“OK,” I said, “now it’s time to model them.”

Each kid took the fleece hat they were tying together to donate at the ELCA Youth Gathering and put it on. Then one of the youths took a scrap strip and made a mustache with it. Soon all the kids had felt hats and mustaches, posing like we were at a photoshoot.

The gymnasium was full of activity as all ages tied blankets, made hats, cooked freezer meals in the back kitchen or ate in a corner from one of the food trucks we got for the day.

My phone rang, and the prayer walk that our group was doing in downtown Raleigh had just encountered another person wondering what these people in yellow shirts marking chalk crosses on the sidewalks were doing, and they wanted to tell me about it.

They told the person they were praying. Praying at the sites of historic change and tragedy, at monuments and memorials, at the scene of a recent building fire that gutted the place. Praying for reconciliation over the past, for a peaceful present, for a future that shines more than shames. There were so many opportunities to talk about how we’re doing God’s work with our hands, even during a prayer walk.

As the noon hour passed, one of our caravans came back. They’d been helping clean an apartment for one of the refugees that Lutheran Services Carolinas was sponsoring. When our volunteers had arrived, the kids of the family were already prepared to join in the work, and some good bonding followed as bathrooms and kitchens were scrubbed, laundry was completed and plumbing was repaired.

Stories from the day just kept coming.

When I went back in my office that afternoon, pictures from our volunteer work the day before had just come in. We’d found the interest to serve so high for Rally Day (or as we call it, Rally/Raleigh Day) that we had to incorporate some opportunities for Saturday volunteering too. Now it has become Rally/Raleigh Day weekend.

It’s a day that is chock-full of hope. Hope that small differences lead to life changes. Hope that our hands can do more than fold in prayer and can actually become agents of answering prayers in the world.

William Sloane Coffin, the provocative and prodigious pastor of Riverside Church in New York for many years, once wrote, “Believers know that while our values are embodied in tradition, our hopes are always located in change.”

Rally Day has become, for our parish, a chance to pay intense attention to our community. We find out where change is happening, and we join in. We find out where change is needed, and we start small steps toward making that newness a reality.

It’s a day that is chock-full of hope. Hope that small differences lead to life changes. Hope that our hands can do more than fold in prayer and can actually become agents of answering prayers in the world.

Answered prayers arriving in yellow shirts.

Of course, it’s not like we don’t already know these things are true. It’s not like we don’t already understand that we do God’s work all the time in big and small ways, in pockets of care here and there. Acts of kindness and love happen all the time through our hands and concerted efforts.

But the opportunity we have on Rally Day to join the whole church for “God’s work. Our hands” Sunday and canvass our corner of the world with good works, love, cross-generational acts of service and prayer widens the lens so we can catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God in all its fullness.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer on any given Sunday, we plead that “God’s kingdom come.” And I guess that’s part of it all too. On this day we not only participate in answering other people’s prayers, but we’re also called to be part of answering our own.

Tim Brown
Tim Brown is a pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Raleigh, N.C., and a frequent contributor to Living Lutheran. He blogs at Reluctant Xtian.

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