Has your congregation participated in the ELCA’s “God’s work. Our hands” Sunday in the past? (It is September 10 this year, but you can choose any day that works for your congregation.). It is a way to get outside our doors and into our neighborhoods, serving others in the name of the Gospel. If you haven't participated in the past, consider doing so this year. If you have, consider reaching out even more—checking with schools, law enforcement, support groups, veterans groups, and social services to see who is being left out, who falls between the cracks.
Our church designates a particular Sunday as “God’s work. Our hands” Sunday to encourage us to go public with what we do so naturally—reach out and help our neighbors. It's what Christians ( and most other people of faith) do—we help. It has been a signature part of Christianity since the beginning. When the plague hit Rome, and everybody who could afford to get out of town did so, the Christians stayed and took care of the sick. That personal risk-taking, with little regard for their own health, had a profound effect on the people who took notice. While everybody with means and sense was running away from danger, Christians were facing it. They were meeting the future boldly. And they aren't doing it as part of some self-promotion campaign. They were doing God’s work with their hands.
“God’s work. Our hands” Sunday started as a way to encourage ELCA congregations not only to serve their neighbors, but to let people know who they are and why they are doing it. We have all kinds of opportunities to serve our neighbors in Montana and Wyoming, and to let the world know about it, as well.
Maybe you will provide a free lunch to families whose resources are stretched. Maybe you’ll have a fundraiser for families impacted by the fires and the drought. Maybe you will cleanup a park. Maybe you will visit your county jail—both the staff and the prisoners.
Maybe you will create a safe place in your congregation where people of opposing points of view can listen to one another respectfully and peacefully. Maybe you will seek out a situation where there has been misunderstanding and strife, and seek harmony, understanding.
Maybe you will invite young adults who were once associated with the congregation to come back for a volunteer project. Maybe you will find intergenerational ways to serve your neighbors.
When the early Christians cared for the plague victims in Rome, they did not limit the pool to Christians. As Jesus showed us in his actions and in the parable of the Good Samaritan, neighbor love is not limited to our own kind.
“God’s work. Our hands” Sunday challenges us and gives us the opportunity all over again to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
Meet the future boldly.
Jessica Crist, Bishop