1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Early in March, each year we receive the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering. This “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.” ( www.ucc.org/oghs )
Six other denominations of Christians join the UCC in receiving and sharing OGHS donations. The organization called Church World Service serves to coordinate the various denominations’ giving and carries out some of the direct mission work.
About 60% of each dollar given goes to support international mission and development initiatives, while about 35% goes for domestic (U.S.) missions and development. Only about 5% of OGHS donations goes into producing the fundraising materials, such as printing and internet media that promote the offering. The “overhead” cost of administering the UCC part of OGHS is funded by the UCC denomination and our Conferences through separate gifts to Our Church’s Wider Mission. So, 95% of each dollar we give ends up doing direct mission work. Compared to other crisis and disaster-relief ministries, OGHS yields very high efficiency.
This year, our theme for OGHS is “More Than We Can Imagine.” This phrase comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (3: 20 – 21): Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
If it makes you wonder what prompted Paul to offer this benediction, go back and read the verses that came before it. In verse 1, Paul reminds the Ephesians that he himself is suffering in prison because of his Christian ministry work. In verses 6 and 8-9, he tells them that, although he is a Jew, God gave him the strange task of carrying the Jesus message to Gentiles, that is, to non-Jews. And in verses 13 – 19, Paul tells them that he is praying that they will cooperate with God to make his mission work with them a success in the end— even though he himself has landed in chains.
It takes quite an imagination for Paul to think that the seeds of faith in Christ that he planted among the Ephesians could grow up into strong, wise, and loving followers of Jesus Christ. Imagination, and prayer. In this passage, Paul is praying “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:17) He uses the metaphor of a plant, which starts as a bare seed but, by developing roots, becomes able to emerge from the earth in beauty and fruitfulness.
The Bible does not say whether Paul got to see the people of the churches of Ephesus any more, to check on his “crop.” But in his letter, he shares with them his prayers and hopes.
This is the week when we hear the story of Jesus entering the Jerusalem Temple, overturning the tables of those who were making money there and chasing them away (John 2: 13–22). The kingdom of God is not a business arrangement. We love and we pray and we give, and we demand nothing in return for our “investment” in the “crop.” Yet God sometimes gives us the joy and satisfaction of learning how our prayers are answered.
As we give through One Great Hour of Sharing, we may hear the testimonies of many who are blessed by it.