Monday, August 28, 2023

An Offering to God

 

Romans 12:1-8

Proper 16 / Year A

St. Paul writes:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

What have you brought with you today to offer to God?  Perhaps some money.  Some of you have come to offer a song or a hymn, others an act of service such as ushering or reading or preparing the altar.  What did you bring here today to offer?  This is one question I want you to ponder.

Here is another:  Why did you bring it?  What are you hoping to accomplish by your offering?  If you are the Kitchen Queen, perhaps you brought a tasty treat to foster fellowship and hospitality after the service.  If you are the organist perhaps you prepared a voluntary to raise our spirits through classic music composed to the glory of God.  If you are acolyting for the very first time, perhaps you want to do something useful for the church all the while taking another step toward adulthood.  Why did you bring your offering?

The Hebrew word for ‘sacrifice’ is korb├ín, which literally means “to come closer.”  Given this understanding, the purpose of every sacrifice or offering is to get closer to God, and, in some form or fashion, to get closer to God’s community in this place.   

When it comes to making an offering, Paul encourages us not to set aside some small part of ourselves – what we have or what we can do –  but rather to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.  Like we pray in Rite 1 Holy Eucharist:

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…

This kind of prayer where we offer something to God is called an ‘oblation.’  We offer bread and wine in order that it may be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  We offer our selves in order to be transformed into the image of Christ.

There is a story about St. Jerome, the fifth century figure who translated bible from Greek into Latin. God asks him, “What do you have for me today, Jerome?  He answers, “Lord, I give you my prayer.”  “Good!  And what else?”  Jerome cites his self-discipline, his vigils, his love for those who came to visit him, and more.   God responds, “Anything else?”  Jerome, dejected, says, “I don’t know what else I can give you!”  The Lord then says to him: “There is still something you haven’t given me.  You haven’t given me your sins!”

I like this story because it suggests there is nothing we need to hide or hold back when we offer ourselves to God.  A prayer by Pedro de la Cruz offers the same lesson, but in more detail:

Lord, I offer you all of me, all that I am and all that I am not.  I offer you every good decision and every regrettable mistake, every great accomplishment and every missed opportunity, every divinely inspired gift and every unapplied talent, every success and every miserable failure.  I offer you all joy and all heartache, every kindness and every bitterness to be forgotten, every twinkle in my eye and every tear flowing down my cheek, every great love and each lost or irrecoverable act of charity.

I offer you every quiet reflective moment and all of the unneeded chaos around me, all things holy and good in me and all things in need of greater purification.  I give you every joyful memory and every bitter pain, each future moment and every missed opportunity to love, every kind act and each regrettable harsh word, all meekness and humility within me and every misplaced prideful thought, every virtue and every weak vice, every laugh and all misery mixed with weeping.

I give you every healthy breath and every weakness of mind and body, every attempt at chastity and every unworthy lustful thought, every restful repose and every anxious, sleepless night.  O Lord, you can have all of me, the beauty that you’ve deposited deep within me and the emptiness of my sinful faults.  I love you and I am yours completely.  Amen.

I ask you again… what did you bring today to offer and why did you bring it.  What are you trying to hide or hold back?  I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.