.
Let's think together about time. We tend to take time for granted. Oh, I know there are exceptions. When you are sick or facing surgery, you start thinking about time. When you get older, you realize how fast time flies. When you are stressed because you have too much to do, you realize that you have more work than you have time to do it. We know those experiences, but let's think about the normal days. There's a Bible passage that says, "My times are in Your hands" (Psalm 31:15), but on an average day, my times are often in the hands of people who want things from me. My times are often in the hands of texts and emails and Facebook and other social media sites. My times are often in the device in my hand. And when we do rest, it's so often all about me. "I need some time for myself!" Yes, there may well be times of devotion, but we do need to think about the other times. Who's the lord of all your times? Who's in the front of your mind even as you look down into your smartphone or look into your computer monitor? Who's in the front of your mind as you're responding to the mundane things of daily life?
The title of today's message is "The Battleground of Time." The way you live all your time shows who's the lord of your life, either the busy world making demands on you, or Jesus who says, "Come to Me ... and I will give you rest." William Gallois wrote a paper entitled, Time, Religion and History. In it, Dr. Gallois examines European colonialism. European powers conquered cultures in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, and imposed their western understanding of time. Think about it. An African tribe that told time by the sun, moon and stars, had a different understanding of time than Europeans with their clocks and business agendas. Gallois summarizes, quote, "Time often became a key battleground between the two cultures, for it was as obvious a locus (place) of resistance as it was a focus of imperial pressure. The conquest of time, and the others' experience of time, was well understood to be synonymous with absolute domination." In a similar way, you and I are caught between two forces that claim us. On one side is the world and work and so many people who claim you for their purposes and want your time to be in their hands. On the other side, is Jesus and all His invitations to rest in Him. This is the side where I am and pray you are. Whether you realize it or not, time puts us on a battleground, and you and I should understand that how we think about the times of our lives, how we respond to the demands and challenges of daily life, shows who is lord of our times.
The conflict showed in Jesus' visible ministry. He argued with the scribes and Pharisees about who is the Lord of time, man or Jesus? In those days, observant Jews kept the Sabbath. That is, the seventh day of the week, Saturday, was legally set aside as a day of no work. The practice came from Exodus chapter 20: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work." What did it mean to them not to do any work? Over the years, the Jews came up with elaborate rules about what you could and could not do. Some of their rules might strike us as strange, like you can only walk so far on the Sabbath, but our reaction reflects our own understanding of time. Here's a story from Mark, chapter 2, where Jesus challenges the Pharisees' understanding of time.
"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as His disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to Him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'
He answered, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.'
Then He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath'" (Mark 2:23-28).
This disagreement is profoundly important for how you and I understand time. Jesus says He is the Lord of time, especially of their most important time, the Sabbath. St. Paul teaches us in Colossians that the Old Testament Sabbath was pointing to the coming of Christ. Paul wrote, "Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17). The Old Testament legal Sabbath has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the One who promises, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Ultimately satisfying rest comes from Jesus. In contrast to Jesus, the Pharisees' regulations about time were burdensome. Can't pluck some heads of grain on the Sabbath, really? Isn't that similar to people forcing themselves upon your time? They can demand your time 24/7 through texts, emails, Facebook and all the other sites of social media. You know that pressure, that burden of letting others be in control of your times. Sometimes it makes your chest tighten up. Now, I am not saying that people cannot ask things of us. They do, and Jesus has called us to lives of service. I am asking whether you let these external pressures be the lord of your time, or if you respond to the world and work and people with discernment, knowing Jesus is your Lord and your times are in His hand. He alone brings forgiveness, hope, and the promise of eternity with Him in heaven. That's why He invites us to Himself and promises, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29). I for one want to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of all my times because I want His peace in all the pressures of my daily life and I want His peace forever in heaven. Another hymn by Matthew Bridges, and again of the 1800s, puts it well.
Crown Him the Lord of years, / The potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, / Ineffably sublime,
All hail, Redeemer, hail! / For Thou hast died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail / through all eternity.
Jesus teaches us, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
Another conflict on the battleground of time: this story comes from Mark, chapter 3, immediately after Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees in the grain field.
"Another time He went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'
Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mark 3:1-6).
This skirmish teaches us that Jesus, the "potentate of time" and "Creator of the rolling spheres," as the hymn puts it, has come into this world to help us in this tough, sinful world. Why did that man have a shriveled hand? Of course, there was a medical reason, but the theological reason is that this is a sinful world, nature has been corrupted by sin, and fallen nature shows itself in our physical problems. In this skirmish, Jesus shows that the Lord of the Sabbath and all time is able to bring help to us in our times of need. There is never a time when Jesus does not want to help you. You can never anticipate how Jesus will help you. The man who went to the synagogue that day had no expectation that he would go home healed. When you're facing a medical problem ... When you're getting dumped on at work ... When you sit idly, depressed that you seem to have no purpose in life ... Those times are in His hand. God once asked Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short?" (Numbers 11:23). Let me put it this way: when you and I filter everything 24/7 through faith that Jesus is truly Lord of every time in our lives, then He will give us assurance that He is with us always. This is more than church, more than formal devotion. This is living in Jesus and Jesus living by faith in us, and it can all happen to bless you in the routine, daily times of life. The epistle to Hebrews says,
"Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Jesus is Lord of all times, even of the Sabbath. Let's go back to the Old Testament and to the Commandment about the Sabbath. Let's see it in the light of Jesus our Savior. While we are no longer required to keep a legalistic day off, God does not tell us to work and be active all the time. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises, "In repentance and rest is Your salvation, in quietness and confidence is Your trust" (Isaiah 30:15). Repentance and rest should be focused on Jesus. Jesus says, "Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31). This is the way we look at the Old Testament Sabbath Commandment.
- "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Any day, any hour, any moment that our thoughts and affections rest on Jesus is holy.
- "Six days you shall labor and do all your work ..." If you can't get your work done in six days, faith says leave some things undone. After all, you are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." Time off, whether a day, an hour, or just a moment is to the Lord, not to you. Consider your time to the Lord and not to yourself, and you will be more blessed than if you imagine it is your time.
- "On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." Here's a blessing. The more of us who stop working to rest in the Lord Jesus, the more we can grow together in love and unity in marriage, family, and community.
- Why should we take rest in Jesus? "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." The version of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy, chapter five, says, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15). Our times to the Lord call us to remember that He has created us, and He has redeemed us.
Who would want to limit time with Jesus only to an hour in church or a few minutes of daily devotion, although I urge you to do both. On the battleground of time, let all your times to be in the hands of Him who stretched out His hands on the cross for you and now lives to raise His hands upon you in blessing.
Several years ago, Thomas Troeger of Yale Divinity School came to Concordia Seminary and gave a lecture about preaching. As he wrapped up his presentation, Dr. Troeger shared a personal story. He had had open heart surgery. Waking up the next morning in intensive care, he heard a loud pounding. Bam, bam, bam. He assumed it was hospital construction outside. "Oh, no," he thought. "I've just had major surgery and have to endure this?" Bam, bam, bam. He prayed God to make it stop, and what was the answer? Bam, bam, bam. As Dr. Troeger slowly became more awake, he remembered what the surgeon had told him. "The artificial valve in your heart would at first make a loud, banging noise." Bam, bam, bam. "Call back that prayer to make the pounding stop!" And then Dr. Troeger drove home a point so very, very true. Every beat of your heart is a gift from God. Every beat of your heart is grace from Him. Let Jesus be the Lord of all your times of your life! Let Jesus be your rest. Amen.
Reflections for June 3, 2018
Title: THE BATTLEGROUND OF TIME
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Dr. Dale Meyer. Now, Pastor Ken Klaus joins us from his home in Texas. Hello, Pastor!
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. Good to be with you.
Mark Eischer: Well, Pastor, we just heard Dr. Meyer talk about "The Battleground of Time." Your thoughts?
Ken Klaus: Mark, time is a topic that touches all of us. This was one of those messages which needs to be heard by both believer and unbeliever.
Mark Eischer: Anything else?
Ken Klaus: Yes. At the beginning of his message, Dr. Meyer asked, "Who is in charge of your time?" He went on to say that when the Lord is in charge of my time, things change--for the better.
Mark Eischer: And what did you think about that?
Ken Klaus: I wondered if it really is my time at all. Think about it. If it really were my time, shouldn't I be able to slow it down or speed it up? If it were my time, shouldn't I be able to fast-forward through the bad stuff or press "replay" when times are good?
Mark Eischer: But that's not how it works. Everyone has the same 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes in each hour, 24 hours each day.
Ken Klaus: And how many people can say for absolutely sure that they are even going to be alive when the clock strikes midnight tonight? We are not in control of our time! But, there's more.
Mark Eischer: Oh?
Ken Klaus: Let me ask you, what is the ideal, the perfect age for a person to be?
Mark Eischer: Some might say it's the person's current age because that's the only thing that is real at that moment.
Ken Klaus: I couldn't agree with you more. It ought to be that, but it isn't. Very seldom does anyone want to be the age they are. Little kids think about what they'll be when they grow up. High-schoolers look forward to getting out of the house. College-age kids can't wait until they can start making money and have a family. And for those in their working years, already on Monday, a lot of them wish it were the next weekend.
Mark Eischer: And then as we get older, we look back on the "good old days." So it would seem, when it comes to the subject time, we are never content.
Ken Klaus: That's a fact that has not been lost on the advertising world which markets countless products all guaranteed to reverse the ravages of time. Now, none of this would be true if time actually belonged to us.
Mark Eischer: Has it always been that way?
Ken Klaus: Not at all. God established time at the beginning of creation. God placed Adam and Eve into His perfect creation, and there is no indication they were subject to any negative effects of time. Nobody would have told Eve, "Goodness, darling, you don't look a day over 620."
Mark Eischer: But then sin entered the world through their disobedience, and really from that moment on time becomes a countdown to death. The future becomes very grim.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, and it would have remained that had not the eternal God not taken action and humbled Himself to enter our world of time. With the coming of God's promised Savior and the completion of His work of redemption, our hopeless situation changed. Mark, we often speak of Christ conquering sin, death, and devil. To that list, we really ought to include "He also undoes the ravages of time." Through faith in Jesus, we don't live in dread of time because we look forward to heaven and God's new creation.
Mark Eischer: Anything else you can say?
Ken Klaus: I guess the one thing I really would have to add is this: Jesus redeems sinners like us. He also redeems the time. In Jesus, we find forgiveness, life, peace with God and the opportunity to invest our time in serving others. And that we do in thanks to the Lord.
Mark Eischer: Very good. And, Pastor Klaus, what's coming up next Sunday?
Ken Klaus: Next Sunday, we are going to be speaking about affliction and how the Lord can either put that to rest or help us get through it.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"O Day of Rest and Gladness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)