Dear People of God,
This Sabbath marks the end of the week where our nation remembered 9/11, a date that is etched in the hearts of all who were old enough to remember that horrific day. I remember the exact spot where I was sitting in an English class at Woodstock Academy when the door opened and the vice principal entered and told us what had happened. The class quickly unraveled, and everyone was plunged into a national nightmare.
In the days and weeks that followed, however, I recall an awakening of a great wave of patriotism. American flags flew like never before, and military enlistments soared. Police and firefighters were revered, and the nation was filled with patriotic love of country. That feeling reminded me of the night ten years before, when Operation Desert Storm was launched on January 17, 1991. I was preparing for a high school basketball game when an official informed the team of what was happening. Both teams were then invited to center court where we held hands and listened to the song, “God Bless America.” It was a moving time.
These historical events were reminders of how human nature responds to large, frontal assaults from a deadly enemy. Inevitably, petty differences and small rivalries are discarded and people come together as one. We sense that we must band together because our very survival is at stake. It happened at 9/11, it happened in 1991, but as we all know, those feelings don’t last. People come together in crisis, but then the threat passes and the feelings fade. Old rivalries and petty divisions creep back in, and the ugliness of human nature emerges again. As human beings, it seems like our hearts are somehow “bent” for conflict.
We need something, or Someone, to unbend us. Jesus did that work on the cross, making our crooked souls straight, and in His mercy he provided even more—a weekly reminder to keep our wandering hearts aligned with His.
Enter…the day of peace. The Sabbath, that was “made for man.” This is our weekly reminder. This is a day where we are invited out of a world of conflict and chaos, a day when we have a little taste of a world that will someday have no war, no aggression, no cruelty. Even the animal kingdom will feel the change, and predator and prey will lie down together at rest. The Sabbath reminds us that a world of terror and violence is passing away like smoke in the wind, to be swallowed up by a shining world of endless peace and harmony.
And concerning that human instinct to seek companions in times of trouble, that’s not a bad thing to do. On this Sabbath, let’s take a break from the grind and stress of work and seek out fellowship with one another. Take the time to laugh, to walk unhurriedly together, to chit-chat about nothing in particular (or something very personal). These simple connections are part of loving one another, and they are a delight to God.
And when human fellowship fades or rings hollow, we can seek out heart connection with our Maker. Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath” and will bring peace to our souls after the most tumultuous of weeks. His heart is overflowing with love and peace, and he invites all who “labor and are heavy laden” to come to Him. You might not always have a sympathetic human ear, but you always have a Divine Listener who knows your sorrows and invites you to share them with Him.
So on this Sabbath, as we reflect on the tumult of our national history and wonder what the near future will hold for us, we can look ahead to the Final Chapter in the book. It’s going to end well. Really well. And there is no terrorist plot, no diabolical design, no nuclear power that can stop that Day from coming. So we can relax and enjoy this Sabbath because it is a foretaste of the things to come—the final Peace ushered in, forever, by the Prince of Peace.
Rejoicing with you in that Victory,