Offering Resources

See also Offertory Scripture Sentences

Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

                Each resource on this page has been bookmarked. To link to a particular prayer, use the designation at the beginning of it, without the parenthesis, with a #. Thus, the first prayer would be bookmarked as:
                                http://rockhay.tripod.com/worship/prayers-etc/offering.htm#off-a-1
                Dates at the end of an entry are when they have been used at this church, according to records not kept until Oct., 2000. All have been part of worship here, though when they were written or first used may go back as far as 1990 (first computer files).

see also "Offertory Scripture Sentences"


(off-a-1)    PRAYER
        This money is yours, God, a portion of our daily sweat and tears. Help us to use it wisely. Forgive us for being out of breath. We're still catching on to this race of discipleship. Help us not so much to run faster, but with more Grace. Through Him who's already danced the course ahead. Amen.


(off-a-2)    PRAYER
        Lord of the harvest, we bring you our thanks. Whether we see ourselves as scattered seed, full of potential, or as the ground, producing the growth; as workers sowing and reaping in your fields, or as the harvest of your efforts; No matter how we see ourselves, help us to see you in it all. From planting, to tending, to gathering in, you are with us every step of the way.
        As we give our offerings this morning, nurture our present level of faith, and challenge us to greater trust. Through him who is our Alpha & Omega, our beginning and our end, Jesus Christ. Amen.     (6/16/02)


(off-a-3)    PRAYER
        O God, we live in a world that teaches "do your own thing" and "have it your way," Teach us, instead, the wisdom of "Have Thine own way" and "We give Thee but Thine own." ..... In this offering, may we be making the subtle shift from our way to your way, from the slavery of selfishness to the freedom of faithfulness. Help us to apply this not only to our money, but also to our brothers & sisters in Christ. Only through him can we try. In his name we pray. Amen.   (8/11/02)


(off-a-4)        (after a children's story about Exodus 16 - "Manna")
  
     In another Bible story, one boy shared all that he had, five barley loaves and two fish. In Jesus it was more than enough to feed a large crowd, contrary to the opinion of some of his disciples. Yes, we can receive God's "manna". We can also share it and, in so doing, find it multiplied. What loaves and fishes do you dare to share?

PRAYER
        Lord, we confess our pessimism in this age of budget deficits. Help us to really see what you can do with all we have to offer. In remembrance of loaves and fishes, bread and wine, we pray. Amen.


(off-a-5)    PRAYER
        Lord, this money is not payment for services rendered. These aren't our dues necessary for us to belong to this church. We know you made us with a purpose, and so now we give ... on purpose, freely offering to you the best of who we are. Continue to work out your purpose in us. Make us your hands, outstretched, on purpose. Amen.  (3/30/03, 4.26/09)


(off-a-6)    PRAYER
        Creator, Nourisher, Savior, Friend, receive these gifts not just for what they are, but also for what they represent: our daily re-dedication of our lives to you. May your dying love in Christ empower us to rise to new life in you. Today. Amen.


(off-a-7)    INVITATION TO SHARE
        Giving is an act of faith. We believe that what we have to offer makes a difference in this world. But more than that, we believe in the One who is behind our giving. We may not "see" God with these "eyes of flesh"; we may find it difficult to even catch a glimpse of what God may be doing around us and in us. Likewise, we may not see the effect of what we give, of what we do for Christ. But still, we believe, trusting in the One who is faithful, whose "new mercies" we often can only see by faith, day by day. I invite you, my sisters and brothers in Christ, to give now as an act of faith.

PRAYER
        We believe, help Thou our Unbelief. May these gifts be an act of faith in you, O God whose faithfulness is great. Help us amidst our doubts and fears to realize the ways in which you are making of our lives an offering, a gift. As we this week begin the journey toward Easter through the season of Lent, prepare us for your resurrection, your new life in us.        (2/25/01)


(off-a-8)    Prayer
        We have voices, O Lord. They are yours. Empower us not only to speak as Christians should, but to reveal the Christ behind the Christian.
        We have hands, O Lord. They are yours. Guide us to use them for your Glory, in prayer and in compassion.
        We have hearts, O Lord. They are yours. Help us to love you beyond our natural ability, and to do likewise for those who need you in us.
        All that we have, and all that we are, all is yours. May we become ever more faithful in what we say & do, through him who first was faithful to us. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.


(off-a-9)    Prayer              (alludes to Ps. 90)
        Forgive us, everlasting God, when we forget your gift of time. Our money and our abilities we bring to you in these offering plates. But help us also to place before you the moments and days of our lives, without which there would be no other gifts to share. Remind us in these hectic days that our "four score years and ten" pass all to quickly. Teach us the stewardship of time. "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." For this we offer these gifts of thanksgiving in the name of the One who came at the right time to save us. Amen.


(off-b-1)    Prayer
        This money, this food, is yours, O Lord. Yes, we earned it, saved it, shopped for it, bought it, and brought it here. But it is yours. We ask your blessings upon our hands which have returned these gifts to you, as well as your blessings upon the work that will flow out of this money and this food. Because of Jesus we give and we pray. Amen   (1/29/06)


(off-b-2)    Prayer
        God, you have given us a new song to sing. May these bills and coins, these checks and envelopes be in harmony with your song. We offer them to you, knowing we are the ones who lift up your melody with them. Guide us as we sing your new song through these gifts. Amen.


(off-b-3)    Prayer
        O God, like the rich, young man, we are fearful of releasing the wealth we know, for the wealth we cannot see. Forgive us. But like the widow and her mite, we long to give you all that we are, all that we have, all that we could be. Empower us.
        O God who, like the woman and her coin, seeks and searches for us, keep us focused upon what is most important in life, that our seeking after real life may not be lost in taking, but found in giving.
        In the name of your greatest gift, Jesus Christ, Amen.


(off-b-4)    Prayer
        Many hands have touched these plates, O Lord. Some calloused and tough, others soft and tender. Some large, others small. We bring before you the work of these hands. In such giving we seek to be your hands, your body, your church. Bless, O Lord, the work of our hands toward your greater work. We pray in the name of the One who, with two hands such as ours, broke and shared the bread of life. Amen.


(off-b-5)    Prayer
        The ushers may not have danced up the aisles, like David danced up the steps of the Temple so long ago, but we pray that real joy may accompany our giving. It is in giving that we receive. And it is your overflowing joy that fills these offering plates. Help us to dance wisely with the proceeds, that others might know your joy. Through the Lord of the dance, we pray. Amen.


(off-b-6)    Prayer
        We live in a world of obligations, Lord. Everything has a price. Because of this we find it hard to understand your Grace. You give to us freely, with no strings attached. And yet we know that obedience to your will is what being a disciple is all about. Help us, O Lord, to understand that our self-giving completes your salvation, and is not the cost of it. Accept these offerings as a Grace-filled response to your free gift of Life in Christ. Amen.


(off-b-7)    PRAYER
        These gifts are yours, O Lord. We can return but a fraction of what you have first given us. And yet, you have called us daughters and sons. This work is yours, O Lord. We are but laborers in your fields. And yet, you have called us friends. These hands are yours, O Lord. We reach out but little in comparison to you. And yet, you have called us brothers and sisters. Empower us to give with the joy of children, to labor with the freedom of friends, to touch with the connectedness of family. Be risen in us, that our living may be for you. In Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.


(off-b-8)    PRAYER
        We seek to be faithful, Lord. But only through your power are we at all able. Forgive us our debts. Forgive the ways in which we step all over you and each other. That's not what these boots were made to do. Instead, lead us to greater faithfulness. May these offerings be a first step in that direction. Thank you for giving, for forgiving, for living in us that we might become givers, and forgivers, and not just takers. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.


(off-b-9)    PRAYER
        Thanks, God, for calling us into this business of road construction, making a highway for you to enter our lives, and the lives of those around us. Thanks for the resources with which to build. Knowing that this business is rewarding, yet risky, we put on your hard hat, your armor, your strength. Keep us, though, from becoming hard headed. Bless these gifts. Bless the message. Bless the messenger. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.


(off-c-1)    PRAYER
        As for this "house," O Lord, with these offerings we are today professing, "We will follow you." We may not always be sure where you are leading us, but we believe in you; and we are thankful for how you have blessed us. We trust in your future. In Christ, our joy, we pray. Amen.


(off-c-2)    PRAYER
        O God who multiplied the bread beside the sea, transform these gifts into a multitude of ministries. Through them, change us. For only through your own generosity can we be free to give, and to live like cups which overflow with your abundance. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.


(off-c-3)    PRAYER
        Like buds in springtime, O Lord, we are closed in upon ourselves. Shine your warmth upon us, we pray, that we also might unfold and display the wonder of your new creation in us. May these gifts be a flowering of your joy, something we cannot help but share. In Jesus. Amen.


(off-c-4)    PRAYER (when offering is at end of worship)
        This worship has been for you God. All the words spoken, the songs sung, the prayers prayed, the laughter, the tears, the attentive hearts, the sleepy minds, the upward glances, the inward confessions, the faith expressed, the doubts reserved, the money given. In spite of mixed motivations, accept it all from us to you, O God... And now go with us from this place, into our work-a-day world, where we so quickly forget your presence. Help us, one day at a time, to live this week for you. Through Jesus, we pray. Amen.


(off-c-5)    RESPONDING TO THE CALL (Offertory sentence)
                    [follows "Jesus Calls Us", & quotes Philippians 4:8]
        Would you read with me the scripture passage printed at the top of your bulletin. (pause) "Finally, beloved ..(etc.).. think about these things." To "think about these things" means more than merely to "keep them in mind." Rather, we are called to focus upon these things, to give them weight in decision-making, to make them the center of our marketplace, no matter where that might be.
        As Christians, we believe that our faith touches every aspect of our lives, from how we treat others, to how we manage our money. As you place your offering in the plate this morning, be thinking about your marketplace, where your day's work happens. Center upon one or more things there which fit the criteria we have just read together. Then, as we stand and sing the final hymn, commit yourself to making those things influence the rest of your marketplace... Will the ushers please come forward.


(off-c-6)    INVITATION
        "Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion..." (Genesis 1:26) A stranger comes away from a family reunion, impressed with how "Sally" is a spittin' image of her grandmother, or how "Jim" walks and talks just like his Dad. In a similar way, we bear a resemblance to our Creator. That's something to be proud of. There's a sense of dignity to it all. But, it is an honor with a responsibility. To have all things placed under our feet doesn't mean we have the right to step all over them, does it? We have a family responsibility.
        Speaking of responsibility, now is the time to return to God, that which has first been given to you: a tenth, more or less, for the strengthening of the church in its mission to care for the world. Stand tall as you give, for you bear God's image. Will the ushers please come forward.

PRAYER
        We confess, O Lord, how we tarnish your image, how we fail to live up to the responsibility you have given us. We trust in your forgiveness in Christ Jesus. We don't offer these gifts to make up for our sins, for Christ alone is our sacrificial lamb. What we have, we give freely in thanksgiving, as your children. May those around us see you in what we say, in what we do, and in who we are. May all of this glorify you. Amen.


(off-c-7)    PRAYER             (refers to Isaiah 55:10-11)
        You have already blessed us with this money, O Lord. Like the rain which comes comes down from heaven, and waters the earth, this money will not return to you until it accomplishes your purpose. By giving it now, we are placing ourselves in the flow of your work in this world - opening the floodgates, rather than blocking the stream. Let (your) justice roll down like waters, and (your) righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) Because of, in the name of, and through Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.


(off-c-8)    Prayer      (after "Praise God from whom," Hymnal #118, a 3-page doxology)
        Like this doxology we have just sung, O Lord, our lives seem so complicated. How it all fits together is like a mystery. It's easy to become anxious. The path of caution, some might say cowardice, is very tempting. You don't get hurt that way. But without risk, is life worth living? O Lord, these offerings represent our lives. Receive them, as they are, and create of us - together - a symphony, a holy harmony, a doxology which makes it all worthwhile. Only you can do this. That's why we are here, in Jesus. Amen.


(off-c-9)    PRAYER             (used with "For Christ & the Church" vs. 3)
  
     "For Christ and the church." Lord, we didn't write these words on our checks. In fact, in giving these gifts, we have thought more about
                - paying the preacher,
                - fixing the roof,
                - helping a woman & her children at the Family Crisis Center,
                - building a camp,
                - supporting a district and a denomination.
        As we think specifically about where our gifts are given, may Christ be central, and shared from the pulpit, the rooftop, the shelter, the camp, the church. For Christ and the church, we willingly give these gifts. Lord, make us pure and brave. Amen.


(off-d-1)    PRAYER  (during advent)
        Help us, O Lord, to turn off the Christmas machine, and turn on to your ADVENTure. With these gifts we bring some order to our priorities. Continue to straighten us out. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.


(off-d-2)    PRAYER
        Our heavenly Father, we're never really sure where giving ends and receiving begins. Or is it where receiving ends and giving begins? All we know is that in the process of giving and receiving we are warmed by your goodness. May this ending of our offering be only the beginning of your good work in us. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.      (6/2/02)


(off-d-3)    Offertory Sentence         (James 5:7-8 CEV)      (advent)
  
     "My friends, be patient until the Lord returns. Think of farmers who wait patiently for the spring and summer rains to make their valuable crops grow. Be patient like those farmers and don't give up. The Lord will soon be here!"
        As an expression of our endurable faith in our faithful God, we are invited to return to the Lord the best from our harvest. Will the ushers please come forward.

Prayer
        Dear Lord, the gifts we bring come somewhere between peasant and king, shepherd and magi. Endow us, in our giving, with hearts large enough to welcome this child as our Messiah, our Savior. Only in his name do we pray. Amen.


(off-d-4)    OFFERTORY STATEMENT
        Hear these words of wisdom: (Proverbs 19:21) "The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established."  Think about this truth as you return to God your gift. Will the ushers please come forward.

PRAYER
        Thank you, Lord, for minds which can calculate. Help us, though, to get the equation straight. Here's the bottom line. Grant us wisdom in using it for your glory, and our neighbors' good.


(off-d-5)    Prayer
        Thank you, Lord, for the freedom of choice. In response to Joshua's age old question, with these offerings we again say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Help us to more fully mean what we say. In gratitude and love, we pray. Amen.


(off-d-6)    OFFERTORY SENTENCE
        "For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)
  
     In what ways do you feel rich because of Jesus Christ? Think about this as you bring your offering to God. Will the ushers please come forward?

RESPONSE   (the hymn)
        "Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness.
                Make thy way plain before my face.
                        For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord, only
                                that makest me dwell in safety. Amen"

A PRAYER FOR THE ROAD
        Yes, Lord, "Amen" - "let it be so". Lead me, lead us in your righteousness, that is, put your arm around us and nudge us in the right direction: your way, plain as day. Only with you beside us, and not the mounds of luggage with which we usually travel, can we walk in peace & unafraid. Help us to travel light, in your light, being light; in Christ. Amen.


(off-d-7)    Prayer         (alludes to Psalm 27:4)
  
     To live, O Lord, as if our homes were yours; to see everywhere your goodness; to seek in all things your Kingdom; help us with these gifts to step one step closer to this goal - through Jesus Christ. Amen.


(off-d-8)    Invitation
        Jesus invites us to reach out in friendship, even to those we might not normally consider. Speaking through a story he said, "I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me."
        As you respond to God's outstretched hand of friendship today through the returning of your offering, be thinking about one or two persons you may not know very well, to whom you might this coming week reach out and exchange some meaningful conversation. "whatsoever you do for one of the least of these ... you do for me."
        Will the ushers please come forward to receive our offerings.

Prayer     (after "Praise God from whom," Hymnal #118, a 3-page doxology)
        That hymn is not an easy one to sing, O Lord. It's long and complicated. And yet, somehow, you  draw the music out of us. Likewise, it's not easy to reach out. Getting beyond "How are you?", is a long and complicated process which we often avoid. Even so, you draw it out of us. You equip us for the task. We dedicate these offerings, just now, toward the proposition that when we make an effort, you increase it ten-fold. Accept not only our money this day, but also our "Yes", however timid, to your call, "Whom shall I send?" Amen.


(off-d-9)    Invitation
        "As he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head." (Mark 14:3)
        This woman is praised by Jesus, because she recognized his need, the strain he was under so close to the end. And she gave freely to him...  Perhaps there is someone you know who needs some of your "costly ointment", whatever that might be. Consider this as you return your gifts to the Lord.

Prayer
        From you, O Lord, we have learned the wisdom of a simple lifestyle which places our possessions in proper perspective. Help us, also, to learn from you the extravagance of self-giving love. May these offerings reflect a bit of both. We give them in Jesus' name. Amen.


(off-e-1)    PRAYER
        Great, holy, and just Lord, you bless us so richly. Help us to better see your gifts, be they great or small. And grow in us a desire to pass on each gift, that like loaves & fishes, our baskets might overflow. May these offering plates be a sign of what you are doing in us. Bless them and bless us, in Jesus' name. Amen.      (7/27/03)


(off-e-2)    Prayer        (Alludes to anthem by Hanks-Wilson: "Lonely Voices")
        We do hear those lonely voices, Lord. Some of them are our own. Help us not to shut out the human family as we work at strengthening our own family. Yes, charity begins at home. But this  home is connected to all others. May these offerings represent our response to your promise, which says: "through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed." ...One more thing, Lord. Be with the preacher as he tries to bring your good word to us. Help us to listen. May it all be an offering to you. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.


(off-e-3)    Invitation
        In Jesus' day, there was no such thing as a can of soda pop. As you listen to these next words he spoke, though, imagine such a can - not its "messy-ness", but the spreading effect of what a little shaking will do.
        "If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated." (Luke 6:38)
        May God be shaking us up for good, as we give of ourselves to others! Will the ushers please come forward to receive our offerings?             (6/2/02)


(off-e-4)    PRAYER
        With these offerings, O Lord, we tell the story of what you have been doing in our lives. May the story go on in the lives of others, made possible through these gifts. We give them to you, in Jesus' name. Amen.


(off-e-5)    PRAYER  (2 voices)

1 - These gifts we bring you, O Lord,
2 - are not like installments on a loan.
1 - For there is no way we could ever repay you.
2 - Nor are they an effort to earn your favor.
1 - You give freely, without such promptings.
2 - Indeed, you have showered us with blessings,
1 - one could say that we glow with your glory...
2 - By returning what you have first given us,
1 - we are spreading your blessing, your glory.
2 - May the world be filled with it.
1 - May our lives reflect it.
2 - May you be glorified.
1 - Through Jesus Christ.
2 - Amen.


(off-e-6)    Prayer
        May these gifts, O Lord, be a reflection of you, a rainbow of your promise, a warmth from your flame, good cheer from the storehouse of your joy. Thanks God, for your faithfulness, even when the waters get high. Help us to be faithful. In the name of him, who said, "be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." Amen.


(off-e-7)    Prayer
        This money is yours O Lord, you make me able to give it. This life is yours, O Lord, you make me able to live it. Amen.


(off-e-8)    Invitation  (Epiphany)
        "Lift up your eyes and look around," Isaiah said. The season of Epiphany is about looking around and seeing how God is making himself visible around us. The coming of the wise men was evidence of God at work, fulfilling what scripture said, as we just read. We have the opportunity right now to make visible God's work in us. How have you been blessed by the abundance of God? Won't you reveal your gratitude? Right now? The ushers are waiting.

Prayer
        Well, Lord, it's not gold, frankincense or myrrh that we bring. This is our story, not theirs'. Then, again, it's your story. We may have put in the labor to earn this daily bread, but you are the One who makes it all possible. Likewise, Lord, you are the power behind the ways in which these offerings are put to use. Help us not to forget that. Thank you for your graciousness. Amen.


(off-e-9)    RETURNING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS

        "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good."   (Genesis 1:31a)

                        "We thank you, then, Creator, for all things bright and good,
                        the seedtime and the harvest, our life, our health, our food.
                        Accept the gifts we offer, for all your love imparts,
                        and what you most would welcome, our humble thankful, hearts.
                        All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.
                        We thank you, Lord, we thank you, Lord, for all your love."
                                                (Matthias Claudius, Hymnal #96, vs. 3)
  
     Will the ushers please come forward to receive a portion of our gratitude.


(off-f-1)    Invitation     (follows Hymnal #8 - "Brethren, we have met to worship")
  
     Holy Manna... bread from heaven... "Give us this day our daily bread," Jesus taught us to pray. God is faithful, meeting our basic needs day by day. Of course, our hands are involved in the making of this bread. But, in the returning of our offerings we are affirming, once again, that all good gifts originate in the hands of God. Our giving helps spread God's "sweet manna all around."

Prayer
        Gracious God, you know us very well. As you see the giver behind each gift, look past our mixed motivations to our heart of hearts. May the seeds of your faithfulness grow there, such that our giving and living become acts of faith, not desperation. We pray in the name of the One who said, "I am the bread of life." Amen.


(off-f-2)    Invitation
        "As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him."    -Mark 1:16-18
  
     As you "fish" into your finances for this morning's offering, recall another fisherman, whom God called to fish among the people of Ninevah. Jonah had little respect for these foreigners and, perhaps, just as much respect for the One who sent him. However, his journey in the opposite direction led him into the belly of a fish. Talk about getting into your job!... May our offerings just now move us in the right direction, as an act of respect for those who will benefit from them, and for our God who calls us onward. Would you pray, again, with me?

Prayer
        O God, as people of the fish, followers of your son Jesus Christ, our savior, we return to you a portion of what you have first given us. Multiply the gift, O Lord. In His name, we pray. Amen.


(off-f-3)    RESPONDING WITH OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
        Listen to these simple words of Jesus: "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."      -Matthew 16:25
  
     Our faith calls us to let go so that God might do far greater things in and through us than we can ever imagine. As you return your offering to the Lord this morning, think about areas of your life that you are grasping too tightly. In what ways do you need Christ to set you free? Would you pray with me again?:
        "Lord God, help us to live with open hands rather than clenched fists. Receive these offerings with open arms. Amen."


(off-f-4)    Prayer
        Lord, thank you for sending your Son, your greatest treasure, into this world. Help us to grow in our understanding of what your sacrifice means, such that we begin to live sacrificially - releasing love, instead of hoarding it. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.


(off-f-5)    Prayer
        We are not poor, O Lord, though some of us wonder where tomorrow's paycheck will come from. Our giving is an act of trust in you. We believe you will provide our daily bread. Thank you for what you have given today, and for what you have promised to provide tomorrow. In Jesus, Amen.


(off-f-6)    RETURNING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
        A child hears the voice of her mother long before the two ever see one another. The same is true of our walk with God in Christ. God's Word is spoken, even though we cannot see his face. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart," scripture says, and step out in faith... Will the ushers please come forward to receive our tithes and offerings.

PRAYER

        Draw us onward, heavenly Father. In a way, the giving of these gifts is an act of releasing them. We tend to hold on too tightly to our possessions. Forgive us, Lord. The harder we hold on, the more difficult it is to step out in faith, to be drawn nearer to your Kingdom. Here, God - these offerings belong to you. We belong to you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


(off-f-7)    RESPONDING WITH OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
        Our tithes and offerings are not given to earn brownie points in heaven. If that were the case, none of us would have much influence in eternal matters. Instead, our gifts flow from God's graciousness to us, a response to the One who multiplies loaves and fishes. Love the Lord your God extravagantly, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.


(off-f-8)    RETURNING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
        Perhaps you've discerned that "Love" is part of today's worship theme, which is appropriate since Valentine's Day is this week. Our children will be sharing with us shortly about love. Beyond that, we'll be branching out into "love for neighbors," examining the Vision Statement our Dream Team came up with last year. Right now, you have an opportunity to respond to God's steadfast love for you/for us, in the giving of your tithe and other offerings. As you do, remember the words of the apostle Paul: "If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."  (1 Corinthians 13:3)


(off-f-9)    Invitation
        We began our worship this day with a promise. What tears have you sown recently? Can you see in your hurts and fears the seeds of a new day? As you return your tithes and offerings just now, think about the grief of God in allowing his Son to journey to a far country, and there to die for us. Then, imagine the homecoming, remembering this promise: "Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves." (Psalm 126:6)

Prayer         (borrows from the offertory - #105)
  
     Christ, we do all adore thee, and we do praise thee forever, for on the holy cross hast thou the world from sin redeemed. No gift can we offer, but that pales in the sight of what thou hast done for us, to set the world right. Christ, we do all adore thee, and we do praise thee forever. Amen.


(off-g-1)    Invitation (James 5:12)
        In a passage much loved by the Brethren, James once wrote: "Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ĎYesí be yes and your ĎNoí be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation." Sounds like good advice, especially when making commitments to the Lord. Speaking of which, many of us pledge to return to God a portion of the wealth weíve received and built upon. Well, concerning our tithes and other offerings, now is a time for our "yes" to very tangibly be a "yes."
        Will the ushers come forward to receive this "yes," this "amen" to the Lord?        (10/1/00)


(off-g-2)    Invitation
         In Psalm 8 it says that human beings have been made "a little lower than God, and (have been) crowned .. with glory and honor." Thatís an awesome statement. It brings with it a great responsibility. How are we doing at taking care of what God has entrusted into our hands? Do the words "glory" and "honor" fit? Think about this as you return your tithe or offering. Will the ushers come and receive what we have to share.

Prayer
        Lord, help us to grow as caretakers of your trust. May we become people of honor, who reflect your glory. In Jesus. Amen.                        (10/8/00)


(off-g-3)    Invitation
         As you come to the Lord with your offering, think about this. Is your gift an act of thanksgiving, returning back to God a portion of what you have already received? Or is it an act of faith, giving even as you wonder whether all the bills will get paid without it? True offering involves both thanksgiving and a leap of faith. What does your gift represent? As you offer it, silently speak your own prayer to the One who is right there with you, always.        (10/15/00)


(off-g-4)    Invitation
        In the background of what our choir just sang was the familiar hymn, "Now thank we all our God." Itís appropriate to remember on this Sunday before Thanksgiving that the author of those words didnít write them amid a time of plenty. Martin Rinkhart served as a pastor in the city of Eilenburg, Germany, during the horrible "Thirty Years War." He ministered to thousands of refugees, sometimes conducting 40 to 50 funerals a day, especially when the plague hit that overcrowded town. We may wonder how, after seeing so much suffering, this man could write such a song of Thanksgiving.
        "Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices." He must have been dreaming a much bigger dream than the nightmare of that war. Isnít this where true thanksgiving comes from? Yes, we are thankful for what we have now, but our thankfulness flows from a larger container, from God to God.
        As you return your monetary offering, offer your own silent prayer of thanks to our awesome God.    (11/19/00)


(off-g-5)    Invitation    (after congregation sings "When I survey the wondrous cross")
                        Do you really mean what you just sang?
                                "Were the whole realm of nature mine,
                                                that were and offering far too small.
                                        Love so amazing, so divine,
                                                        demands my soul, my life, my all."
                                                                                            Please pray with me.

        Lord, we sit in such privileged positions already. More than any previous generation, "the whole realm of nature" is practically in our hands. Help us shift from grasping it tightly to releasing it as an offering, from asking what our leaders can do for us to seeking what we can do for others, from being served to serving. In so doing, help us to proclaim your good news near and far. Amen.        (11/22/00)


(off-g-6)    Invitation
        All of us need "motivation," that which causes us to get up and get moving, to do something. We need a "motive," a reason for acting, or a power that propels us forward. The word, "motive" comes from a old french word we still use in English - "motif." A "motif" is a theme that gets repeated over and over, such that it sinks from the head to the heart.
        As you return your offering, ponder what theme is being repeated in your life, what motif is moving not just your head but also your heart, what motivating power is guiding not just your heart but also your hands and feet.
        Make your act of giving a personal prayer to the One who is the source of your truest motivation, the power behind what you do thatís right, the real theme that moves your life in Christ. "Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart I will pray...."                (1/14/01)


(off-g-7)    Invitation        (Luke 4:18-19)
        At the beginning of Jesusí earthly ministry, in his home synagogue in Nazareth, he read the following words from the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Those words became his mission statement, the purpose behind his actions.
        As you return your offerings, think about what your mission statement might be as a Christian. Every believer has received a gift by this same "Spirit of the Lord." But every gift, every special ability, is given on purpose, with a reason, a mission attached. It is part of a larger design. Ponder this in your heart while you pass the plate, and ask God for wisdom in discovering both gift and mission.        (1/21/01)


 


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