This is the third year that the ELCA has sponsored an across the church Sunday of service to the community in September. Has your congregation participated? Do you have plans for September 13, 2015? It is not too late to start planning.
Service is what we do as Christians, in response to God’s love for us. Service is how we live our lives as followers of Jesus. Service does not make us any better than anyone else. It does not make us any closer to God. It is our natural response to the commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”
People appreciate service. Thousands of Detroit residents looked on with wonder and gratitude as 30,000 Lutheran youth went out into the neighborhoods picking up trash, boarding up buildings, weeding lots, planting gardens, painting fences and more. Ten thousand Lutherans were sent out each day to respond to God’s love by serving neighbors in Detroit.
Service is the highlight of something like a Youth Gathering for many young people. As a matter of fact, when a traffic accident snarled traffic and prevented some of our youth from getting to their work sites, they protested until their leaders and Pastor Jason Asselstine contacted the local bishop to find some service for them to do. It is that important.
Campus ministry finds that students who don’t consider themselves to be religious are still drawn in by the opportunity to do service. Surveys of young adults who are not involved with religious communities find again and again that they are attracted by service opportunities. One of the goals of the ELCA’s Campaign is to increase opportunities for young adults to do service. This year the Young Adults in Global Mission program has nearly 80 participants, out of an even larger pool of applicants. This is nearly double the number we have had in recent years.
So, do you have some things in mind for God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday? Have you thought about enlisting your youth, not just as workers, but as planners? Our youth are dedicated and creative and want to serve. And they want to lead. I experienced that in Detroit, not just with the designated few who stood up in front of the 30.000, but with our Montana Synod kids. They are growing in their faith. They are our future.
At the Youth Gathering, amidst the thousands of bright orange T-shirts we all wore for our community service day, and amidst the hundreds of differently-colored synod T-shirts (ours was deep blue and read “Montana to Motown”), and amidst the congregational T-shirts that some folks brought, were the bright gold “God’s Work. Our Hands” T-shirts. Consider supporting a local business and making some T-shirts for your congregation as you go out and do community service. And don’t be afraid to claim who you are. Wear your congregation’s name boldly. We are a church that serves the world, especially the poor and those in need.
What am I planning to do for God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday? Susan Hedahl has me making a quilt top for Lutheran World Relief. As I travel around the Synod, I often bring scraps of fabric to quilters in the congregations I visit. Recently First Lutheran in Plentywood sent a photo of the quilt they made with those scraps. So when Susan asked whether I had some time to sew, how could I say anything but “Yes.”
God’s work. Our Hands.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
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Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA