Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Offering plates in churches have been around a long time. In Jesus' day there were trumpet like offering receptacles in the Temple area where folks would give their offerings. He stood there one day as an offering watcher and saw some give big gifts for show and a poor woman giving two small copper coins as a declaration that God could be trusted to provide. So, stories about offerings go back a long way, even further back than Jesus. There is even an Old Testament story about one brother killing another over an offering.
Over the years of ministry, I have witnessed a few offering stories. I remember one usher from my first appointment who would stop at the end of each pew and thump the underside of the plate with his thumb before passing it as a way of getting every one's attention. There was another offering moment that took a little extra time while the usher made change per one woman's request. One other offering remembered is the one when the offering was announced and then came the realization that the plates were missing. After a brief and fruitless search, we did it the old fashion way. Each usher was given a hat.
This past Sunday's offering was another unique and memorable one. When the plate came back after the offering was taken, it was empty. It came back exactly like it was sent out. So, what do you do when the offering plate comes back empty? Actually, the question points to a bigger one. What do you do when you expect a plate filled with blessings and it seems empty? What do you do when your dreams get shattered? What do you do when God does not seem to be providing what is expected, or wanted, or even needed? What do you do when the offering plate comes back empty? We did the same thing we would have done had it been full and overflowing. We sang the "Doxology," ...Praise God from whom all blessings flow...