Celebrating 10 Years - "God's work. Our hands." Sunday September 10, 2023

We really wanted to hit it out of the park with this particular “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday. We had done some collections and fundraisers in previous years of the Sunday after Labor Day ministry celebration for our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), but something more hands-on and experiential usually hits the spiritual spot a bit more. We had been supporting a local foster organization over the years, so we wondered about maybe bringing that to the forefront as we tried to do our part in bringing our wider church’s motto to realer life.

What about inviting those families to a local park for a lunch? A nice thought, but we overlooked the reality for many foster families, some of whose children’s identities need to be protected, not to mention some respective parents, whose hearts and compassion and patience are beyond my understanding, may not be overly comfortable walking into a new place with strangers encouraging them to sit down and have lunch with them. Regardless, we pressed on.

Only a few families showed up. It’s quite possible others drove up to the picnic area, but when they saw a large crowd of bold yellow t-shirts waiting to pounce into action, they might have reconsidered getting out of their vehicle to test a rather unfamiliar situation, to say the least. Yes, our hearts were in the right place. We simply wanted to let such families know that they were loved in spite of a world that may often look down upon them. We wanted them to remember that God adored them as much as anyone else, no matter how their precious family came together. There may have been a slight disappointment on our part over the few who bravely walked into our midst. Some of the yellow shirts intermingled with them over food, but more preferred to sit by themselves and eat.

And then, something else was emerging on the other side of the park.
Something…unexpected. Something…actually, rather holy. The children were taking advantage of the playground: children of the bold yellow shirt-bearers (who had no interest in wearing the official church attire themselves) and children of other just-as-precious families. And they weren’t keeping their distance from each other to avoid awkwardness with some on the slides and the unknown youth on the swings. No, they were playing right alongside each other. They were exchanging smiles and laughter and joy. In a way, they pulled off “God’s Work. Our Hands.” a bit more proficiently than the big kids in the shelter area. Granted, some holy work is done with the hands of precious children of God of all ages in getting more hands-on with whatever activity that will directly impact poverty and discrimination and many other social terribleness. That holy work inspired by God’s passion for love and grace and hope is absolutely essential, to put it mildly.

However, there’s something to be said for God’s work that was being done on that playground by the youngest of hands. They were doing their own social impacting. They were doing their own Gospel proclaiming. They were doing their own bringing the boundless love of Jesus Christ to life: as if, regardless of family background or past circumstances or bank account levels or school attending or whatever else, this God thoroughly cherished (and cherishes) all of them just the same. They most certainly pulled off an unexpected but most impactful rendition of “God’s Work. Our Hands.”

There are certain images in Scripture I cling to when it comes to God’s fully restored paradise. I like the idea of a new creation, for starters. I like wolves lying beside, perhaps even playing with, lambs. I like trees and mountains and hills and valleys brought to the pristine condition God envisioned from the beginning. But I suppose, at least in one spot, there’s gotta be a playground, because evidently now, it is there where we can catch a most holy glimpse into what God yearns for from humanity. It is there where the widest smiles and contagious laughter and relentless joy can reach into distant onlookers’ hearts and all the way into the heavens. May such wonderful moments of “God’s Work. Our Hands.” emerge not just this upcoming Sunday, but all the days of our life. Amen (so let it be)!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad