The Offertory and Giving

thohhwfk3lOne of the great controversies of our time is whether or not liturgy is necessary for true worship. We Anglicans, of course, answer the question with a devout yes. But even our most ardent opponents retain certain elements of liturgy, most especially the offertory.

All across the world today, in almost every church, offering bags, bowls, baskets, and plates will be passed through the aisles as people  lay in their money. Why is this the element of liturgy that survives across the denominational lines?

You might answer the question with a crass response such as. “money make the world go around- even for the church.” Or, “Someone has got to pay the preacher.” But these kinds of answers have no connection with the intent of the offertory.

The offertory is an essential sacrifice to God. Let us examine the liturgical action of the offertory. Yes, we do collect alms- which are monies offered to the Lord. We also collect oblations, which are offerings to God. The most significant of the oblations we collect is wine and bread for the Eucharist. On occasions we might also receive candlesticks for the altar, or canned food for distribution to the poor, or a new rosary for prayer. These are also offerings given to God.

And they really are essential because they really are the bits and pieces of ourselves; and therefore, are a gifting of ourselves to God. Our money is a material form of our time and that is a most basic measurement of our life. Our oblations are the things we could use for ourselves, to decorate or elaborate our lives, but instead we offer these things to God for his glory and his use.

Understanding the offertory as our sacrifice to God of “our life and labor” brings both guilt and joy. We begin to feel the guilt of knowing how often we withhold what is precious from God. But we also know the joy of the goodness of giving freely to the God who “is worthy.”

So when the plates head down your aisle today, do not think to yourself the unworthy and crass thoughts. But search your heart to wonder, what offering shall I bring? What sacrifice shall I make to the God who saves me?

Stewardship

stewardship“The Book of Common Prayer teaches us that ‘The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,’ and the ‘the Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.’  The unstated but clear implication of this teaching is that the main work of the Church is involving people in using all that is entrusted to them in carrying out the mission. Said simply, stewardship is the main work of the Church.

Thus, stewardship is more than church support; it is use of “the gifts given to us to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” Therefore, the way we use or do not use resources to further unity and reconciliation in our homes, our communities, and our occupations is our stewardship. Yet, stewardship is not less than church support. Our worshipping, working, praying, and giving within the Church provide the support that we and others need to engage in the often difficult and lonely tasks of proclaiming the good news, loving our neighbors, and striving for justice and peace.

Stewardship is more than a duty: it is a thankful response to God’s graciousness to us. As such, it is an opportunity to praise God with our lives in thanksgiving for: the blessings of creation, the birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our redemption; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and for the Word, Sacraments, and Fellowship that sustain and transform us al the Church. Therefore, stewardship is an adventure, and expedition into the kingdom where we find our lives through losing them for the sake of the Gospel.”

(Written by the Rev. C.W. Taylor )

Episcopal Visit- December 4

Episcopal Visit – December 4: We are excited that the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker will be making his Episcopal visit to St. John’s on December 4. Bishop Iker will be the homilist and celebrant at a special 10:30 a.m. Eucharist. Two parishioners will be confirmed that morning. After the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist, there will be a special pot-luck lunch in honor of the Bishop’s visit. This will be a very special Sunday in the life of our parish, so please make every effort to be here on that Sunday as our Bishop ministers to us!images (4)

The Season of Advent

candles-bibleToday, I want to look at the themes, mood and liturgy of Advent. First, let’s consider the theme of Advent. Advent is the beginning of the Liturgical Year (the Christian New Year’s Day). “It is a season of spiritual preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ (Christmas) and looks forward to the future reign of Christ. Eschatological expectation rather than personal penitence is the central theme of the season. Advent is a preparation for rather than a celebration of Christmas, so Advent hymns should be sung instead of Christmas carols. The first Sunday of Advent is not the beginning of the Christmas season, The Christmas celebration begins on Christmas Eve and continues for the next ‘twelve days of Christmas’” (from the United Church of Christ website). “During Advent, we prepare our hearts to ‘receive’ Jesus into the world each year as a light to the nations, at a time when our secular calendar is reaching its darkest period. It is a time of looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming” (from the website Elizabeth and our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church).

Kimberlee Conway Ireton describes the mood of Advent well. She states that each season of the Liturgical Year “has a special emphasis, [in which] I have opportunities to focus on specific areas of spiritual growth as I live out that season, In Advent, for instance, the focus is on waiting – joyfully and expectantly. In this season, I can practice patience and self-control, perhaps by waiting until Christmas to eat a favorite holiday treat of listen to a favorite carol. I learn again about hope, as I look forward with trust that Jesus is coming even when all around me seems dark” (“Redeeming Time” in Christian Reflection, 2010).

This brings us to an examination of the Liturgy and its changes. Remember the purpose of the changes is not just to do something different, but to emphasize the unique themes and mood, of the Season of Advent and to help us more fully immerse ourselves as Christians in those themes and mood.

Altar Flowers: In keeping with Advent’s penitential theme of preparation, there are no flowers on the altar.

Sanctus Bells: The normal Sanctus Bells are replaced during Advent with a single bell.

Liturgical Colors: Our altar hangings and vestments will be blue for this season “Following the tradition of the Sarum Rite (an old English rite), Blue is the color for Advent. During the Middle Ages, when blue was an expensive color to reproduce, purple was often used instead. This is why you still see some churches using purple in Advent. Also, purple was used by churches that followed the Roman rite as opposed to the Sarum Rite. Theologically, however, blue is the proper color for this season, because Blue is the color of the Blessed Virgin, and Advent is all about Mary as we await with her the arrival of the Incarnate God. Blue is the color of hope, expectation, confidence, and anticipation. These are all adjectives which describe the season of Advent” (from the website of St. James Church Richmond, Virginia).

The Opening Acclamation: In keeping with the theme of Advent, we will use a more appropriate acclamation to draw us into worship which will have a theme of expectation and anticipation.

The Decalogue (Ten Commandments): On some Sunday’s during Advent, we will use the Decalogue in place of the Summary of the Law, The Summary of the Law, of course, encompasses all of the Ten Commandments (“Loving God” covers the first 4 Commandments and “Loving Neighbor” cover the last 6 Commandments). Since there is a certain penitential theme in preparing for Christ to return, the use of the Ten Commandments is appropriate for renewing our covenant vows before God in the liturgy.

The Kyrie Eleison: Again in Keeping with the penitential theme of preparation in Advent there are certain omissions in the Eucharistic Liturgy. This is where we find one of those omissions – The Gloria in Excelsis (no glorias or alleluias). In place of the Gloria, we will sing the Kyrie Eleison which better fits with our Advent themes. We will sing the 3-fold Kyrie (each line sung once for a total of 3 lines) versus the 9-fold Kyrie (each line sung three times for a total of 9 lines) which we sing in the Season of Lent.

The Comfortable Words: We will read sentences from St. John and St. Paul which emphasize Jesus’ promise to come again to receive His people unto Himself and that His people can have confidence in His grace and mercy to deliver them in their time of need.

The Faction Anthem: Here we find another omission in the Eucharistic Liturgy in light of the penitential theme of preparation for Christ’s Second Coming. The Alleluias are omitted.

The Blessing: In place of the usual blessing at the end of the Eucharist, the celebrant will use a seasonal blessing for Advent.