The Offertory (p. 22-23)
The Offertory, Offering, and General Prayer are all connected and form a bridge between the Service of the Word (ending with the sermon) and the Service of Communion (beginning with the Preface).
The Offertory is the name for something that the Lutheran church no longer practices. Instead, we have retained the name for this part of the service, while rejecting its former usage. Very early in the history of the Church, the Offertory represented the time when the members of the congregation brought food and gifts for the poor as well as for the support of the clergy (Reed, 292). At this time, also, the bread and wine to be used in Communion were brought forward. This is not the form of the Offertory that was rejected by Luther and the other Reformers. However, they did reject the practice that had developed in the Middle Ages of certain prayers and ceremonies that came to focus almost solely on the bread and wine for Communion. The Offertory ceased to be an offering of all sorts of gifts, and became the offering by the priest of the sacrifice of Christ before God the Father (see Reed, 292-293). The Reformers denied that the priest offered any “sacrifice of the Mass” and simply put a Psalm in place of the Offertory.
The Offertory we use is from Psalm 51:10-12. We acknowledge, as David did, how unworthy we are to receive God’s Word, His Sacraments, and to offer prayers to Him. And yet, covered with Jesus’ blood, we boldly approach the Throne of God to request that He restore to us “the joy of [His] salvation; and uphold [us] with [His] free Spirit.” With the clean heart He has granted us, and in the joy of the Holy Spirit, we bring our gifts to our merciful Father.
The Offering (p. 23)
The Offering is gathered at this time. The Offering is a reminder of the early practice of bringing forward gifts, and in some places that early practice has been restored. We give in the humble and joyful knowledge that all we have has been given to us by God (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 9:7). When we give, we echo David’s words in 1 Chronicles 29:14: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” God, of course, does not need our offerings, but He invites us to share in the work of His Church by returning a portion (“the first-fruits”) of what He has given us. We ask that He might use our money, time, and other gifts to help the poor, support mission work, and advance the message of His Kingdom in Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:10).