It goes by many names: Rally Sunday, Kickoff Sunday, Celebration Sunday, Beginning of Sunday School Sunday and a host of others. Whatever you call it, come September there’s a day in congregations when members anticipate renewed enthusiasm for ministries, increased attendance and a new beginning. It marks the end of summer vacations and the start of activities, meetings and ministry events such as “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday—and hopefully excitement for what’s to come.
I worked with a pastor who used “rally” as a verb to continually breathe life into activities. The youth were planning worship: Let’s rally them to give their hearts to sharing and leading us in song! A committee was feeling overwhelmed with the work ahead and a lack of participation: Let’s rally and get some new people to help! A staff member was feeling overwhelmed by a busy schedule: You can rally and do this!
It quickly became the mantra for everyone in the church: Let’s rally! To this day, if I need a pep talk, I tell myself that I can rally and do whatever lies ahead with strength and commitment.
Jesus rallied his disciples to a new way of living and being. He rallied them around God’s love for the world and for a wider understanding of who’s welcome at the table (Luke 14:13). In our Gospels for September and October, he calls the disciples, and us, to a life of costly discipleship. Jesus calls us to welcome the stranger and the poor, to honor our God-given gifts and to persist in pursuit of justice.
The newness and excitement at the start of fall provides an opportunity to rally a congregation to demonstrate their faith in ways that serve our neighbors and deepen one’s connection to God. Yet it doesn’t take long before our pursuit of faith slows down. A practice here, a soccer game there, extra homework and new work assignments can pull us away from regular church attendance or, at the least, sap our energy for any chance of a devotional life.
We need Jesus’ words to rally us in our faith. To reach out to our neighbors. To see the gift of creation and our role to care for all God’s earth and inhabitants.
Can we take a cue from the widow in Luke 18 who persistently and faithfully kept returning to the unfaithful judge with her plea? Consider what persistence looks like to you in this season. Perhaps it’s simply worshiping regularly or cracking open your Bibles daily. Maybe it’s praying with your kids before bedtime and marking one another with the sign of the cross.
Wherever we find ourselves this season, and whatever the days bring, let us enter in with joy and persistence, listening for Jesus calling. And remember that God will always rally for us—in love, grace, forgiveness and new life. Over and over again.