1 Great Hour of Sharing: A Lenten Practice, An Invitation

“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria.”

In August 2014, the actress Angelina Jolie made this statement about the crisis in Syria in her role as UNHCR Special Envoy (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). On February 4, 2015, Amnesty International published statistics showing the refugee population to be nearly four million people, with half the refugees being children. The statement made by Jolie found its way into the consciousness of the American public and is now finding its way to us at BelPres.

The time is coming where we can participate with thousands of other churches in a special offering called “One Great Hour of Sharing.” BelPres gathers funds each year to communicate our solidarity with other churches, our neighbors, and to affirm our call as a church to care for and respond to communities affected by disaster. BelPres chooses to participate in “One Great Hour of Sharing” during Lent and if you consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He makes it clear that a complete Lent balances on three pillars: fasting‚ prayer and tithing (Matthew 6:1-18).

“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria.”

We live in a globally interconnected world where everyone is our neighbor. Loving our neighbors is one of the ways we show our love for God and giving alms is a way to express this love. I cannot love God without loving my neighbor who is made, as I am, in God’s image. By honoring my neighbor, I honor God. Tithing allows churches in all communities to shine Christ’s love; sharing our resources helps us meet Christ’s command to “let our light shine” so others may come to know Him and be saved.

During Lent, we can use this opportunity to offer back to God what He has blessed in our lives; we can use this time to learn to love, to care, and to be more sacrificial following Christ’s example, who sacrificed everything for us.

Becky Gonzalez, the Director of Global Outreach here at BelPres, is involved in determining where the funds collected by “One Great Hour of Sharing” are allocated each year. She emphasizes the importance of our church being involved in the prominent issues that the rest of the country is concerned with. This year, in part thanks to the attention brought by celebrities, there has been a surge in calls for resolving the Syrian refugee crisis and the civil war that is currently tearing the country apart. The American public has responded to the cause and Becky sees an opportunity for the church to get involved in an issue that is high on the public’s radar. “We want to share the love of Jesus through an issue that American society cares about. This is a major world crisis and there is an urgent need.” This is where the church should be. 

“One Great Hour of Sharing” has inspired many people to donate to causes that affect our community and our world. Almsgiving, as a pillar of Lent, is an expression of our love for God shown through the love of our neighbors. This year, the donations will be split among three recipients: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Senior High Impact Team Scholarship, and the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. 

Watching news headlines can be discouraging, especially when we learn of the natural disasters, civil unrest, and global health emergencies that claim lives of innocent people and destroy communities. We are called to reach the unreached and care for, support and advocate for the most vulnerable in desperate situations. As a congregation committed to this call, we find ourselves faced with concerns regarding world events and the question is often how to help. Consider including tithing in your Lenten practice, towards the goal of loving our neighbors as Christ loves us.

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