In reading Jamie Smith's excellent book Desiring the Kingdom, I've come across what I perceive to be a fairly serious mistake.  Towards the end of the book he spends some time going through a basic liturgy in order to show how different elements of the liturgy shape and form us by training not just our beliefs but our desires and thus our basic posture in the world.  He uses a fairly generic Western liturgy, noting places where various traditions may differ slightly, but basically following something like the near-universal Roman rite in terms of structure.  However, when he comes to the offering he places it after the Eucharist and suggests that after having been granted all the gifts of the liturgy we respond with our offerings.  While he makes a number of worthwhile points about the offering and about our attitudes towards it, I feel that he completely misses it's relation to the liturgy as a whole in a chapter where his intent is to show the flow of the liturgy and the relation of one 'liturgical moment' to the next.

While he is right to note that the offering is not just a contribution 'for the show,' he fails to note that the reason for this is that the offering is integral to 'the show' (so to speak).  The offering (or oblation) is the point in the liturgy at which the gathered present the fruits of their God-blessed labors to God himself so that he can take them up, transform them and return them to his worshippers as his very flesh and blood, his blessing, and his Amen! on their cultural endeavors.  The offering historically would have consisted of the very bread and wine that would be offered in the Eucharist, as well as any number of other things (chickens, livestock, coins, clothing, etc.).  The point is that in the offering, we as worshippers offer ourselves symbolically through our gifts, just as ancient Israelites offered themselves symbolically through sacrifices, and then, and only then, God gave a portion of what they had offered back to them through the peace offering which they ate as a meal at table with God himself.  Likewise, in the offering we offer to God our gifts, a portion of what he has blessed us with through the work he has given us to do, and in the Eucharist he returns to us much more than we could have ever given, namely fellowship with him and a seat at the table of the King with all of our friends (i.e. Christians... notably if the overlap is not strong there may be much to work on).  

The Eucharist follows the offering because of a reciprocal relation.  Just as I give my child to God in baptism and he gives her back to me but better, marked with the name of Christian and child of God, so I give my offering to God in worship, and he gives it back to me in the form of bread and wine which are his very flesh and blood - my life.
10/2/2013 05:10:15 am

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