One Great Hour of Sharing

Greetings in the name of Our Savior Jesus Christ,

This month we have a special mission offering in the United Church of Christ known as “One Great Hour of Sharing.” This offering is one of four special offerings collected each year as  a way for us as a church to make a collective positive impact and common witness in one or more areas of critical human need. The “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering seeks to respond in places lacking health and educational resources and/or where disaster has struck. The funds support partner ministries in various countries to fund health, education and agricultural development, emergency relief, refugee ministries, and disaster response both in the United Sates and internationally. The funds are administered by Wider Church Ministries, Global Sharing of Resources. Offerings like these exist out of a call to live out the words of Jesus and to draw closer to God by engaging in those actions that our scriptures lifts up as being righteous and holy.

In the apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches we read reminders that as members of the church we are so closely connected that we can think of ourselves as parts of one body. Throughout the New Testament, the followers of Jesus are referred to as “brothers and sisters”, or “family”.

Many churches live this out when someone is sick, grieving, or in crisis. You show up. You are there for your loved ones in need. You show that love in tangible ways: casseroles, cards, calls, and hugs. These acts of kindness let your brothers and sisters in Christ know that you are with them. They know they are not alone because of your presence with them. They know that they are not forgotten in their times of trouble. When someone you care about suffers your best words and most loving actions declare: “I am here.”

The Bible tells us that God is like us in this respect. When one of God’s beloved children suffers, God declares, “I am here.” God hears the cries of the poor and the oppressed (Exodus 3:9, Psalm 10:17, Psalm 69:33). God is near to the brokenhearted and to all who call God’s name (Psalm 34:18 and Psalm 145:18). God’s great covenant with us is this commitment to be with us; a promise reiterated in Genesis and Revelation and everywhere in between.

When we see the latest tragedy on the news, we might wonder “Where is God?” But we already know the answer—God is there and God is here. God is always to be found with those who are hurting.

When Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-40), he reveals a mystery to us. God is most visibly present in this world where there is hunger, thirst, inadequate clothing and shelter, sickness, or imprisonment/oppression. Christ cares for people who suffer and is so much in solidarity with them that he says that when you feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, provide for the destitute, care for the sick, and welcome the stranger—you are feeding, caring, and welcoming Christ himself. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.”

Your sisters, your brothers, your children, are not just those who are members of your own church, or people who think or look like you—everyone in need, everywhere in the world, is part of your family—the human family—God the Creator’s family. Their needs might seem different than the people you live next to or see on Sunday, but your tangible gifts to support mission (such as through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering) declare the same message: “I am here.” By reaching out to those who suffer from natural disasters, war, or systemic poverty, you let them know that they are not forgotten. Even when the need seems far from here, by working together as the body of Christ, we are able to be present for members of Christ’s family.  Through our gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing we are there providing well pumps for clean water, seeds and training for sustainable agriculture, and staples and cooking supplies to provide nourishment. We are present through medical kits, school supplies, temporary shelters, and safe housing projects where there is the greatest need.

In our words and in our gifts may we be present where the need is greatest, showing the greatest love, that others may come to know and experience the goodness of God and the grace of Christ through us.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Tara

(This month’s letter is adapted from the 2017 Leaders Guide for One Great Hour of Sharing, published by UCC resources)