MORE THAN WE CAN IMAGINE
INTERPRETING THE 2019 SPECIAL OFFERING THEME
It may seem a weak word when compared with all the need that we see daily in the world. We hear the word “imagination” and we may think to ourselves “fantasy.” We hear the word “imagination” and we wonder if it is truly helpful in a world where some would say, “clear-eyed realism is what is needed to face the challenges before us.”
Yet far from being a light, weak, or un-real thing, imagination is actually one of the most powerful engines for change that human beings have! Long ago, the philosopher Aristotle said that “Thinking itself begins in wonder, begins in imagination,” and he was right. Imagination, particularly when it is fueled by a vision of God’s hopes for all humankind, can keep us energized to do the good that is possible.
The theme for the 2019 One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering is “More than we can imagine!” The theme, based on Ephesians 3:20, reminds us that we are not alone in our imagining a better world for all of God’s children. For it is God’s imagination that fuels and empowers ours! You see, God imagines a world where:
- No one is left to face the ravages of natural disaster alone - neighbor helps neighbor, stranger helps stranger - for we are the church together
- Even if things will never quite be the same after a disaster, God can work through all events to bring new life, new hope, and even more resilience
- Clean and abundant water and ample sanitation facilities are available to every person;
- Work brings security from hunger and the land is treated with respect
- Families displaced from their homes are able to build new lives
- Women are no longer subject to discrimination and gender-based violence
And God also imagines Christians of many traditions, coming together to help make these things ever more a reality for more and more people! For you see, our imagination of what might be is founded and grounded in what God envisions and hopes for. We can help – through our gifts of treasure and talent, prayer, and presence to make this world ever more like the way God imagine it would be!
Please, give generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering, so that your imagination might indeed be ever more joined with God’s!
CALL TO WORSHIP (inspired by Psalm 46)
LEADER: God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.
PEOPLE: Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
LEADER: This morning we enlarge our hearts; we offer our prayers; we share our treasure with those siblings in our world who are dealing with tumult and disaster and injustice.
PEOPLE: We will not be discouraged. We shall remember that God’s steadfast love is always with us and the whole world, that God’s compassion is for each and all.
LEADER: We will celebrate that love and compassion can do far more than “we can ask or imagine”!
PEOPLE: May we always be inspired by our hope in God, to serve, care, and live in hope!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION & WORDS OF
ASSURANCE (inspired by Mark 9:24)
LEADER: Let us confess our sins before our God, who is slow to anger and keen to show mercy.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess, O God, that instead of believing in your goodness and mercy and love for all people, we have fallen prey to cynicism; we have looked for the worst in others instead of presuming the best; we have spoken words which demeaned instead of dignified.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that we have presumed to draw the circle of your grace much more narrowly than you do, treating some as “the other,” not deeming them our brothers and sisters in Christ.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that our attention has been too short-lived when tragedy has come to those you love in any part of the world, forgetting that you call us to be there for them in word and deed over the months and years.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that we have sometimes allowed compassion fatigue to take root in our souls, closing our hearts to those who need our help.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
Words of Assurance
Our God, whose imagination for the good of all people is always wider than our prejudices will empower and transform us. God will help us change our unbelief into faith, and our self-serving cynicism into love for “the least of these” who are also God’s beloved.
PEOPLE: Thanks be to God! Amen.
RESPONSIVE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING AND HOPE
LEADER: God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: We love you, Holy God. We love you for the feast that is life: for friendships and laughter, intimacy and trust, moments of discovering deep truth, hidden potentials we never knew we had; for beauty—serene beauty and rugged beauty, the world you have crafted; and for the words, sounds, and colors with which people reflect and explore life. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: We love you, holy God. We love you for the challenges of community: for moments of joy and celebration, for times of anxiety and questioning, for opportunities to listen deeply, for moments to start anew, for possibilities of reconciliation, for partnerships to work for peace and hope, for commitments to join
hands for justice. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: Gathering God, we give thanks for the vision, adventure, and passion that have brought us together in this holy place. Help us to be open today: grateful to meet Jesus in each other and in our neighbors near and far; happy to do a new thing; thankful to be your church together, to do that which by your design cannot be done apart. Challenge us, inspire us, strengthen and renew us. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place; may our worship today strengthen us to do more than we can imagine, that your world might be healed, that your justice might come, that your hope might be spread. May it be so! Amen.
In a world so filled with brokenness and sorrow, it would be easy to lose ourselves in never ending grief, to be choked by our outrage, to be paralyzed by the enormity of suffering, to feel our hearts squeeze tight with hopelessness. Instead, this morning, let us simply breathe together as we hold our hearts open. (Breathing in) let our hearts fill with compassion. (Breathing out) let us pray for healing in our world and in our lives. (Breathing in) open ourselves to the transforming power of love. (Breathing out) As we pray for peace in our world and in our lives. (Breathing in) the knowledge that through Christ, we may know our strength and be filled with courage. (Breathing out) a desire to pour our love into the world through our gifts that provide hope and healing, showing God’s care near and far. Amen,
OFFERING DEDICATION PRAYER
We offer these gifts, O God of all people, in the hope and trust that you will use them to bring healing and hope where there is need. Where natural disaster has befallen, may these gifts help build new life. Where refugees seek
safety from violence and fear, may these gifts enable caring and welcoming hearts and hands. Where hatred sullies your hope for your human family, may our gifts be a sign and instrument of reconciliation. Thank you, God, for the privilege of this offering. May it indeed do more than we can imagine! Amen.
LEADER: This is the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ!
PEOPLE: As it says in the scripture, “people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.”
LEADER: We come, not because we must but because we may.
PEOPLE: We come to be nourished by grace that we might go forth to share the grace, the love, the justice of God with the whole world.
LEADER: We come with thanksgiving, grateful for who we are and whose we are.
PEOPLE: For we are God’s own people, called, fed, commissioned, and sent!
WORDS OF INSTITUTION
We recall that on the night that would be our Lord and Savior’s last earthly night, he gathered his disciples around him to break bread together. They surrounded him at that table – both the disciple whom he loved and the disciple who would betray him, along with all those disciples who had been with him through his ministry, witness to his teachings, bearers of his grace, ones who saw how he broke down the barriers that separated us from them, friend from enemy, neighbor from stranger.
And as they were eating, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, saying “This is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Do this and be reminded that life is in too many places broken and hurting, and you are my witnesses and ambassadors to bring the news of help and wholeness from a loving God. In the same manner, following their meal, he took the cup and blessed it and poured it out for each one of them and said “This is the cup of the new covenant, sealed in my blood, given for you and for all for the forgiveness of your sins,” for the transformation of your lives and the lives of all who hunger and thirst. “As often, then, as you eat this bread and drink this cup, do so in memory of me.” Do so in hope. Do so knowing that God will feed you and this whole world in ways that you cannot begin to imagine. For that good news, thanks be to God! The gifts of God for the people of God!
PRAYER FOR BREAD AND CUP
Gracious God of every time and place, every people and nation, we come to this Table to receive these symbols of your grace, your hope, your sustenance. We come grateful that you feed us and call on us to help feed one another. Thank you O God. We pray that you would bless these elements to our good that we might join you in doing good for this world. May we go from this Table refreshed and renewed, having drunk deeply from the cup of courage that we might confront hunger and injustice. In the holy name of Christ we pray. Amen.
PRAYER FOLLOWING COMMUNION
We eat and we drink in hope that one day, none will know hurt or hunger or hopelessness. We thank you, God, for the opportunity to be fed and for the commission to go forth into the world, seeking to be bearers of your Good News for all people. Amen.
Find all One Great Hour of Sharing Resources from www.ucc.org/oghs_resources.
The following resources have been created for your use. Feel free to print, adapt, and use them in your setting as needed to promote the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. If you have the opportunity to video the activities you decide to do, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share them with our wider audience. Enjoy!
ALL: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.
LEADER: Can we hear with the ears of Justice? Hear the clattering sounds beneath the pots and pans in kitchens where more than hot meals are stewing. Can we remember those who are themselves hungry and starving for a world where there are good opportunities for all. Where those with overstuffed bellies share from their abundance with those who need it, without judgement, pity, or indifference.
All: I needed clothes and you clothed me…
Leader: Can we be moved by Justice? To clothe the factory worker with fair wages as she mends garments for major brands that profit from her toil?
All: I was sick, and you looked after me; I was in prison, and you came to visit me.
Leader: Can we escape the prevalence of injustice? When will we truly see men, women and even children who are deprived of liberty, freedom and independence because of the color of their skins, their zip codes, and a lack of access to good education and employment.
All: “Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”
Leader: Where is Love in Justice? It is in the courage of those who use their freedom to fight for the liberation of the oppressed. In the truth-telling of those who use their pens to author policy and legislation, holding accountable those who commit crimes against humanity.
All: “The [Lord] will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Leader: We are the sum of Justice. We are here to be the light of God in the world. We are here to use our voices to expose systems of oppression and suffering. We are here to use our collective strength to be bands of love and witnesses for peace, kindness and good. We are here to use wisdom, knowledge, resources and privilege to advocate for all—no matter gender, race, orientation or affluence.
All: “The [Lord] will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Let us gather ourselves so the sums of our bodies, minds and spirits will speak! So the power of our voices will be a wellspring for love; so the hungry are fed; the naked are clothed; the imprisoned remembered; and the homeless welcomed. So the pounding of our feet will dismantle oppression; and create a spirited rumbling for justice in the land.
Leader: Let us find justice within ourselves. For this is the prophetic Word and Wisdom of God.
All: God is here and comforts the poor, oppressed and brokenhearted. We are here in the midst of the crisis, disaster and suffering. We are here— present, prayerful and purposeful amidst God’s people. We are here because we are the ones we have been waiting for. Amen
The skit involves two actors; and a large colorful paper map with stickers, paper map pins, or other bodacious markers to indicate places visited around the world. The actors are called Max and Jesse as these names are commonly used as multi-gendered names (Max/Maxine/Jessie/Jesse).
Max: (Max is standing proudly holding the large colorful paper map. There could be a table next to the person, with large markers, oversized map pins, and miscellaneous items to suggest global travel). As Jesse approaches, Max is just beginning to gleefully place his or her map on the table to place more pins on it.
Jesse: You look pretty happy, Max. What’s up?
Max: I just had the best summer, traveling the world. I am pinning my map so I can recall all of the places I experienced and the amazing people I encountered along the way.
Jesse: You, traveled the world (In a shocking and not so convinced tone)? I saw you in the mall all summer. And when you weren’t there; I saw you at the Starbucks surfing the internet. Did I miss something here? I didn’t even know you had a passport.
Max: Well, I traveled all the way to Ghana and my family and I helped with water irrigation projects so folks can have clean water nearby without having to travel miles to fetch it. There was a young girl there who couldn’t go to school because she had to spend her time hauling water. But now, she can go to school because of our help. That makes me feel wonderful (with great exaggeration and emphasis)!
Jesse: Let me get this straight. You spent your summer helping families in Ghana get accessible water?
Jesse: You, the same Max that texts me while I am sitting right next to you? You, the same Max that pays your little brother to finish your chores for you? You did all of that?
Max: Yep. That’s right. I am a changed person.
Jesse: In one summer?
Max: Nope. In one hour?
Jesse: Huh? Ok. Now I am really worried about you, Max. In one hour?
Max: Yes, “One Great Hour of Sharing”. I went to church with my family and we learned all about ways we can help make a difference in the world through our offerings. A gift to One Great Hour of Sharing “enables the church to share God’s love with our neighbors-in-need around the world by providing relief to those affected by natural disasters, provide food to the hungry, and helping to empower the poor and oppressed.”
Jesse: That’s pretty awesome, Max. I am proud of you. In fact, it sounds a lot like the scripture my parents quote all of the time. In Matthew Jesus is quoted saying...“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”
Max: Exactly, Jesse. I may not have physically been in all of these places. But through our giving, my family and I were able to touch lives all over the world. When you saw me in Starbucks, I was reading the OGHS stories about these impacted communities on-line and my parents make our family’s offering through on-line giving, too.
Jesse: That makes a lot of sense. I get the full picture now! Matthew also said that Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” So I guess you can say, you not only traveled the world this summer, Max, but you hung out with Jesus, too? Because you are here, God is here, too.
Max: Yeah. I guess you can say that. Because “WE” are here, God is here!
Jesse: I am going to tell my family about One Great Hour of Sharing so we can travel the world, too!
Max: Hey, Jesse, why don’t you help me place these pins on my map and I can tell you more stories about the places I encountered this summer!
Jesse: Sounds like a plan! (With excitement, Jesse helps Max place more pins on the map) Maybe afterwards, we can go to Starbucks!
(Pre-K, Lower Elementary)
Objectives: Children will imagine what it is like to be thirsty and use problem solving skills to imagine ways to ensure everyone has enough to drink. Children will learn about real-world situations where people do not have access to clean water.
Supplies: Cups and 2 pitchers of water (1 hidden if possible). Please recyclable cups if recycle bin is available.
Instructions (part 1):
Ask the children who would like a drink of water by a show of hands. Then invite the children to come forward and receive one of the clear plastic cups, splitting them into two groups as you go.
Once all of the children have their cups, take the pitcher of water and fill only the cups for the children in group #1. Remind them not to drink yet. Leave the cups empty for the children in group #2 telling them there is not enough for the entire group. Invite the children with water to drink their beverage. Ask them to hold onto their cups.
Processing (part 1):
Say: Imagine to yourself for a few moments, how could we have helped everyone have something to drink? Allow the children to respond.
Instructions (part 2):
Processing (part 2):
Conclude with one of the following short stories about access to water:
Remind the children that every act of sharing is an act demonstrating God’s love, presence and care for every member of the community. Giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering is one way to share in this important ministry of service to communities in their hour of need.
CHILDREN’S ACTIVITY II: Soup Pot Parable
Objectives: The children will begin to imagine ways they can share and invite others to the table and will explore in story how we rely on one another. The children will be introduced to the OGHS offering and its importance.
Supplies: Printed copies of the story, props or materials to make props for imaginary pots of soup, bowls, serving spoons, eating spoons, tables.
Gather the group to hear the story. Read it aloud once or twice. Discuss as a group what the important parts of the story are and what the message of the story is.
Split the group into “casts.” Invite them to stage their own versions of the story—they might have someone read the story while the others pantomime, or turn it into a script they can act out, or put on a puppet show. If time allows, encourage them to create props; if time is short, provide props for them to choose from. Have each “cast” perform their version for the whole group.
Gather the group and ask for four volunteers. Give child #1 the big pot of imaginary soup (perhaps even have oven mitts and a chef’s apron). Give child #2 the bowls. Give child #3 the four spoons. Child #4 should sit alone at a small table or sit on a community mat big enough for four or more people. The remaining children may volunteer to help read the story aloud. As the story is read aloud, the volunteers will act it out, silently.
The Story: There was once a place called Good Hope. Around supper time, the people of Good Hope would imagine their favorite meal with delicious flavors, and aromas. Alas, no matter how much they imagined, their plates were empty.
One person had a drawer full of spoons but no bowl or soup. Another had a nice bowl, but it was empty. Finally, the third neighbor had a pot and ingredients for soup, but no spoon to stir or serve it.
The neighbor with the soup sat down on his stoop and cried, “I don’t even have a spoon to stir and serve my soup. I will surely starve.”
The neighbor with the spoons sat down across the street and said, “I do not have bowl to eat from nor soup to eat. I will surely starve.”
Lastly, the neighbor with the bowl sat down and wept, “I have been staring at my empty bowl all day and my stomach is growling. I will surely starve.”
As the three neighbors sat with their items, with their stomachs growling, a fourth friend arrived. This friend was known all around as someone who was wise and kind. Without a word, she started collecting sticks to build a fire. When the fire was hot, she exclaimed, “Dear neighbors, you will not starve! Come sit with me by this fire, and you will see that we will all have enough to eat.”
The three neighbors came and placed their items one by one before them. The neighbor with the soup pot set it down on the fire, and soon it was bubbling and steaming and smelling so good. The neighbor with the spoons began to stir the bubbling soup. When the soup was ready, the neighbor with the bowls set them down and they filled each one.
Then the neighbor gave one spoon to the neighbor with the pot of soup, one to the neighbor with the bowls, and kept one spoon for her/him self. The three neighbors were so excited! This soup smelled better than any meal they had ever imagined. Just as they prepared to bless their food and eat, the neighbor with the spoons said to the fourth neighbor, “Dear neighbor, come sit with us and eat.”
But the fourth neighbor said, “I do not have a pot of soup; I do not have any bowls; and I do not have any spoons. I do not have anything to contribute to this wonderful meal.” The friends disagreed and one said, “Oh, but you brought the greatest ingredient of all. You taught us the importance of sharing with our neighbors.”
Another friend said, “You brought us together around this fire. We have one more spoon, so you must join us to make the meal complete.”
The fourth neighbor joined the others and together, one and all, they shared a meal.
(If you did variation 1): Reflect on the unique ways the “casts” told the story. If they made interesting artistic choices, talk about them! Remind the group that sometimes people experience homelessness, hunger, inadequate clothing or shelter—sometimes because of disasters like floods or tornadoes, sometimes because their jobs do not pay enough or their crops are not growing, and sometimes because they have to leave their homes because of war or violence.
Objectives: Youth will explore, discuss and identify ways to respond to world disasters and crisis. Youth will identify places where they see the presence of God in the world and will envision how they can embody God’s love. Youth will articulate their hopes for the world through vision maps.
Supplies: News articles, push pins, display board, scissors, adhesive, recycling bin and markers. Alternatively, the youth may choose to use digital media technology, if available.
Instructions: Youth are encouraged to find two sets of articles/images from published sources (print or online). One set of articles should identify places in our society where there are “needs,” “hurting and suffering,” and/or evidence of the social challenges mentioned in Matthew 25:31-46. The second set of articles should identify ways “God is here,” “We are here with others,” and “God is present in those with whom we connect.”
Youth will then create a “You Are Here Vision Map” using the articles/images collected. These maps show how the youth would like to see the world transform. Push pins or Post-it Notes Strips may be used to label “locations” on the map. The youth may creatively design the map to illustrate their location as a youth group; the location of the church or society at-large. Encourage creative expression designing the map. Recycle.
If using digital resources, consider creating the vision maps on Google Maps or by using the hashtag #YouAreHere on Instagram, Twitter, or other social media. Ask the youth to tag @OGHS and their congregation and friends.
Find ways the youth can share their vision maps—print or digital—with the congregation.
Processing: How do the articles selected speak to the main scripture and One Great Hour of Sharing mission? What can be done as a faith community to affirm and/or re-position our ministries to respond to suffering, hurting and hardships in our society and world? Can the OGHS offering be an action step for the faith community? How can youth be visionaries and share in creating road-maps for justice, peace, and God’s love? Where can the OGHS offering be placed on the vision board?
YOUTH ACTIVITY 2: Scenes of Transformation
Supplies: Printed copies of the provided list of situations.
Instructions: Divide the group into teams of 4-6 people, ensuring that multiple generations are present in every team (dividing by birth month often works well).
Give time for introductions in the teams, with the prompt: when was a time you felt someone was really “there for you?”
Invite the teams to:
Have teams share with the whole group by naming the situation they chose then “staging” their human statue—first the conflict, then the transformation.
(Example: A group selects the situation—“a family loses their home in a natural disaster.” In the first tableau, several group members huddle together, crying, around some overturned chairs. In the transformation, two other group members come in to make a “tent” with their arms as a shelter over the family, and the family stops crying.)
Supplies: Colorful construction paper; recycle bin; décor (glitter, stickers, markers, etc.) of choice.
Instructions: Gather groups around tables, ensuring that each table has a variety of generations represented—you might do this by arranging people by birth month.
Invite groups to decorate paper with prayers and messages of peace and encouragement, then to fold the paper into origami cranes and hearts. In addition to (or instead of) origami, the group may choose to make prayer cards, write poetry and/or create other affirmations through art as expressions of solidarity.
While you work, talk about, or have someone read the theme scripture and have conversation about it at your tables. Also discuss the work of OGHS (use the OGHS Mission Report, visit the stories page, and other OGHS Resources). Consider how the offering helps you be present to people who are suffering.
Your creations can be given away in order to build and/or continue relationships of support, symbolizing unity, sharing, and community. Identify an appropriate organization or individual to receive your creations, and talk with them before doing this activity.
Background: Peace Cranes are highly popular and have been used by communities across the world to respond to natural disasters; crisis and suffering. In the United States, the Peace Cranes have circulated between cities impacted by gun violence. For example, Cranes from Newtown, CT created following the mass shooting in Sandy Hook were sent to Orlando, FL following the mass shooting in an LGBTQI Nightclub.