(Fourth Sunday in Lent)
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
This coming Sunday, we plan to receive the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering (“OGHS”). One Great Hour of Sharing is the special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that carries God’s message of love and hope to people in crisis. The UCC works with international partners to provide sources of clean water, food, education and health care, small business micro-credit, advocacy and resettlement for refugees and displaced persons, and emergency relief and rehabilitation. OGHS also supports domestic and international ministries for disaster preparedness and response.
Several Christian denominations— American Baptist Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, the United Church of Christ, and Church World Service— work together to develop common promotional materials, thereby sharing ideas, costs, and a commitment to faithful service. Each denomination receives and manages its respective OGHS offering.
60% of the UCC's offering supports international development initiatives, including annual support for missionaries. Currently, we support two OGHS missionaries and one Global Mission Intern working in disaster relief, health care, education, sustainable agricultural development, and refugee support. The OGHS offering also funds disaster preparedness and response, and disaster-related volunteer initiatives within the U.S.
On average, of every dollar given to OGHS, 95 cents is used directly for mission programming and 5 cents for interpretation materials. The associated administrative costs are paid from gifts to Our Church's Wider Mission (“OCWM”) National Basic Support, which is a different annual offering.
Today, with flooding and cyclones and numerous other disasters in the news, your past gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing are already in use with recovery work following Cyclone Idai in southeastern Africa. There, the UCC has begun its early response and planning for recovery with partners. Thus far, $9,000 has been provided for Cyclone Idai early relief work, which will include water, food, temporary shelter, psychosocial needs, basic household goods, and medicine/medical needs. And in the United States’ Upper Midwest, in the aftermath of the “bomb cyclone” of heavy snows and rains, again, your gifts to OGHS are already at work. As communities begin to assess needs, UCC Disaster Ministries is working to support local UCC congregations in their response, and has already provided $6,000 to local UCC Food Pantries. This early financial support to communities is made possible through giving to the OGHS Emergency Relief Fund. UCC Disaster Ministries’ strength and focus remains on supporting long-term recovery work, which is the costliest and most under-served phase after a disaster. And these are only two examples of a comprehensive, worldwide mission.
In recent times, our giving through the United Church of Christ adds up to more than $2 million per year.
Check out the depth of this program at
And please make plans to give generously.
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[God says to us, ]
I will instruct you and teach you
the way you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule,
whose temper must be curbed
with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.
- Psalm 32:8 – 9
In preparation for worship this coming Sunday, I realized that we will need to deal with the concepts of the “bounded set” and the “centered set.”
One illustration of the “bounded set” is sheep in a pen: the wall or fence is there to keep the sheep inside and to keep any predators out.
One illustration of the “centered set” is a lamp and moths: the moths are attracted to the light, and they can approach it, stay beside it, or go away from it as they wish.
When we humans think about God, church, politics, and other important subjects, our notions of “bounded set” and “centered set” come into play. Some of us prefer to keep things informal; to come and go freely. Some of us prefer to draw bright lines, to make sure who is “in” and who is “out.”
I once was lost, but now am found...