2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 4, Year B)
O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth: Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Faith from the Margins to the Web Contributors: Elaine and Jamillah
After reading the Gospel lesson, Elaine said again, “Sabbath is made for humankind” and without missing a beat, Jamillah replied, “It is about our heart.”
“I always appreciate the scripture verses where Jesus gets angry” said Elaine, “I struggle with that, too…but you know He never really lets the anger get the best of him. I read something the other day: ‘When you’re angry count to 10, when you’re really really angry count to 100!’ and that seemed like the truth!”
They both chuckled at that.
Jamillah said, “Jesus…in this Gospel…I see him being a spiritual worker. He heals a man and reminds us that it is the Word that counts. In my own life, Jesus has been a blessing to my life. When I have needed things: medication, services…Jesus helps me see healing, and that makes me more enthusiastic about getting the help I need. Jesus is active in my life but healing also comes in many ways.”
Elaine reflected, “I feel like I need to ask Jesus for direction. I got angry with all these things that I kept having to deal with this year: pneumonia, flu, sickness of all kinds. Then I said to Jesus, ‘listen, this just has to stop!’ but then when I said that kind of frustrated prayer, it made me realize, I had to stop. I had to slow down, to rest, to take care. So, that realization came from that time. Also, I got visits from people at church which I didn’t expect but that I really appreciated. It surprised me, you know, that people would care enough to do that. But God is like that: it surprises us how God shows up and how our prayers are answered in ways we don’t always expect or anticipate.”
Jamillah nodded, “Oh yes, of course, He already knows what our needs are. It may be that He has already answered our prayer for what we need but we are scrambling around to find it.”
Elaine read the next question, wondering out loud what other people need to hear from this Gospel lesson: “It’s hard to know what other people need to hear from this, because I realize that I am not happy when other people “should” me. You know, ‘You should do this’ or ‘I think you should do that’ so I have learned to take the “should” out of my life, because it takes away anger and hurt feelings. So, there is a lot here I would like other people to hear…especially about the Sabbath…but that isn’t by telling them what they should or shouldn’t do.”
Jamillah agreed, “I think it’s important to not become so “religious” that we fail to understand people. In this scripture, it isn’t about being perfect but people need to know that Jesus is present for us. It isn’t about telling people what they need to do, but about sharing.”
“Yeah, I find it helpful to just share what is helpful from my point of view” said Elaine.
“Exactly” said Jamillah, “you just can share what has been true for you, in your own life.”
Elaine and Jamillah then talked about what “Sabbath” could look like in each of their lives:
Elaine’s Sabbath: “When I was growing up in Philadelphia, nothing was open on Sundays. They called it the blue laws. No stores were open. You went to church. You rested. You didn’t do your laundry. You took that day off, totally. But now, that’s not true anymore. Sundays are busy days where people ask you to do things. Stores are open, people have to work. Everyone waits to the weekend to wash their clothes. We’re missing something I think, and it might be important to think about what we are missing in all our busy-ness.”
Jamillah’s Sabbath: “For me, I think about what it would be like trying to follow the instruction for Sabbath: not shopping, or doing chores, but going to Church and getting rest. I mean, though, it isn’t like God is going to get angry if we need to wash our clothes, if Sunday is the only day. God says to remember Him, to make that time one where our thoughts are on God. I think that is how I can make the Sabbath look for me.”
For both of these women whose age and race and life circumstances different, they shared the realization that ‘busy, busy’ was taking priority over calmness and care: “It’s good for us to just slow down, to meaningfully rest instead of waiting until we are exhausted.” In fact, they both found that doing this kind of bible study made them slow down, “Just think about how long we just spent looking at these few lines of scripture, to asking where God is for us, to see the healing of the message.” It isn’t too late to slow down, to see and take in the many ways that Sabbath is made for us, so that we can be made for God.