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Lenten Devotional: Feb. 27

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Today’s texts: Genesis 41:1-13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-7; Mark 2:23-3:6

Mark 2:23-3:6

Workaholics that we are, Asian Americans often aren’t good at resting. So it comes as no surprise that we often make little space in our lives for Sabbath. In contrast, the 20th Century Reformed theologian Karl Barth made the rather extraordinary claim that the Sabbath shapes the entirety of the Christian life. This seems odd to our overachieving sensibilities because we’re not sure why we ought ever stop and rest.

In Mark 2:23-3:6, we see Jesus reclaiming the Sabbath. We may mistakenly surmise that Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in this passage suggests an abolition of the Sabbath. Rather than abolishing it, Jesus comes to fulfill the Sabbath by engrafting us into God’s eternal rest by way of his Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. For Barth this meant that the Sabbath was the beginning, not the end, of the week in the same way that the Resurrection was the beginning of the Christian life. The Sabbath forms us to see that God is in charge of history and our lives, freeing us from the idolatrous presumption that we have to be in control. In a world driven by the maniacal mission of making history come out right, Christians rest. From the perspective of the world’s frenetic addiction to work, such rest can’t but seem irresponsible, rendering worship almost nonsensical. For Christians, however, the claim of Sabbath isn’t that God’s salvation means we sit passively by and do nothing, but rather that Jesus’ resurrection means that we have been freed to do anything faithfulness demands. In a world of frightening violence, injustice, and desperation, such worship heralds the good news that God in Christ means the best for us, and that best begins in the worshipful rest of the Sabbath.

Jonathan Tran is Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Baylor University in Waco, TX. He is author of The Vietnam War and Theologies of Memory: Time and Eternity in the Far Country (Challenges in Contemporary Theology).

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