‘If you’re not a Christian, please feel free to let the plate pass on by.’ You may, if you attend an evangelical church, have heard similar words in an explanation of the offertory, as an additional comment to whatever has preceded it. The purpose of such words is to enjoin the duty to Christians in particular and to make clear that this duty is the worshipful response belonging to the believer and not to the Gentile. But I’ve long thought there must be a better way, not least because of the long-winded, muddled manner in which the offertory’s usually explained, with more spittle than tea (口水多過茶).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Let me propose something short and simple, a sentence that reverently signifies the meaning of the offertory and restricts it to the expression of faith without sounding inappropriately chatty: ‘Let us now pay tribute in homage to the King of Kings, our Lord, with the oblation of our selves and our possession.’ For repeat visitors, the sentence can be abundantly rounded out at the presentation by the blessing that David uttered to YHWH (1 Ch 29. 11, 14):
Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.
These few words, I think, will suffice, without spilling of much spittle, without recourse to the babbling of men, without long, meandering prayers that match those of the heathen; if we would make prayers of intercession, the space after the offertory is a natural place for them. With short, clear statements and sound theology undergirding the presentation of the tithes, no longer will either worship leader or deacon have to reconcoct the same prayer every week in slightly different words.