The Second Sunday of Pentecost – Sunday, June 3, 2018

June 3, 2018  

Mark 2:23-3:6

“Shabbot Shalom.”
Peaceful Sabbath.
“Shabbot Shalom” is a traditional Sabbath greeting for Jewish people. They are wishing each other a peaceful Sabbath; they are wishing each other the peace that the Sabbath brings…

Since today is our Sabbath, Shabbot Shalom to you…
May you have a peaceful Sabbath. May this Sabbath day bring you peace.

I discovered that “In ancient Babylonia a particular day of distinctive character was known as sabbattu… It was designated specifically as the ‘day of quieting of the heart’” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible vol. 4, “Sabbath” p. 135). And yet, scholars don’t believe the origins of the Hebrew Sabbath lie in Babylon. They point to Canaanite culture, specifically to the Canaanite agricultural civilization that preceded the Babylonian practice of sabbatu. The “primitive” calendar used by the Canaanites revolved around the cycles of planting, ripening, harvesting, and then using crops (IDB “Sabbath” p. 135). These cycles lasted 50 days (7 weeks of 7 days, then 1 Sabbath day, or sabbatu as the Babylonians later referred to it).

Shabbot Shalom.
Peaceful Sabbath.
The day we quiet our hearts.

In our gospel reading for this day the Pharisees have missed the point of Shabbot Shalom. The Pharisees, who were men of faith, focused on Sabbath laws. Folks were not supposed to engage in any physical labors on the Sabbath. Folks were forbidden to engage in a list of specific activities.

According to the story, Jesus’ disciples had begun to pick heads of grain, presumably to eat. The Pharisees asked Jesus: Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath? (Mark 2:24).
Later the same day, upon entering the synagogue, Jesus encountered a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees watched to see if Jesus would heal the man, breaking Sabbath law (Mark 3:1-2).

Frustrated, Jesus asked “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4).

Shabbot Shalom explains the meaning of the question Jesus asked. He was asking why the Sabbath existed. Why have a day set aside for quieting our hearts? Did/does the Sabbath exist to be used as a tool for doing harm, as a legal cudgel people use to metaphorically beat each other over the head? Or was/is the Sabbath a day provided to us as a chance, as an opportunity to save life, to give life, to heal, to quiet our hearts?

Our world, our society, our communities, our individual lives all desperately need Shabbot Shalom. We need the peace that the Sabbath brings. We need Sabbath peace in our hearts, Sabbath peace in our relationships, Sabbath peace in our conversations, Sabbath peace in the words we use, Sabbath peace in the ways we interact with each other and the world.
We need to do those things that bring life to the world, things that are life-giving, rather than focus on those things that either literally or figuratively kill.

Shabbot Shalom.

On the cover of our bulletin you see a photo I took of my mom and my dad at church. We were attending the funeral of a friend my mom and dad have known for over 50 years. Her daughter is one of my oldest friends. As we sat there in worship at the church I grew up in and my parents still attend, my mom reached out her hand and held my father’s. It was a moment, a memory, an image I wanted to hold on to forever so I snapped a quick photo.
The image is loving. The image is life-giving. The image is how I picture Shabbat Shalom. I picture two elderly people who have made it their life’s practice to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. I picture two elderly people who literally and figuratively brought life into the world, together.

A young woman wrote online about Shabbat Shalom:

“Shalom gives wholeness – it’s as if to say to the passerby, “I wish the peace of God upon you that makes you whole.” It is an extraordinary thing that the peace of God, found in Sabbath rest, can be so renewing and restoring to our weariness and brokenness. Even more, Sabbath Shalom gives us the kind of peace that allows God to meet us and do the kind of work in and through us that [God] so desires” (Emily Bullbach, “Sabbath Shalom” 2/18/17 allsoulsboulder.org).

May this Sabbath day give you “the kind of peace that allows God to meet [you] and do the kind of work in and through [you] that [God] so desires” (Bullbach).

Amen.