A few decades ago, there was a television show called “Father Knows Best,” which had a competent and altogether together father who led a decent family. Such a show, and its mindset, were once commonplace. Even among sitcoms that featured somewhat untraditional families, like “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” or “The Brady Bunch,” it was clear that whatever difficulties the families involved had in their lives that the fathers and mothers were competent and decent and upstanding people. Somewhere around “All In The Family” or so, the increase in cynicism of society and the declining respect for parental authority (and in many cases for authority in general) made strong and competent and caring father figures in white families all but extinct on sitcom television. Such father figures held on a bit longer in sitcoms about black families, where one could appreciate good family models in shows like “The Cosby Show” and “The Fresh Prince of Bellaire” for a bit longer, but such shows could only exist because the pressure to see the rare example of a good professional black husband as negative was far lower in terms of our society’s gloomy culture wars.
From childhood, I have been in the awkward and uncomfortable position of being alert and knowledgeable in some ways beyond my elders, those who by age and experience and position I have been expected to respect. While certainly my own life has shown that I am not skilled or knowledgeable in all areas of existence (and there are some what I am particularly poor at dealing with), there are some areas where (unfortunately) I early realized that I was more knowledgeable and skilled than others, and that is not a good lesson for a young person to learn, although it is a lesson that clever children do tend to learn earlier than most, when there is often not the maturity or self-awareness to recognize that the fact that a fourth-grade teacher may not properly know what province of Canada that Ottawa is located in (while a student might whose grandmother was born in Ontario) or the fact that a fifth grade teacher might not know the correct start and close of the American Civil War does not make that teacher any less worthy of respect despite their ignorance on minor points of fact.
In yesterday’s sermon there was a lengthy and particularly poignant discussion of a type of person who struggles to give themselves completely over to service of God, namely those who have suffered physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse at the hand of authority figures. This is, as it should be noted, a subject of considerable discussion here , largely because it is a huge concern in my life. My local pastor, after discussing in surprisingly moving and compassionate terms about the visceral horror that a survivor of abuse faces in trusting authority figures after painful (and sometimes consistent) experiences of abuse, commented that the only way such a person can be comfortable with complete surrender to Christ is to try to, little by little, give it a test and to appreciate the release from burdens that comes from it, and to feel comfortable inch by inch, with all of the little pain that comes from an honest wrestling with our tangle of fears and anxieties, in the hope of being fully reconciled in time to a Father God who is loving and kind and merciful, and not at all inclined to abuse His infinite power, as difficult as that may be conceive.
The passage that the pastor used to discuss the difficulty of this process, and its appeal for someone deeply burdened by the horrors of life in a fallen world that is more traumatic for some than for others, was Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It is not by coincidence that in the very next couple of passages there are related explanations about the sort of rest that Jesus Christ connects with the Sabbath that He made for mankind. Matthew 12:5-8 reads: “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” And in the next passage there is a scripture dealing with this same concern as well, in Matthew 12:11-12: “Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value than is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
In the days of my youth, when I was barely a teenager, the church I grew up in decided on a radical change of doctrinal direction, considering the Sabbath to be a burden. Yet these passages taken together show the intricate relationship of the Sabbath to liberty, a subject I have discussed at some length because of its large biblical and personal importance . The purpose of the Sabbath is not physical rest, but rather to free mankind from slavery in its many forms. It is for this reason that the Sabbath and Holy Days are connected to freedom from debt, freedom from labor, freedom from poverty, freedom from slavery. And, it should be noted, that the labor that is blameless on the Sabbath is precisely that labor that serves God, as is done by the priests and the Levites. God frees us from slavery to sin and to tyranny so that we may be free to serve Him. Our slavery is immense, slavery to fear and worry as well as slavery to exploitative masters. Our need for rest for our bodies, minds, souls, and hearts is intense. And yet it is so hard to believe that our father knows best, despite the fact that our world and the people in it are so thoroughly broken, perhaps because it is hard to visualize wholeness when one has so little experience in knowing it. And yet there is such a longing, even without the experience, for that wholeness to exist, and for us to find it, that only increases with the length of our impatient search for it.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: