In honor of our seventh annual NWYM Peace Month in January 2016, this year’s theme, Sabbath as Peacemaking, invites us to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The Sabbath is the seventh day, the day on which God rested in the creation story, and the day we’re invited to set aside for our own rest, and space for our animals, servants, and land to also rest, according to the instructions in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. For American Christians, this may be the one of the Ten Commandments most ignored, and arguably for some good reasons. Sabbath laws were discarded in the United States throughout the early 20th century, and many of us would probably agree that the state should not have to legislate our enactment of Sabbath practices. (Although, one could argue the other side and say that the state legislates many of the other commandments: not stealing or murdering, for example. But perhaps that is something you can think about and discuss with your congregation during Peace Month.) Do personal and communal practices of Sabbath hold an important place in our spiritual life today? Should they? What might these practices look like, and what do they have to do with peacemaking?
During January 2016 we encourage you to focus on the practice of Sabbath as an act of peacemaking. Spending a day intentionally resting can clearly provide a personal sense of peace. In our culture where we’re pressured to always be on the go, what does it look like to practice Sabbath? We encourage you to explore this topic together with your congregation. Tell your stories of success and failure at Sabbath-keeping, and discuss the intention behind Sabbath. Walter Brueggemann’s 2014 book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, is an excellent (and brief!) resource you might find helpful in thinking about the connections between Sabbath and peacemaking in our current day and age. Here is a list of other Sabbath resources you might also find helpful in your preparation, thanks to Howard Macy.
Below you will find a poster and PowerPoint title slide you can use in your promotion of Peace Month, a downloadable Daily Reader with brief stories and reflections from Northwest Yearly Meeting members, suggestions for sermons and children’s and youth education as one complete booklet, or as smaller documents for each age group. These have also been mailed to your meetinghouse.
Here is the outline we suggest for each week of Peace Month, if it is helpful for you, though you are also welcome to develop this theme in the directions you feel led.
- Week 1: The Gift of Sabbath
- Week 2: The Rhythm of Sabbath
- Week 3: The Freedom of Sabbath (MLKJ Weekend)
- Week 4: Jesus and Sabbath
- Week 5: Experimenting with Sabbath
- Sermon Suggestions Peace Month 2016
- Suggestions for Children Peace Month 2016
- Suggestions for Youth Peace Month 2016
- Sabbath Bibliography for Pastors