Matthew 12: 1 – 8 [9 – 14]

You  may recall that one of my favourite Collects is the one for the Second Sunday after Christmas: O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity….[1]

I return frequently to this prayer, both as a prayer to pray, but also as something to ponder. I find the image of wonderfully creating and more wonderfully restoring our human nature to be a place of rich contemplation, just as my imagination is captured by the image of sharing the divine life. It is this latter phrase that arrests my attention this morning.

We know from Scripture that God is a God of many characteristics. Among the things we can say about God, is that God is a God of revelation. God makes himself known. God is also a God who creates, who teaches, heals, forgives, and restores. Each of these is a revelation of God, and so when we participate in them, with the eyes and hearts of faith we can discover something more about God, especially as God has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus, and in that way share in God’s divine nature, and participate in the very life of God.

But there is another act of Divine self-revelation that we don’t speak of very often. Just as we can discover something about God in acts of creation and creativity, so too can we share in the divine life through acts of rest. God is a God who creates, and God is a God who rests.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.[2]

It is this God, the God who rests, that we discover in today’s gospel. But the rest we see today, is not a rest bound by rules and laws. It is a rest bound by liberation and love. We see this especially in the portion of Matthew that immediately follows today’s reading, where Jesus heals the man with the withered hand on the sabbath, and as the text tells us, the man is restored to health.[3]

We remind ourselves of this in our Rule where we say: If we have kept [our sabbath day] holy we will resume our daily life reinvigorated and restored to ourselves.[4]

Our sabbath days are intended then, not simply as an opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep, although many of us do. The real purpose of the sabbath is to discover something about, and share in, the nature and being of a God who rests. In doing so, we can discover that is a rest an act of revelation, liberation, restoration, and love. Our sabbath days on Monday then, are not simply an opportunity to catch up on sleep, they are an opportunity to discover again, how much God loves us, and in that way, by resting, share in God’s divine nature, and participate in God’s divine life.

Homily preached by Brother James Koester SSJE, on Friday, 17 June 2020


[1] Book of Common Prayer, 1979, page 214

[2] Genesis 2: 1 – 3

[3] Matthew 12: 9 – 14

[4] SSJE, Rule of Life, Rest and Recreation, chapter 45, page 91

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