Pastor’s Message July & August
On June 10th, I was invited as community clergy to attend Shabbat services at Congregation Beth El Ner Tamid on Paxon Hollow Road. Rabbi Janine Jankovitz extended the invitation, as the congregation’s Love Thy Neighbor committee organized Shabbat services to show solidarity with Ukrainians and invited Holy Myrrh-Bearers Ukrainian Catholic Church in Swarthmore. To see such interfaith celebration and mutual honoring of other traditions was truly heart-warming! I also had a particularly spiritual moment while I was there.
See, Shabbat is derived from a Hebrew word for rest, and since God rested on the seventh day and gave Shabbat as a commandment, Jews also rest on the seventh day. (Christians have moved this day of rest to Sunday to honor Jesus and have changed the word to Sabbath.) In Judaism, a day also begins at sundown rather than midnight or sunrise, so Shabbat services are Friday evenings. These services include readings, chanting scripture and songs, the rabbi’s reflection on scripture, and many prayers. Shabbat services are all in Hebrew, however to show hospitality to all the guests, Rabbi Janine would pause and explain what was happening and why. For one of these explanation pauses, Rabbi Janine explained how the next prayer was to celebrate Shabbat or rest, to usher it in with a warm welcome by recognizing ways God has moved in the world.
This really struck me. What a way to ring in the Sabbath! So when council discussed taking a break from summer meetings and we discussed taking a break from Bible study and pub theology as well, it seemed like a good time to declare a summer Sabbath. Don’t worry I will still be working and planning for the next year, just with a bit more headspace to dream and plan. But I want to affirm us as a congregation taking a Sabbath. Let us not forget that rest in and of itself is holy and sacred – even God rested! And if we take a cue from our Jewish neighbors, we can celebrate this Sabbath and ring it in by recognizing all the ways God has been moving in our congregation.
I started thinking about it in terms of the last 12 months, and I was amazed at all the ways we have labored – renovating our spaces, opening our wellness center, serving our community with Thanksgiving boxes, preparing meals for The Life Center, compiling treat bags for God’s Work, Our Hands, calling a pastor (which was more work than anyone realized), writing grants, making decisions requiring much prayerful discernment, calling congregational meetings to make really big decisions, figuring out pandemic life with each variation of COVID, making careful plans and then having to remake careful plans (remember that choir snafu on Christmas Eve?), and I am sure there are so very many others that escape me right now. Please, send me more of your memories of laboring this last year!
I trust you can all see how we have labored. I am confident God looks at Grace and smiles while saying, well done good and faithful servants. So now that we are taking a summer Sabbath, how will you usher it in? How will you recognize ways God has moved? May this Sabbath be one of rest and rejuvenation in which you are keenly aware of God’s movement in your life and in this vibrant community. Join us on the Sabbath for worship and nourishment, and we will all be recharged for the labors of building God’s kingdom in the fall.