Friends in Christ,
We have walked deeply into the season of Lent, alongside Jesus as he enters the valley of the shadow. Many of us engage disciplines of focused prayer, reflection and fasting as we journey toward Holy Week, confront the death of our Savior then celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Along with many of our ecumenical partners, Presbyterians also mark this Lenten time by giving to One Great Hour of Sharing, one of four of our denomination’s Special Offerings. This year marks the 70th anniversary of One Great Hour of Sharing, an offering first received in 1949 to provide support for communities struggling to recover from the aftermath of World War II.
You shall be called repairers of the breach …
These words, the theme for this year’s offering, come from Isaiah 58:12. They reflect a bold challenge to us, especially when read in the context of the entire chapter. Isaiah 58 begins with a conversation between the people of Israel and the prophet. They are a beleaguered people, just returning from Babylonian exile. They are fasting and praying, but their circumstances do not seem to be improving. It is as if God has abandoned them.
In Isaiah 58:3, the people ask:
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
And the prophet answers:
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
The prophet is pretty clear! Right relationship and fidelity to God is impossible if one does not also live in right relationship with others and does not work for the well-being and common good of the community. The prophet suggests that God is not interested in our abstention from food or other creature comforts but is instead calling us to a fast of a different kind. We are being invited to fast from living selfish and inconsiderate lives that hurt and harm the most vulnerable communities. God is simply asking this privileged group to fast from their own oppressive behavior!
The prophet goes on to paint the picture of what will happen when there are right relationships, when God’s people look outward and serve God by helping others.
To truly capture God’s attention, we must seek justice and righteousness for the whole nation — not just seek it to meet our own needs.
The path to justice and righteousness includes:
- Confronting unjust systems that oppress and deny people access to the abundance of God’s creation;
- ensuring that people and communities have food, shelter and the means to a sustainable livelihood;
- Working for healing and for the reconciliation of broken relationships.
This is the fast that the prophet is calling for; this is what will redeem the world.
And when we have done it, and our lives reflect God’s compassion, peace and justice … then God’s people shall be called repairers of the breach, restorers of the streets to live in.
OGHS is the single, largest way that Presbyterians come together every year to work for a better world. Over the past 70 years, countless lives have been transformed because of your generosity.
Join me in supporting this opportunity to fulfill the call of the prophet so that the Presbyterian church may be known as repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to live in.
Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
“Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”—Isaiah 58:12
The Compassion, Peace & Justice (CPJ) ministry engages with Presbyterians and partners across the U.S. and internationally to:
End poverty and hunger as we:
- Assist and accompany vulnerable communities working to improve their lives
- Support education, training and capacity-building programs
- Work for long-term solutions to systemic poverty and injustice
- Listen to, amplify the voices of partners, and join in action toward these goals
Restore communities impacted by disaster as we:
- Partner with communities affected by disasters, environmental degradation and systemic racism
- Provide training, disaster preparedness and capacity-building programs for mid councils, partners and responders
- Mitigate the impact of disasters and their underlying causes
Promote peace and transform cultures of violence as we:
- Educate, advocate and respond to domestic and international conflicts
- Provide opportunities to learn about peacemaking initiatives, and to accompany impacted communities
- Address structural racism, white supremacy, misogyny and violence; and work for human rights and dignity
- Encourage the study and practice of nonviolence
- Confront the epidemic of gun violence
Promote solidarity with people as we:
- Amplify the voices of those whom society marginalizes and stand with communities as they defend their rights
- Challenge systems of oppression, discrimination and abuse
- Partner with those who seek livable wages and just labor practices
- Engage with partners working with refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, citizens returning from incarceration, and people impacted by trafficking or forced labor
Promote solidarity with creation as we:
- Work toward environmental justice, creation care, sustainable living, appropriate technologies and climate justice
- Support food and farm systems that restore God’s creation
- Challenge systems that put profit ahead of health, safety and the environment
- Honor and respond to the leadership of frontline communities experiencing environmental degradation and/or environmental racism
- Articulate and advocate for a just transition toward an equitable and sustainable economy
The ministries of Compassion, Peace and Justice are supported by your contributions to the Presbyterian Mission Agency through your local congregation.