Last week in our Rooted readings we looked at that wonderful chapter in Hebrews, chapter 11. That is a such a wonderful passage of scripture, giving examples of so many saints in the Old Testament. The next few weeks we’ll look at many of the saints that are mentioned in this chapter. This week we are going to look deeper at Genesis 4:1-10, the story of Cain and Able:
1 Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!
I wanted to talk a little bit about worship and offering and give you a connection that I learned a couple of years ago. In worship services, certain acts are “stand-ins” or reminders for other important things. Let me give you an example. In a traditional service and setting, normally that is a creed that is recited. This creed has a couple of key purposes. Most obviously is the teaching of the doctrine of the church. Through speaking the creed together we affirm what it is that we believe. But the creed is more than that, especially the Apostles Creed. That creed is a creed that historically is associated with baptism. If you look at the liturgy for the United Methodist Church, the Apostles Creed is actually part of the baptismal service. So, on a typical Sunday morning when we affirm the creed together, we are remembering our baptism, the creed is so closely connected to that sacrament of the church.
When looking at the history of an “offering” you find something interesting. For the longest time, within Methodist settings, the offering was something that was given during communion. You would come to the altar, receive the elements, and leave your gift upon there. But in those early days of Methodism, it may be weeks before the circuit rider got back around to your church (that’s another reason why many Methodists only do communion once a quarter).
But in those times between the circuit rider coming, the church would have a time of offering. These tithes and offerings supported the church, yes, but more than that. In the same way that the creed is a constant reminder of baptism, the offering is a constant reminder of God’s offering to us of communion. Just as we offer to God our best through our tithes and offerings, God offers to us His best through the body and the blood.
The offering is intertwined with communion. May we keep that reminder in our minds and within our hearts every time we worship through our offerings.
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