A Perfect Offering

My congregation, like many over the last year or more, had put a moratorium on collecting an offering during the service.  While we still don’t pass the plates, we’ve returned  to bringing the offering forward so it can be given to God during the service.

This might feel like a rather minor point, but the offering occupies an important place within the service.  It comes as a response to the joyful gift of the Gospel and as a preparation for the sacrament.  The theology of offerings is one that we do not bring out very often, yet it is fundamental to what Communion is.

Leviticus describes the various sacrifices used in the religious life of Israel.  Most were related to sin in one way or another, yet all sacrifices are described as offerings.  Guilt offerings, burnt offerings, and more.  It might sound like these offerings paid the debt of sin, but the author of Hebrews tells us none of these animal sacrifices could ever take away sins. 

Of course, as with just about everything in the Old Testament, these sacrifices were pointing forward to Christ.  Hebrews tells us further that only Christ could be the perfect sacrifice.  Only the perfect sacrifice can pay the penalty for sins.

The lectionary this Sunday in the three-year series concludes Jesus’s conversation with the crowd.  Jesus says some controversial things about how He is the Bread of life and His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink and that these things are necessary for eternal life.

Taken together, the only offering that can take sins away is Jesus Himself.  The presence of Christ in the meal is what gives the sacrament purpose.  The church offers to God bread and wine that, through the Sacred Mystery, will be joined to the Body and Blood of Christ. 

Communion truly is an offering, but it is offering of the only thing we have of any value: Christ.  Taking the offering in the service and bringing it to God helps us remember that we do have something to give to God, something we only have because He first gave it to us.  We offer the Son to the Father and so find our salvation and life.

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