The Offering Is a Great Teaching Moment

Students and student ministers of mine know that I like to emphasize the fact that the Offering is not a throwaway moment that should be dispensed with as quickly as possible in the service so that we can get to the “real” religious stuff. Stewardship is (or could be) as spiritual as prayer, and I believe that ministers should put as much care and thought into making the offering words meaningful as they do their prayers and sermons. If people hear the same phrase week after week, their giving can also become rote. What a shame that is, for the offering is part of the liturgy during which we actually mingle our life energy in a tangible way, through the sharing of our financial gifts. There’s no reason to mumble something brief and euphemistic (The wag in me always wants to look around in exaggerated consternation when visiting at churches where they do this and say in a stage whisper, “Excuse me, is this the part where we’re supposed to throw money in the basket?”) and “get it over with.”

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver, so I like to start my Offerings with jokes, when I can get a good one. SweetieBang gave me this one and I’m using it tomorrow. You have my permission to do the same, just please attribute:

“A time-share salesman and a priest die at the same time. The time-share salesman gets hit by a bus; the priest dies in his sleep of natural causes. When they end up at the pearly gates, St. Peter calls forward the time-share salesman and says, ‘What did you do with your life?’ The time-share salesman guy says, ‘I sold time-share.” St. Peter checks his notes, he looks in a big book, he says ‘I see here that you are correct’ and he says, ‘You see that mansion made of solid gold, with the crystal blue sea on one side and the purple ski mountains in the back? You go there.’

So the priest is thinking, ‘Wow, if the time-share salesman gets that, I’ve got it made.’When St. Peter calls him up and asks, ‘What did you do with your life?’ the priest says, ‘I gave food to the hungry, clothing and shelter to the poor’ — he goes on for half an hour about all his good works. St. Peter looks in his book and says, ‘I see that this is true. You see that stone cottage in the meadow with the sheep in front of it? You go there.’ The priest says, ‘Well, begging your pardon St. Peter, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but how come the time-share salesman guy gets the gold mansion and all that?’

And St. Peter says, ‘Oh, he only gets that for a week.’

Jesus said, ‘Where your heart is, there shall your treasure be also.’ Our hearts are with this community – not because it is perfect, not because it is easy to be in community, and not because we are always happy here, but because here we are called and recalled, again and again, to our highest aspirations and ideals. The Church at its best provides not only the comfort of fellowship and care, but the spiritual stretch we need to go beyond the littleness of our own lives and grow in moral maturity. Let us now share our a portion of our financial treasure where our hearts are. Pledges and free will offerings to [name of congregation] will now be gratefully received.” – (Rev. Victoria Weinstein, Norwell, MA)