Faith in action seen firsthand

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2010

Something unique happened at the First United Methodist Church in Opp this past Sunday. They canceled their morning worship service so the church could participate in the National “Faith in Action Sunday” on 10/10/10.

The pastor, the Rev. Jimmy Allen, and the congregation cleaned up yards, painted rooms at the Sav-A-Life ministry office in Andalusia and compiled and delivered care packages to the nursing home in Opp.

Other members at the church prepared sandwiches for lunch and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for supper for the workers. The tired, but excited members came together after supper for a time of sharing about their day of service.

The message on their T-shirts captured the purpose for that Sunday, “Don’t go to church. Be the church!” At the church supper, the Rev. Allen called it an “amazing day.”

According to, “Faith in Action Sunday” began four years ago to challenge churches to literally close their doors on a Sunday morning and go out to serve and meet the practical needs in their local communities. Churches across the nation are participating year-round on a Sunday of their own choosing.

The National spokesperson for “Faith in Action Sunday,” author and pastor John Ortberg describes it as “a dynamic program that galvanizes your congregation to be the hands and feet of Jesus in meeting the real needs in your local community.”

This concept reminded me of a story I once heard. After D-Day, our soldiers pushed the Nazis out of France. As each village was liberated, a contingency of GIs was left behind to help the citizens re-establish authority such as local law enforcement. Our armed forces also helped them with the enormous task of cleaning up what the bombing had destroyed.

In a particular town, one of the first buildings repaired was their cathedral. As the pews and altar in the sanctuary were returned to their rightful place, a statue of Jesus was found on the floor.

His hands had been broken off and could not be found in the rubble. While they were trying to decide what to do about replacing Jesus’ hands, they put the statue by the altar where it once stood.

One day, the people found a message a soldier had printed on a piece of paper and attached to the statue. It read, “He has no hands, but yours.”  It is said that the statue’s hands were never replaced and the message with its profound words remains there to this day.

Our Lord often repeated the phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). I believe He meant the kingdom of heaven was near, but could there be more significance to the phrase?

I wonder if He was saying we should reach out to those near us, especially those in need, the way He would if He were walking on the earth. Since Christians are His followers, we are His hands. He has no other hands, but ours.

As someone once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”