More than we can imagine

By Craig Thompson

By the Rev. Thea Leticia Racelis

“Now to God be the glory, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we look at all the areas of need in the world. There is hunger, sickness, decay, and injustice in so many communities. It is easy to feel that we are too small and too insignificant to make a difference and believe that nothing we do can help.

But there is hope! Better yet: we are that hope! As the Apostle Paul writes, “by the power at work within us,” God is able to “accomplish abundantly more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it succinctly when he wrote, “We are the agents of transformation that God uses to transfigure the world.” We know that we are part of God’s answer to the need in the world! As followers of Jesus, we know that God’s dream for all people is not that we would strive to be separate, caring only for ourselves, but that in community, we would practice love and compassion. When we share our resources, there is enough for us all! We share our resources because, as Brian Peterson writes: “we are not simply filled ‘with’ God’s fullness as something to make us feel satisfied and content, but we are filled for the goal of God’s fullness in and for the world.”

We are all connected, and we derive our identity from God “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14b). We are all part of the family of God whether we live in an agricultural community in Nicaragua or in a bustling city in the United States.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we do not act alone. We act as the church, a gathering of God’s people, still living into Paul’s prayer and being “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17b). John Stott shares, “Paul likens [the Christians of Ephesus] first to a well-rooted tree, and then to a well-built house. In both cases, the unseen cause of their stability will be the same: love. Love is to be the soil in which their life is to be rooted; love is to be the foundation on which their life is built.”

As Christians, living into this loving legacy, we act out of faith knowing that God is using our contributions in ways that we can’t foresee and multiplying blessings in ways we would never expect. We act knowing that we are part of God’s imagination.

Will you be part of God’s dream for the world? Will you accept the invitation to make a difference and see what God will do with our giving?

We pray that you and your congregation will be inspired to give to One Great Hour of Sharing with hopeful expectation of what God will do. It will surely be more than we could imagine.

This theme interpretation was written for the 2018 One Great Hour of Sharing. Find this and other worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs. Give today at www.brethren.org/giveoffering .

You are here

One Great Hour of Sharing  Photo by Jeffrey Abyei

One Great Hour of Sharing
Photo by Jeffrey Abyei

By Laura Jean Torgerson

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”(Matthew 25:40).

Paul reminds us that as members of the church, we are so closely connected that we may consider ourselves as parts of one body. The New Testament constantly refers to followers of Jesus, not as Christians, but as a family— brothers and sisters.

Many churches live this out when someone is ill, mourning, or facing difficulty. We show up. We are present with loved ones who are in need. We show love in tangible ways with casseroles and cards, and with hugs and spoken words of prayer. These acts let our brothers and sisters in Christ know that we are present with them. They know they are not alone because we are beside them.

Maybe you have been through diagnosis and treatment, or unimaginable sorrow, and your church—your family—has been there to let you know that you are not forgotten in times of trouble. When someone is with you through difficult times, all their truest words and most loving actions simply declare, “I am here.”

The Bible tells us that God is like us in this way. When one of God’s beloved children suffers, God declares, “I am here.” God hears the cries of the poor and oppressed (Exodus 3:9, Psalm 10:17, 69:33), is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), and is near to all who call out to God (Psalm 145:18). The promise that God will be with us is a constant refrain from Genesis to Revelation.

When we see the latest tragedy on the news, we might ask, “Where are you, God?” But we already know the answer—God is present in the midst of 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 tangibly present in the world where people hunger, thirst, lack adequate clothing or shelter, and are sick or imprisoned. Christ claims as family members people who suffer and says Christ is so present in them that when you feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome the stranger—you feed, care for, and welcome Christ.

Not just your fellow Christians, but anyone in need, anywhere in the world—these are your sisters, your brothers, your children. Their needs might seem different than the person you worship with on Sunday, but your tangible gifts 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 away, by acting together as the body of Christ, we are able to be present for these members of Christ’s family.

You show love with gifts of food. You are present by providing seeds and training for sustainable agriculture. Through medical kits, school supplies, temporary shelters, and safe housing, you show up.

In the midst of suffering, where is God? God is here. Where are you? When you give to One Great Hour of Sharing, you are here.

This theme interpretation was written for the 2017 One Great Hour of Sharing. Find this and other worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs or give today at www.brethren.org/giveoghs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Walking Together

One Great Hour of Sharing 2016

One Great Hour of Sharing 2016

Adapted from a sermon starter by José Francisco Morales Torres, director of Pastoral Formation at Disciples Seminary Foundation

“Where you go I will go; and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16, NIV).

The story of Ruth is a beautiful narrative about resilience and accompaniment. Rendered vulnerable by the deaths of their husbands and the natural disaster of famine, Ruth and Naomi clung to one another for comfort and strength.

As we read the book of Ruth, we see both a human story and a God story, the former “incarnating” the latter. As a human story, we read about the spirituality of solidarity. In the divine realm, we read of God’s redemption, which is mirrored in human action.

Redemption is a sign of God being with us. The divine act of redemption can be seen in the sacrificial commitment Ruth makes to Naomi to go where she goes and stay where she stays. Through Ruth, God is revealed in the very act of accompanying the most vulnerable in society—both then and now. This commitment to walk together is good news for a globalizing world that so often separates people groups into “them” and “us.”

As God walks with those who are vulnerable, we see God as we walk together with them as well. Consequently, we, like the outcast, come face-to-face with our own need and vulnerability; we need them to see God in our midst. Walking with those in need is an opportunity for us to reignite our faith and reframe our humanity in our encounter with the faith and humanity of another. We are able to recognize the transforming power of solidarity, not just for “them” but for “us.” Through the eyes of accompaniment, there is only a united “us!”

One Great Hour of Sharing is a special opportunity for you and your congregation to walk with those in need through the work of the Church of the Brethren. When you give to this special offering, you support Core Ministries like Brethren Volunteer Service, Congregational Life Ministries, Global Mission and Service, the Office of Ministry, and the Office of Public Witness. You also support the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Food Crisis Fund. With your help, we accompany those in need across the country and around the world. As we walk together, we recognize God among us and receive strength for the journey ahead.

The suggested date for One Great Hour of Sharing is March 20. Learn more and find worship resources for the offering at www.brethren.org/oghs or give today at www.brethren.org/giveoghs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Giving is a privilege

One Great Hour of Sharing Photo by Craig Thompson

One Great Hour of Sharing
Photo by Craig Thompson

An adaptation of an offertory meditation written by Amy Gopp for the 2015 One Great Hour of Sharing

“They voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).

During what the Apostle Paul calls a “severe ordeal of affliction,” the early churches of Macedonia somehow managed to “overflow in a wealth of generosity” for their sisters and brothers in need. Their own extreme poverty combined with their abundant joy resulted in this overflow, and as Paul testifies, they not only gave according to their means, they gave beyond their means. Yes, beyond their means! Even more remarkable, they actually begged to share in the “ministry to the saints.” Giving is a privilege.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like not to be able to give?

But God provides all we need, enabling us to be in a constant posture of giving. All that is ours is God’s, so everyone has a gift to give. God does not leave anyone out.

God has created a world where there is more than enough; the sheer joy of that blessing is sharing it! Giving back to God is a matter of faith—it is the natural reaction to our saying “yes!” to following Christ. Once you know the invincible love of God and the Good News of the Gospel, you can’t help but share it. In the sharing of your resources, you are living out your confession of faith as followers of Jesus the Christ.

For well over six decades, we have been putting our faith into action and making a difference, alongside literally millions of other Christians throughout North America, through One Great Hour of Sharing. This offering helps empower people across the nation and around the world.

Praise be to God!

Giving itself is a gift. A privilege. An opportunity to respond to God’s outpouring of love for you.

Giving through One Great Hour of Sharing not only changes the lives of individuals and communities in need, it changes the world.

Join our ministry of saints as we receive our offering. Let’s overflow in a wealth of generosity and feel our own hearts, minds, and lives change just as we help to improve and transform the lives of others. Amen.

One Great Hour of Sharing is a special opportunity for you and your congregation to support the life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Find worship resources for this year’s offering at www.brethren.org/oghs or give now at www.brethren.org/giveoghs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)