Sabbath: Peace Between People

Setting apart Sabbath time, trusting God’s promises to protect and provide for you in that time, changes a person and it transforms relationships.

Colossians 3:12-16, Mark 12:28-34

I belong to an online group that connects nearby neighbors as well as a slightly wider geographic area that reaches into Wilmette and throughout Evanston, where I live. It’s called Nextdoor — maybe that’s something here in Northbrook, as well. Most of the posts are about looking for recommendations, upcoming garage sales, coyote sightings, free stuff, and babysitting. But this last week there was a different kind of post with the title “Grow Up!”.

Here’s what it said:

“To the 50 year old adult men I saw on the verge of fist fighting at Maple Ave and 3rd street: grow up. I was driving my 7 year old son to his summer camp when a driver in the oncoming lane, in a small, black Porsche got out of his car, leaving his car door open, completely blocking the road. He proceeded to yell at the driver in the car behind him. The driver behind in turn got out and raised his fists. Shouting back and forth ensued.

I eventually yelled out my window for them to knock it off, and they got back in their cars. The Porsche driver glared at me as he drove by, like I had something to do with it… Before he got in his car he did get in a last insult at driver behind him, mocking him for driving a less fancy car. Real Classy.

The only positive was my son feels I stopped it because ‘You’re bigger than both of them, daddy’. Maybe so, son, maybe so. Anyhow, if the 50 year old in the black Porsche sounds like your child, maybe give him a talking to.”

You know, you just can’t make this stuff up. But more to the point, this story gives shape to our continuing series on Sabbath as today we consider its part in making for peace and well-being — shalom — between people.

For most people, the defining characteristics of observing Sabbath are to rest and to worship, and both are not only life-giving, but are also contrasts to the routines and demands of work weeks, cultural expectations and everyday responsibilities. Setting aside time to rest and not feel guilty about it can seem almost impossible, irresponsible, impractical and foolish. Our society’s underrunning message is that the most valued, the most successful, the most well-regarded, in short, the winners, are always striving: busy, driven, scheduled and always available — and depleted.

It can sure seem like that’s just the way it is. But in worshipping on the Sabbath day we get reoriented to a different way of considering our one, beautiful life and how we receive the gift of it, especially the gift of time. Worship has the power to saturate us in the goodness of God, with music and singing, prayers and scripture, confession and forgiveness and the presence of God in bread and wine. Worship and rest remind us that God knows us beyond our striving and meets us in our distractedness, worry, fear of emptiness or loss of value, as well as in our exhaustion with holy peace and longed-for well-being. God meets us with shalom.

But wait, there’s even more to Sabbath! Just when it seems that having “permission” to stop and rest in God’s care would be enough to encourage any of us to observe Sabbath, there’s yet another gift within it. And that is, that Sabbath gives time for us to nurture relationships. Within Sabbath there’s time for intentionally setting aside technology or arguments, time to remember or reconnect, time to make peace with our efforts to control or change others. This is the gift of time to ask important questions and listen to the answers, questions like the one being asked in our summer adult ed midweek series — “should you live by your resume or your eulogy?” — as well as the ones that bring us together but we can too easily forget or get too busy to ask like:

What’s on your mind?
How did things go this week?

It’s also in the gift of Sabbath time that the possibility for loving touch resides, a touch that can restore and renew a relationship between friends and within a family. This can be physical, of course, like the sharing of peace in worship, or a hug or a kiss, or a hand on a shoulder or a relaxing back rub. But just as importantly, it can be the touch of kind words, written or spoken, and words of forgiveness or concern or love. Sabbath carves out a time when we’re intentional about saying words that can bring peace, not only to the only who receives them, but for ourselves, as well.

In the freedom from grudges and demands and distractions that God provides in Sabbath, just imagine hearing “I’m sorry I hurt you” from your mom or dad, or saying “I’ve really missed you” to your distant friend. This touch can deliver a dose of peace that works into the cracks of our broken hearts and empty spirits. Good and absolutely necessary medicine for every one of our relationships.Sabbath opens up some time to share this peace with each other, every week, and as a result, this peace can’t help but spill over into the rest of our days and lives. And really, without having a Sabbath time to give peace a chance between us, when can it happen?

Which makes me think about the anger and bad behavior that erupted in the middle of a neighborhood street in the story from just a minute ago. We know about that kind of anger ourselves, even if you don’t jump out of your car in a rage. We know what disrespect and misunderstandings, betrayals and arguments can do. But Sabbath interrupts this. God offers this timeout of grace, this intentional time for realizing that our lives are not only limited but tremendously precious, when we can risk words of peace for the sake of relationships that hold meaning and hope.

Setting apart Sabbath time, trusting God’s promises to protect and provide for you in that time, changes a person and it transforms relationships. It’s grace that does that, pure and simple and for you. And in that Sabbath grace, we find that we are holy and beloved, with gifts we can offer to others, much like the Colossians — of compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other… living in the immensity of God’s of love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

God has set the Sabbath apart that you may know true rest and experience hoped-for peace, for you, within your family, between your neighbors, for our angry, exhausted, beautiful world. My prayer is that today you will taste and see that the Sabbath is good. Shalom, dear sisters and brothers.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Rev. Peg Otte
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church,
Northbrook, IL

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