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Offerings to God

"Offering"’ means to most Christians, "the collection". Gifts of money during public worship. These vary between a tithe and a tip. The amount isn’t a true measure. A widow at the Temple giving all, and Dives, the rich man in hell, are part of the reckoning.

Suburban churches have changed. Sunday morning choir and Sunday evening worship – these have faded away. A band replaces the organ. Hymn books remain on shelves.. data projection has won us over. The pulpit is demoted; the lectern enhanced by sermon notes.

One procedure remains, unchanged. "The freewill offering for the work of God". Even this is under threat by way of electronic transfer of funds. Meantime we enjoy this revered survivor of fashion change. I hasten to put money in it place. It is not meant to be separated from the rest of life. We should wake up to other forms of giving to God. Let’s say the tithing of time or a harvesting of God…given talents. Or a gear: change: Swapping our finely honed veneer talk for "fair dinkum" friendships. On that point we can offer others our total trust. There is one who offers her constant pain to him, another, with motherly longings, who lives in childlessness. A man, wise enough to offer up his bad temper. Another who is trying with God’s help to sacrifice an alcoholic thirst. Then the couple who make their list of charities sacramental rather than grudging. A man now handles his loneliness with unseen companionship. Depression is crippling – but this one believes in light at the end of the tunnel. In one parish I had a person who rang me every morning for a ‘starter’ prayer. Not one of those persons is demanding a Divine pat on the back for ‘good works’, They are smart enough to move from exasperation to cheerfulness. From prisoner to a sense of privilege. Stewardship, with its inbuilt offerings, is an elastic concept. Money is not the be-all and end-all of life.

St Paul’s dictum of God loving a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7) should apply to more than our cash transactions. A blithe spirit should accompany every offering. Become a St Francis! There are too many takers in the world. Be a giver. Cheerfulness~ guided by wisdom and faith, is a sure way of seeing Christ’s kingdom expand its borders.

Every form of offering to God must be assessed. What is my motive? Have I noted Jesus’ observation of my giving? Like the widow at the Temple, we are unaware of surveillance (Mark 12:44). Jesus knew that the smallest coin tinkling into the Treasury was her last. Gifting from an empty purser

Sacrifice language is positive,. "living" (Roman8 12:1). We see, page after page in the Book of Hebrews, the word "better". New life in Christ is computed with the blood of bulls and goats and lambs killed on behalf of humans. Sacrifice is central to all vital religion, but here is my question: Is it living or dead? Jesus came, offering Himself, as "a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world". We are unable to make any worthy offering to a holy God. But now we come, in confidence, "through Jesus Christ our Lord".

St Peter beckons us: "Come, let yourselves … become a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). Or, as Thomas Cranmer prayed, "And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee."