“The Offertory: More Than Money & Music”
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. (1 Chronicles 29:14)
The above passage probably sounds familiar to many of you familiar with Anglican liturgy. After we sing the Doxology, and just before “we lift up our hearts to the Lord,” often the celebrant will raise the plates containing the financial offerings and declare, “All things come from you, O Lord.” The people respond, “And of your own have we given you.”
This part of the service is called, “The Offertory,” and often we miss the fullness of what is happening. Some think this is the time when we collect money and offer it to the Lord. Others think it’s the time when the choir offers a special song. You’ll also notice me quietly praying over the bread and the wine: “Blessed art Thou Lord God of the universe, for by Thy hand we have received this bread/this wine which we offer unto Thee….” It is all of this, and more.
“These gifts of bread and wine, money and effort are supposed to stand in for our whole lives,” writes the Rev. Leander Harding. This is a moment when we remember that everything —everything! — we have received is gift from God (James 1:16-18), and we offer a portion of it the Lord as an expression of the gratefulness, trust, and partnership that now mark the entirety of our lives in Jesus. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
The words above from 1 Chronicles are spoken by King David near the end of his life, as he and the people of Israel give literal tons of precious metals and jewels for the building of the first temple. “Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:1-9). David is joyfully astounded by their capacity to give so much so freely, and he recognizes that both resources and generous hearts are gifts from their Creator. And so King David prays, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts to you” (1 Chronicles 29:18).
I pray this for Immanuel as well, as we continue with whole hearts to offer freely to the LORD the fullness of our lives in gratefulness for the gift of Jesus.
Your Pastor in Christ,