Giving Back (May 14, 2012)

…Opening To…

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the church into the dimension of the Kingdom. (Alexander Schmemann)

…Listening In…

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2, and an “Offertory Sentence”)

…Filling Up…

Our ninth moment is easy to miss because in the Book of Common Prayer there is no bold heading that says the “Offertory” and no dialogue between the leader and the people. The leader can say a sentence from scripture to trigger the beginning of the offertory, but the suggested words are tucked away in a different place in the book. Often, the choir sings a beautiful anthem during the passing of the collection plates, so unless you are aware of the plate sliding by you, you are liable to miss the whole thing.

But the offertory is just as important as any other piece of our service. In a symbolic action, representatives from the people bring to the altar the gifts of bread and wine and money or other gifts. In most churches the gifts of bread and wine come up first and then a few minutes later the money comes up, thus severing the intimate connection between the two. So let’s imagine for a moment that all the gifts arrive at the altar at the same time. What would we see?

First we would see the bread placed before God, a symbol of the bounty of the earth that the Lord has made. Human hands took that bounty and molded it into the bread that we bless. The same goes for the wine, a symbol of celebration that also comes from the fruit of the earth, pressed and fermented by human hands and feet. Then we see the monetary offering placed before God. In juxtaposition with the bounty of the earth that most certainly sprang up because of God’s goodness, we see our financial gifts given to the glory of God. And we realize that we are simply giving back to God what God has blessed us with.

All of our offerings to God are really our giving to God what is already God’s – sort of like when your parents give you five dollars to buy them a birthday present. The money is theirs, but you’ve taken it and used it for their joy. That is what happens in the offertory.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you give to us out of your abundance, goodness, and love. Help me to have a generous heart, that I may give back to you of the first fruits of all you have blessed me with. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, nourished by the bread of life that you sent to the world, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

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