Reflection: The Offering

The Offering

A few years’ ago, I tried to give away a kidney in what is called an ‘altruistic donation’. It’s a strange name, because surely every donation of a kidney is altruistic; but the name just meant that I wanted to give away one of my kidneys without knowing to whom it would go, no one I loved needed it. I thought it would be relatively straight-forward, but it turns out that the medical system gets quite concerned when a healthy person wants to randomly remove an organ and give it away. After the blood tests that determined that I did have two functioning kidneys, I then had four meetings with a Royal Melbourne Hospital psychiatrist over the course of a year to determine whether I was thinking about doing this for psychologically healthy reasons.

What I explained over the course of that year is that as a worship leader I stand up every single Sunday and tell a congregation something along the lines of, “Everything that we have is a gift from God, given to us to share”. If I mean that about my money, and my time, and my talents, then I could also mean this about a spare kidney, if I had one. It took quite a while to convince the psychiatrist that I wasn’t trying to prove myself to anyone, but he eventually believed me.

It turns out that I need both my kidneys. The renal nuclear medical scan, in which I was injected with a radioactive tracer to see how quickly my kidneys cleared it through my body, found that while my kidneys work perfectly well as a duo, neither of them is good enough to work alone. I cannot give one away. This was a relief to my family, who agree that my body is mine to do with as I wish but definitely prefer that I keep all my organs.

I continue to believe that “Everything that we have is a gift from God, given to us to share” and that this applies not only to our money, but to all of ourselves. It may seem anachronistic to continue to have an Offering collected when most people are donating money to the congregation via some form of bank transfer, but the Offering is not simply an opportunity for us to listen to Bruce playing the Offertory. It reminds us, week in and week out, that we are stewards of everything we have and everything we are, given all our gifts by God to share. The most important part of the Offering comes when all of us stand up after the money has been collected, to symbolize that we are giving back to God not only our money but our very selves.

(Incidentally, I have mentioned before that I suspect the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 is an awful warning, not a good example. I definitely do not want anyone to give ‘out of her poverty … all she had to live on’! If you cannot give money, or cannot give as much as you used to because your circumstances have changed, you should feel exactly as much guilt about it as I feel about not being able to donate a kidney – that is, none whatsoever. Choosing to do without the occasional luxury to give more to charity is a worthwhile discipline; choosing to do without a necessity is asked of no one.)

So we will continue to collect ‘the Offering’ during worship, even if most congregation members no longer give actual physical money and so must shake their heads at the Managers with the plates. We will do it to remind us of the importance of being good stewards of the gifts God has given us. As I said, the most significant part of the Offering is the moment when we stand up and offer ourselves to God, and that we all do together.

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