And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
Dear Friends in Christ,
Having been around for a long time, the Church has special words for everything. There’s a part in our worship service, as the Liturgy of the Word moves into the Liturgy of the Table, called the “offertory.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that word outside of an Episcopal Church. What is it all about? Well, there is an offering brought forward to the altar, and that seems to be the center of the offertory. And what is the particular offering that we bring to the altar? Bread and Wine for the Eucharist.
I know what you’re thinking—“what about the passing of the plates and the presentation of money?” Well, that’s there too. But that is only part of the main purpose of the offertory: to present gifts to God for “the Great Thanksgiving.” That’s what we call the prayer that we pray to God with the bread and wine, asking God to be present with us in this sacrament that he commanded us to continue. So the offertory is first an offering of bread and wine for God to send his Holy Spirit to consecrate.
However, I have to admit that the whole “Great Thanksgiving” is about far more than just the bread and wine. We offer to God a “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” in the Eucharist. Indeed, the word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” We offer to God all of who we are, “our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a living sacrifice” to God. Part of offering ourselves before God is gifts of money for God’s service. Many churches also offer at this point in the service gifts of food to give to the poor. We offer to God, “with gladness, the offerings of our life and labor to the Lord.”
There is a story of a church service somewhere in Africa. The offertory was a time of great joy and singing—the whole church was on its feet singing. The basket came around for the offering, and one woman had no money to offer. Instead, she set the basket on the ground and stepped into it herself. Symbolically, she was giving herself to God. This is indeed the most important offering, one that bread and wine and money and food can only symbolize. We offer all of ourselves to God in joy, knowing that the more of ourselves we put in God’s care, the more of our lives God will bless.
Think of this with joy the next time you participate in the offertory. See you this weekend 😊.
Yours in Christ,