On the Offertory

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Liturgy expresses the fullness of who we are as Christians: that is one of the ideas we have been thinking through on Sunday mornings during our Equipping the Saints class. Liturgy has this way of representing our life as Christians and enacting that very life. We’re representing the way that Christ’s body has been given to us, and we’re enacting our participation in that very gift by receiving it into our hands. Our gathering really shows us who God calls us to be, by letting us be those people who sing, people who pray for one another, people who are at peace with one another, people who stand in the grace of God. Another way to say this: liturgy tells us who we are in Christ. It tells us who we are, then, just as it lets us be who God has created us to be.

The offertory has a beautiful place within this “telling” and “letting-be.” If we are thinking of the offertory as a liturgical act (that is, some aspect of the Christian life that we have really nailed down as essential to who we are) then one particular aspect of the Christian life begins to emerge—generosity. But this generosity, I think, takes a very particular shape. There are any number of passages which outline the spiritual basis for giving to God, but perhaps the one that most reflects the heart of the offertory in the Church is Acts 2:44: “All who believed were together and held all things in common.” While our offerings certainly have to do with how we approach our money in relationship to God, and how the bills of the church need to be paid somehow, in the offertory, there’s an emphasis on generosity as a communal activity. We place our money in the same plate and let is pass through the congregation. We even bring the entire, now singular, collection up toward the altar as a way of representing and enacting ourselves offered up before God as one people.

Willie Jennings puts it like this: in the Christian community, “possessions are broken of their boundary-making power and people are drawn toward one another in and through mutual and interlocking needs.” In the offertory, lines are redrawn, and I allow what is mine to become yours. I release a part of my life, and, by offering what I have, find that moving toward another’s needs is a first principle of who I really am in Christ.

We encourage you to be prayerful, therefore, in submitting a pledge to the life of St. John’s. The offertory is one direct way to turn in your pledge card, but pledges can be submitted online as well: https://stjohnscolumbia.org/make-a-pledge/. We hope to have your pledge by All Saints’ Sunday, November 6.

Learn more about this and other important updates in this week’s church newsletter: The Epistle – Oct. 20, 2022

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