“It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God… ” So begins the Proper Preface of the Service of the Sacrament. The specific content of this Preface changes, which is why the one that is selected is proper for that particular point in the church year.
Though the rest of the Proper Preface may vary in how it draws in different aspects of Christ’s life, it always begins and ends the same way. “It is good, right, and salutary…” It doesn’t sound like anything very important. In fact, you probably don’t give it much thought at all. If you do think about it, it’s probably just how pastor gets things rolling for Communion. But the wording here is intentional. It is proper. It is appropriate. It is beneficial. It is good. Good. A word that is used so often in our language as rarely garner any sort of notice. Our attention passes right over it without another thought. It’s unfortunate, because the word “good” is one of the first theology-laden words the Bible gives us. At the end of each of the first five days of Creation, God looks at what He had made and calls it “good.” He looks at His creation on the sixth day and calls it “very good.” Each of those days He sees what was made, how it does what He created it to do and how everything is in order. Everything is right where it needs to be. Everything is good. On the sixth day, it is so orderly and organized that nothing further needs to be added. It is complete. It is very good.
I spoke at some length about the different aspects of the offering rite and how they relate to the liturgy and Communion. At this point in the service, the offering has already been collected. It is at this point that we are able to announce that things are good. They are as they should be. We have given our offering to God. We have completed the work of God. That is not to say we have earned His grace or our own salvation. Merely that we have given evidence of our thankfulness. God has given us a great gift by offering the life of His Son on our behalf. We could neither earn nor repay this gift, neither does He expect us to. At the same time, when given a gift, the proper response is to thank the giver. This thanks is acknowledgement that we did not earn what we were given and that we are simply receiving what the giver wishes to give because he wishes to give it.
We bring our offering to God, not because we do not want it, but because we know there are others who need it more. We offer to God what is already His and we announce it as such. It is in this humble admission that what we have is not really ours and was never really earned, that we give thanks for what He has chosen to give us, that our relationship with God begins working the way it ought. It works the way it was intended.
God has restored us through baptism in order that we might begin to work the way we were intended. Adam and Eve were given innumerable gifts. Yet, instead of living in daily thankfulness for those gifts, they wanted more. They wanted what they were not given. Now we return to that place. Not taking more, but willingly giving up. We give to God what is rightfully His.
Not just a matter of mindlessly droning on before the sacrament, but rather an important declaration of what we are here to do and why we are here to do it. “It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You…” By giving thanks, by participating in the relationship God has restored between us, we complete the work. We things around full circle. Now, as people who worship and give thanks to God as we ought, we are prepared to receive the next gift, the greater gift He has to offer: life in His presence through the Body and Blood of His Son.