"Let us be doers, not merely hearers" of Jesus' word
(Based on the lectionary selection: James 1:17-27 -- Year B, Proper 17)
Labor Day is the time we commemorate work and workers. In the church, we recognize that God, who loves us and cares about all aspects of our lives, is also concerned about our work lives. Our work situations can be fulfilling and empowering, or demeaning and humiliating. Our jobs determine the size of our incomes, and whether we have health insurance and a pension. Our jobs are the main determinants of whether we live in a big house or any house at all, whether we send our children to college or to bed with an empty stomach. Moreover, even at this time when the economy is considered to be "strong," one in every eleven people who want to work cannot find a job or can only find a part-time one.
If we are "doers of the word, and not merely hearers," as James urged, then we must respond to Jesus’ call to love our neighbors. We must work for justice in the workplace. We must help those who have too little. We must change employment situations that degrade workers. What might we be called to do?
We could work to ensure that all workers are paid a "living wage" adequate for the rich life that God intends for everyone. Currently, one-quarter of all jobs pay a poverty-level wage, one so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty.
We could urge Congress to raise the minimum wage. Pending legislation would increase it from the current level of $5.15 an hour ($10,700 a year) to $7.25, the first increase since 1997.
We could strengthen the right to form or join a union, an internationally recognized human right but one that is seriously eroded in the U.S. We could improve safety in the dangerous workplaces that threaten miners, meat packers, farm workers, and many others. We could provide health insurance to everyone including the one in every six people who currently are without it. We could improve contracting practices in New Orleans so that workers would not be left without a paycheck after weeks of work. We could ensure that everyone who wants and needs a job also has one.
God reign does not end at the door of the workplace. Our love for our neighbors must extend to their working lives also. Let us be doers, not merely hearers, of God’s word.
Seeking OGHS Ambassadors!
Join an amazing group of people who are excited about helping others, through sharing the ministry made possible by gifts to the OGHS offering. In 2018, the suggested OGHS offering date is March 11.
As an One Great Hour of Sharing® (OGHS) Ambassador, You agree to:
- Learn about the OGHS offering.
- Promote the offering in your own congregation.
- Connect the offering to ways your church is already responding to the needs of others.
- Meet people beyond your own congregation.
- Get involved in the wider church.
- Work with UCC national staff.
Working with church leadership, we encourage OGHS Ambassadors to share information they learn about the offering during Lent, or near the time your congregation will receive the offering.
OGHS staff will provide a live 1-hour training event through Zoom Video Conference or other technology.This training will equip participants to promote OGHS in worship and among groups and individuals in their own congregation, and in neighboring congregations.
We will pair OGHS Ambassadors with congregations that suit the participants comfort level (i.e. giving UCC congregation or non-giving UCC congregation). OGHS staff will initiate contact with the other congregation(s) to arrange for an invitation for OGHS Ambassador to visit.
In addition, we will offer recognition of the work of the Ambassadors on the OGHS Facebook, Twitter Pages, and through possible news stories resulting from participation in the OGHS Ambassador initiative.
The OGHS Team is eager to assist you in planning your personal OGHS Ambassador strategy. We can provide direction to make participation a breeze, as we provide tips for promotion, connect participants to the materials, share ideas, and help participants discover "their own why" for connecting with the wider church and world.
This experience is designed to get more people involved in the mission and interpretation of OGHS.
When we share our resources, including our voice, it really does change lives!
To register send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying: Sign me up!
The Partners in Service program helps increase the service capacity of the partner host organization and provides leadership development and the opportunity for the volunteer to use gifts and skills.
Volunteers serve in full-time placement for terms of one month to a year or more. The Partners in Service program does not discriminate against applicants on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or disabilities.
U.S. Young Adults, Baby Boomers, & Builders
Adults of all ages participate in on-going service and advocacy ministries with partner organizations and congregations.
Video arts Publicity
Disaster Recovery: Construction Site Coordinator
Presence Among the Vulnerable
Alumni & Church Relations
Disaster Recovery: Volunteer Coordinator
Immigration and Border Ministries
International volunteers are placed upon the recommendation of partners in the Ecumenical Diaconal Year Network (www.edyn.org), the Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland, Arbeitsstelle ZKL und Friewilligendienst (www.aktiv-zivil.de) and other recognized church partners of Global Ministries of the UCC/Disciples of Christ (www.globalministries.org).
It is to be understood by all concerned that placement is full-time, approximately 40 hours per week, for the residential and international programs. Additional part-time employment is strongly discouraged. Any exceptions should be decided by the parties concerned. Schedules often vary from week to week and may include evening and weekend hours.
Premature termination is possible, when necessary, and can be initiated with the Volunteer Ministries program by the volunteer, the service site, or both. If an unsatisfactory placement has been made, a reassignment may be pursued.
Loan Deferment In some situations, student loans may be deferred for a period of up to three years while the recipient is engaged in service. The volunteer must contact their lending agency. The UCC Volunteer Ministries Office can provide letters of documentation and support.
Our faith is 2,000 years old. Our thinking is not.
We believe in God's continuing testament. This is why we are committed to hearing God's ancient story anew and afresh in our lives and in the world today. We try to remain attentive to God's creative movement in the world. Religion and science are not mutually exclusive, and your head and heart are both welcomed into our places of worship. We prepare our members and leaders to be engaged in ministry in the present and future church, and we embrace all kinds of communities and new modes of thinking. Why? Because God is still speaking,
No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.
We believe in extravagant welcome. This is why we insist that God's communion table is open, not closed, and God's gift and claim in baptism are irrevocable. We advocate justice for all. Our congregations extend hospitality as a sign of God's inclusive love. We teach that evangelism — offering bread to those in search of it — is God's mission. Our perspective is global, not provincial. We work with — not against — people of other faiths. Why? Because God is still speaking,
Never place a period where God has placed a comma.
We believe the church's mission is to change lives — individually, systemically and globally. We work to make transformation possible, but trust in God's grace. This is why we insist that churches must be places of vitality in worship, learning and advocacy. We are committed to working for justice, and we believe that lives are changed through global experiences and friendships. Why? Because God is still speaking,
Interrupted by God
Based on lectionary selection Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12:9-21, Year A, Proper 17
Moses is out tending the sheep of his father-in-law, minding his own business. It’s just a typical day in the hot and dry hills of Midian: sheep, sun, dust, brush and, hopefully, a little breeze. Just an ordinary day, or so it seems.
Then Moses sees a bush that is on fire and, on closer inspection, he notices that it is not being consumed by the fire. This is remarkable and Moses turns aside to find out what is happening. His attention has been captured. He stops what he had been doing, puts his own agenda on hold, and even neglects his sheep while he investigates.
It is only after he has turned aside, and looks beyond his own plans for the moment that God calls to him: “Moses, Moses.” And Moses, surely bewildered, responds out of trust and faith, “Here I am.”
God has big plans for Moses. Moses the shepherd is to become Moses the liberator of his people, Moses the law giver, Moses the prophet. But it all starts when Moses notices something that shouldn’t be happening, something out of the ordinary, and turns aside to investigate. He is paying attention and is ready to be interrupted by God. His ordinary day is turning out to be a very extraordinary one.
There is much more to come in this story: plagues, famines, drought, death, the parting of a sea, a 40-year journey through the desert, the liberation of a people. But it all begins when Moses pauses, turns aside from his ordinary business, and answers “Here I am.” It’s true: the longest journey begins with a single step, and the first step may be the most important one.
So what does God ask Moses to do? God knows the sufferings of God’s people in Egypt. God had heard their cries. God says “I have come down to deliver them.” Note that God says “I” have come down to deliver them. It could hardly be clearer. God will deliver the Israelites but Moses will be God’s instrument to bring this about. Moses’ actions will bring God’s justice to God’s people.
Does God still call people, today, in the midst of our busy lives? Are we willing to stop what we are doing, to put aside our plans? Are we ready to be interrupted by God? Or are we too preoccupied with what we want to do? Too intent on checking off the next item on our to-do list? Are we too focused on our own agenda to pause long enough to hear God’s call? Do we talk so much or listen to so much TV that we cannot hear when God calls? Have we walked or driven right past the burning bush without seeing it?
Paul’s letter to the Romans lays out some of the things that God might be calling us to do. Love genuinely. Rejoice in hope. Extend hospitality to strangers. Live in harmony with one another. Associate with the lowly. Overcome evil with good.
On this Labor Day Sunday, is it possible that God is calling us to participate, even to help lead, another journey of liberation? Is God waiting for us to notice something – right here in plain sight – that should not be happening, to pay attention, and to respond?
• To see the people held in the chains of poverty and to free them.
• To hear the cries of those who work but don’t still can’t get by and to seek justice.
• To liberate those working in unsafe or abusive environments.
• To increase the minimum wage so a job will lift workers out of poverty, not keep them there.
• To ensure that everyone can freely choose whether to join a union without being fired or suffering retaliation.
• To lobby for better enforcement of our labor laws so that workers will receive all the pay they earn.
• To stand with those who work hard all week but still don’t have sufficient income to pay for food, and rent, and medicines, and gas.
These are not good times for American workers. One-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages, a wage so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family of four out of poverty. One in every 10 people who want to work either cannot find a job or can only find part-time work when they want full time (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). One out of every eight people (and one in every six children) lives below the official poverty line, a higher share of the population than in any other industrialized country, and more than double the levels in Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland (Economic Policy Institute and U.S. Bureau of the Census). Wage theft – failing to pay wages in accordance with U.S. labor law – is epidemic. In violation of U.S. law, workers are not paid for all the hours they work, do not receive overtime pay when it is due, or are paid less than the minimum wage (see Wage Theft). There is much that should cause us to pause, to turn aside.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century prophet, had a successful and busy career as a theologian until he was interrupted by God and turned aside from this path. He was executed in 1945 after attempting to assassinate Hitler and end the Second World War. In Life Together (written in 1938) he wrote:
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks…When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross… God’s way must be done. ... [D]o not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God (p. 99).
This Labor Sunday, may God open our eyes, unstop our ears, and slow our pace. May we really see the custodians who clean the floors of our office buildings. May we hear the cries of the hog and poultry processors who slaughter and cut up our meat. May we walk the picket line with those seeking more just working conditions. May our schedules for the day be disturbed by the workers who do not receive their fair share of the resources God provides to be used by all of us. May we live our lives ready to be interrupted by God, ready to say “here I am” when God’s calls our name and asks us to be part of God’s action for liberation.
|Additional Worship Resources|
God's Call to End Oppression
Based on Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12: 9-21 (Year A, Proper 17)
The Exodus scripture is a familiar one. It tells of God’s call to Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt where they are oppressed and forced to labor for the pharaoh.
Moses was born the son of Israelites and grew up in Egypt in the household of the pharaoh. But after killing an Egyptian who was beating one of his fellow Israelites, Moses flees the country, ending in Midian. There he marries, fathers a child, and tends sheep for his father-in-law. Years pass. Life is good. Maybe Moses forgot, or tried to forget, his previous life in Egypt and the oppression of the Israelites.
But God had not forgotten and God won't let Moses forget either. Speaking out of the burning bush, God tells Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.” God is going to deliver them but Moses is going to do a lot of the work. And he is reluctant: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites of the Egypt?” Exactly. Who would not have said the same thing? But God replied, “I will be with you.” And so Moses went. The rest is history and also a very good illustration of God’s vision for God’s people: liberation from bondage and freedom from oppression including oppression in the workplace.
Like other people in the Hebrew Bible who are called by God for a special task (Jonah, Jeremiah), Moses was reluctant to answer yes. But he did, with the assurance of God’s help and constant presence. Today God continues to call God’s people to action, and continues to provide help and a constant presence to those who respond.
God may call us more often than we realize or want to admit. The call may, rarely, come in the life-changing, awesome moment when we see a burning bush that is not consumed. But God’s call might also (and maybe more often) come as a soft nudge, a gnawing urge, a quiet whisper that maybe, just maybe, we ought to do something about a particular problem. The quiet, more frequent, but much less dramatic calls are easy to ignore. Is it God? Do I really need to? How can I fit more into my busy life? How can I say yes? Does it help to remember that God will be with us, to see us through, that God expects us to find time for God’s priorities?
In the passage from Romans, Paul encourages us to get involved, to follow these gentle urgings. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” In an unjust world, in a nation with millions living in poverty, genuine love demands our involvement. Loving our neighbors means standing with people on the margins who seek a better life for themselves, the life that is God's intention for them.
In the U.S. today, 47 million people (nearly one in seven) live in poverty and over one third of us (some 106 million people) live below twice the poverty line,[i] the amount that many researchers think is a minimally adequate income level. At the same time, there are 1,591 billionaires[ii] and 7.1 million[iii] (or 8.4 million[iv] or 9.6 million[v]) millionaires, depending on whose study you read. Over one in seven people in the U.S. is receiving food stamps that provide, on average, less than $1.50 per meal, per person. The dire statistics go on and on. Some 9.5 million people are unemployed.[vi] Millions more are jobless but have given up looking for work and, therefore, are no longer counted among the unemployed.
Over one-quarter of all jobs in the U.S. (28%) pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty.[vii] In 2013, 42% percent of Hispanic workers, 36% percent of black workers, and 23% of white workers earned poverty-level wages.[viii] Read about the difficulties faced by young workers. Learn about wage theft, the common practice in which employers fail to pay workers all the wages they earn.
The federal minimum wage, $7.75/hour, has not increased in five years. Some states or cities have a higher minimum wage (check your state) and in a few places the minimum wage is nearly high enough to support people at a meager, but adequate, standard of living. But in most locations, the minimum wage needs to be raised. Corporate profits are at record levels (more). Corporate giants can well afford to raise their workers’ pay.
The United States is a wealthy country. There is no justification for poverty, oppressive work conditions, or lack of opportunity. Things do not need to be this way. Our involvement could make a difference. Do we feel a gentle urging to get involved? Are we called to support fast food workers, Wal-Mart employees, and others who are marching and striking for living wages? (See organizations in your location who invite your participation.) Are we called to stand with immigrant workers without papers who are easily abused? Can we pressure Congress to raise the minimum wage? Is our congregation called to be an Economic Justice Church? What else might God be calling us to do?
The world today is a very troubling place for anyone concerned with justice. Can we doubt that God is calling us to get involved? Let us seek to “overcome evil with good.” Let us follow Jesus and walk with those on the margins, knowing that God walks with us.
Order (email or phone:866-822-8224, ext 3720) Jesus was a low-wage worker buttons (English and Spanish) -- no charge.
Contact: Sharon Tarver-Evans, Registrar for U.S. Builds
701 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Americus, GA 31719
E-Mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 229.924.2900 or 208-786-6013
The Fuller Center for Housing faith-driven and Christ-centered, promotes collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations in an unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people in need worldwide.
Projects/Focus: Building new and repairing existing homes working with families in need. The exact projects will be determined close to group arrival and based upon the progress of previous accomplishments of our volunteers and available resources.
Educational/Advocacy Components: Each group will receive an orientation about the community they will be serving. This will include a discussion about poverty housing in the area, and the economic benefit of our “hand up-not a handout” approach and how this builds a Fund for Humanity, recycling homeowner payments to serve other people in need in the community. Churches do mission work by empowering the people they serve.
Time: Spring and Summer
Group Size: Up to 10 (or 5 couples)
Work Week: Tuesday - Saturday
Minimum Age: No restrictions - Open for RV Builders
Accommodations: RV hookups (at volunteer's expense; we partner with local RV owner at reasonable rate)C
Cost: $100-$160 per person
"On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage."Read more
The Supreme Court decision giving some corporations the right to deny coverage of certain types of contraception to their employees based on their religious freedom will have a great impact on women of color. Although, the ruling does not single out women of color, our political and economic realities tell us that women of color often bear the brunt of the negative impacts of restrictions on women’s health.
Differences in rates of disease and health status among women of color and other vulnerable populations can be defined by many factors including poverty, education, employment with living wages and good benefits, neighborhood economic conditions, presence or lack of social support networks, cultural values, affordable housing, the degree of toxins and pollution in the air and affordable, quality, accessible health services. When these differences are combined with conditions that are unfair, unjust and avoidable, health equity – the achievement of good health regardless of one’s social position or other social factors – is threatened. The Supreme Court’s decision impacts the health equity of women of color in thee ways:
1. The Cost of Birth Control: In 2011 approximately 57 million adult women were covered through employer-sponsored insurance. If the policies of other companies like Hobby Lobby become the norm rather than the exception, it could impact contraceptive access for millions of people in the U. S. and have a disproportionate impact on women of color who, with lower income and wealth on average, may not be able to afford to pay for their contraception out-of-pocket.
Women of color are more likely to be low-income, and also more likely to work a minimum wage job. Getting an IUD could cost as much as an entire month’s rent working at the minimum wage. Purchasing birth control pills without insurance or benefit of plans that include prescription drugs could range $20 and $130.00 a month depending on the brand. Women of color, who are already struggling to make ends meet, may face increased burdens. That could mean doing things like splitting one pack of pills between two women each month or not using birth control at all. There are now more than 1 million Asian-American women living in poverty, an increase from 700,000 in 1999. This decision is yet another barrier for Asian-American and Pacific Islander women who already face significant health disparities and barriers to insurance.
2. Risks of Unplanned Pregnancy: The risks of carrying an unintended pregnancy to term are much higher for women of color. Black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Being unable to prevent a pregnancy due to the financial barriers put in place by this decision puts lives at risk. Women of color are also at higher risk for infant mortality, low-infant birth weight and premature delivery – all things that pose significant long-term risks to the mother and child.
3. History: Women of color have dealt with a long history of reproductive control at the hands of employers and the government. From treatment in public hospitals, to welfare reform, to family caps limiting the number of children welfare recipients can have. Women of color have long had to fight for the right to control their own reproduction. This case just adds another layer to controlling fertility, this time at the hands of employers.
For more than thirty five years the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has advocated for health care as a right and a priority for all people. We are rooted in the conviction that all forms of injustice can be overcome. Health inequities are the consequences of public policies, and as such can be changed. Tackling health inequities requires widening our understanding of health and health care to include the ways in which lifestyle factors influence individual and community health. The Affordable Care Act made great gains by requiring insurance companies cover birth control with no out of pocket cost to women. Many women of color rely on a safety net for basic health care and needs. Let us remain vigilant in our advocacy making sure this net continues to remain safe for everyone and especially for women.
In early October, 2015 heavy rains inundated South Carolina. Columbia, SC was heavily impacted as nearly 4313 families in Lexington County and 18031 in Richland County registered with FEMA for assistance. As needs assessments continue and long-term recovery needs are being identified UCC Disaster Ministries is working closely with FEMA and other agencies to begin repairs on select homes that qualify to receive assistance and require minimal casework.
The Disaster Recovery Support Initiative (DRSI) is a new project that has been developed collaboratively with the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries (UCCDM), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (CCDOC), and Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM). The focus of this Initiative is to provide support for the development of local Long Term Recovery Groups by deploying a small team of experienced individuals to a disaster affected area soon after the incident. The team’s purpose is to train, coach, and mentor local leaders and volunteers as they plan their own recovery in order to help them start the work of rebuilding homes faster and more efficiently.
Work Needed: Repair/Rebuild homes damaged by flooding. Work ranges from basic carpentry to sheetrock, flooring, painting, roofing, insulation and finish molding
Site management: Site and construction management is being provided by UCC Disaster Ministries in partnership with local recovery agencies
Time: Arrive Sunday afternoon and depart Saturday morning; work Monday-Friday
Minimum Age: 15 years (senior high age groups accepted)
Adult to Youth Ratio: 1:4
Maximum Group Size: 12
Accommodations: Holy Apostles Orthodox Church at 724 Buff St., West Columbia, SC
Required: Insurance certificate from the sending church and waiver forms
Tools: Tools are provided for most types of carpentry work however, groups are encouraged to bring their favorite tools
Meals: Groups will be expected to purchase and prepare their own meals.