Christians enjoy a good return story. The notion of return is a deep part of the biblical narratives. The Bible is full of stories about sons, daughters, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, or an entire group of people returning after long journeys, or prolonged wars, or even longer exiles. As Christians, we proclaim that Jesus returns from a death. Returning is something that drives an emotional response. Returning can feel exciting and hopeful as we anticipate reuniting with people we have not seen for a while. Or, it can create angst and anxiety when returning to a situation that could be problematic. Returning is joyful, risky, or both.
Returns can be extraordinary or ordinary. Return is part of the rhythm of our days – in the morning, evening, and in the hours of each day as we return to our desks, our work, our friends, our family. Little reunions lead to bigger ones, and there are times of the year that mark returns like Thanksgiving, Christmas. Weddings and funerals are events where families return together– like it or not. August is another one of the calendar’s returning times. As the school year begins, we ask God to watch over college-bound freshman, or we watch our daughters become high school people, or we return to school after a summer of change. August is an annual parade of change and return as we witness the growth of people from the child to the adolescent to the adult.
Our church marks this time as a rallying point. We take one Sunday and call it “Rally Day.” I have no idea where this comes from, but all my Episcopal Church life we have had a Sunday called Rally Day. At St. Mark’s we have two! We host one in March and one in August. We use these particular Sundays as points of entry. We invite our ministries to set up tables, sign up sheets, promotional materials, displays that encourage people to participate in the life of our church. This year’s fall Rally Day is August 25, at 10:00 A.M. in Hauser Hall. It is a mark of return to St. Mark’s Church.
Rally Day is a return — someone may be coming back to church after a long time away. It is a return -another person may be volunteering for something they love but have been unable to participate. It is a joyful return as people reconnect after a summer away. It is a risky return, as people may be trying something new. It is a day where careful attention needs to be given to newer members of our congregation as they join in the vibrant life of our church.
As we all return to the rhythms of school, work, and church, it is my hope that you add another return to your rhythm: I hope you return to prayer. All the returning we do this time of year requires reflection time with God. Our prayers, big and small, long and short, are a type of returning. When we offer a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer of hope, or a prayer of confusion, we are rallying our spirits towards the source of our life. We rally, return, and reconnect. This is what religion is all about–staying connected through the rhythms and returns of life.