Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

On Rally Sunday, I always enjoy engaging in the call and response: God’s work! Our hands! God’s work! Our hands! This powerful proclamation is an inspirational reminder to the body of Christ that the baptismal waters call us beyond our pews, beyond the walls of the church, and into the world that God created and loves.

When our God declares, “Behold, I make all things new,” we are being made new too. Recently I heard a sermon from a colleague, Liz Kocher, who serves in campus ministry. She spoke of divine dreaming and sacred change. I’ve held these words in my spirit, and they have spoken to me daily ever since. Transformation is a gift!

Our God will broaden what we know as ministry in ways we have never imagined. It doesn’t matter if we are ordained to word and sacrament or word and service or ordained by a church organization at all. Through the waters of baptism, the Spirit has already ordained us useful to the body of Christ, and the Spirit blows where she chooses!

God’s transformative power calls us, through the Spirit, to do God’s work with our hands. Siblings of the faith, transformation is exciting, reviving and, most importantly, necessary for steady spiritual growth. Deep, impactful transformation often comes through Spirit-led action. Spirit-led action regularly leads us beyond Sunday morning worship and into the “world.” Our God is in the business of transforming lives, and transformed lives have the potential to transform the community around us and, ultimately, the world.

Little by little we find ourselves going through the proverbial motions, going to church out of habit instead of humility, and following routine instead of reverence and tradition instead of truth.

Jesus ministered primarily in the streets. Our Savior was in public places, eating with tax collectors and healing on the Sabbath. Jesus made house calls, met with people who were deemed “unclean” and even traveled to so-called pagan country.  In fact, most of Christ’s ministry unfolded in the community among the people to the glory of God.

The church today faces many challenges. For example, at times we may find ourselves bowing at the altar of comfort. Now, of course, we don’t begin that way. But little by little we find ourselves going through the proverbial motions, going to church out of habit instead of humility, and following routine instead of reverence and tradition instead of truth. Ultimately, beloveds, our hearts are changed when we move beyond our comfort zones. Through the process of Spirit-led action, could we be so courageous to trust that God’s transforming love reaches our hearts and changes us?

If we say we are followers of Christ, putting our faith into action isn’t optional. Yet, siblings of the faith, this is not a competition. This is not a rivalry between our so-called traditional worship on Sunday mornings versus what we know as outreach or justice work. When you and I move from the pews to the public square and then back to the pews, we are reflecting the beauty of God’s grace by highlighting the hallowed whisper veil between the sacred and secular, thereby keeping the church relevant today.

To be clear, our God is omnipresent—everywhere, all the time. Yet, when we do God’s work with our hands, it is more than doing good deeds. It’s more than planting a community garden or cleaning up a stretch of highway. It’s more than mowing a neighbor’s lawn or helping at the local food shelf. Yes, the church is a vehicle through which we can do good.

I think of it this way: when we receive the body of Christ, the eucharist, we receive what we are—the body of Christ. Jesus’ real presence comes to us in simple grapes and wheat. Beloveds, please know that doing God’s work with our hands is more than simple acts of kindness. Rather, in some small way, it’s a sign of Christ’s real presence in the world, thereby hastening the manifestation of the Beloved Community. Let the church say, Amen!

Angela T. !Khabeb
Angela T. !Khabeb is an ELCA pastor living in Minneapolis. She enjoys an active home life with her husband and three children. 

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