‘Love Your Neighbor as Your Dog’

Strangely enough, it started with the popularity of our local Westonka “Dog Days” celebration. Everywhere I drove around our small community I saw red yard signs in proud pet owners’ lawns making it clear to all residents and visitors of our city: “We love our dogs!”

The event, now in its 7th year, is a one-day festival of all things canine. Over a thousand people attend with their 4 legged friends (other pets are welcome) to enjoy games like doggy limbo, food, puppy olympics, animal costumes, a pet parade and many vendors offering pet products and services. It’s great fun, and the organizers do a wonderful job! Its wonderful to see a community rally around a good cause!

But…my prophetic imagination was also pricked.

A few years back I began imagining a city with yards full of signs promoting “God Days” with equal fervor. With the flip of just 2 letters, we’re suddenly faced with the kind of convicting question Jesus was known for asking the crowds of his day.

What if people of faith were as proud and outspoken about their faith as they are about their pets? Do we love our neighbors as much as we love our pets? These questions are uncomfortable enough, but Jesus would probably push harder: How much money do we spend on our pets each year compared to our charitable giving to serve the “least of these”? Do we pamper our pets while our neighbor’s basic needs go unmet? These are all fair questions committed followers of Jesus must face, as uncomfortable as they may be.

I kept dreaming, and a group of local pastors started planning. If dog owners can join together with cat owners, putting their differences aside for a day to celebrate their mutual love for pets, then Lutherans and Methodists, Evangelicals and Catholics can certainly join together out of mutual love for our neighbors in need. I began seeing blue signs all across town promoting Sunday 2 Serve — a day set aside for Christians from various churches to go out together in matching t-shirts blessing our neighbors in tangible ways.

Well, the dream became a reality. On July 30 we had seven Westonka area churches and hundreds of volunteers participating in the 2nd annual Sunday 2 Serve. I’m so grateful for the leaders and volunteers from the following churches who participated this year: St. John’s Lutheran, Bethel Methodist, Freshwater Community, First Presbyterian, St. Martin’s-by-the-Lake, Mound Evangelical Free, and MainStreet Covenant Church. We hope more churches and volunteers join us next year.

I’m not sure if our blue signs out number the red signs yet (that’s not the point), but I’m happy to know that people visiting the Westonka community will know that we love our neighbors at least as much as we love our 4-legged friends! While “Dog Days” comes around once each year, followers of Jesus are called to make everyday “God Days” in our city as we live out Jesus’ royal creed: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31).

Oh, and pets, too!

[Note: This is not intended to take anything away from Dog Days, but rather celebrate their great enthusiasm, local leadership and organization, and let it inspire people of faith to bring a similar passion to our commitment and causes.]

Here’s a newspaper write story on this year’s Sunday 2 Serve. Read more here.


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