The Offertory Hymn
Fellow Worshipers of the Father in Spirit and Truth, (John 4:24)
May the Spirit of Truth, poured out on Pentecost, be your Counselor, Helper and Comforter in the face of all sin and sorrow. By his coming he has renewed the face of the earth, beginning in his chosen and promised Land, the church. Herein is found the remission of sins, life and eternal salvation.
Beginning on Pentecost, and for the Trinity season, we will sing a different Offering Hymn than the one normally used. So that you know, the Offering Hymn is not part of liturgy, at least not as we have it in The Lutheran Hymnal. Yet, putting things into historical perspective it is wholly appropriate. It should not be just any hymn verse, as I have seen many churches do, but one referring specifically to the gifts, and to the Holy Communion which God's people anticipate with gladness of heart. To have an Offering Hymn in a liturgy such as ours that provides no place for it is but a remnant, a fossil as it were, of a much richer and opulent liturgical reality, that of the Eucharistic Prayer (of which we will be speaking extensively in the future). And on account of that I am glad that the singing of an Offertory Hymn is the practice at Christ Lutheran Church.
The particular Offering Hymn we will sing is entitled "Let the Vineyards Be Fruitful", and it will be printed, with music, in the bulletin for several weeks. Once the congregation knows it well, we will eliminate the musical score, and leave the words. This particular text is written by John W. Arthur (1922 - 1980) The tune is by Richard W. Hillert (1923 - 2010). The words are as follows:
Let the vineyards be fruitful Lord,
And fill to the brim our cup of blessing.
Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown,
That we may be fed with the bread of life.
Gather the hopes and dreams of all;
Unite them with the prayers we offer now.
Grace our table with your presence,
and give us a foretaste of the feast to come.
In this prayer we ask God to give us what he has already promised, even as we do when we pray Lord Have Mercy. It is good that we should do this. It demonstrates our faith, our spiritual knowledge in that we know Who is the Source of every good gift; and and it means that we take nothing for granted. This is good because our relationship with our God is a living relationship in which we are always asking, seeking and knocking (Matthew 7:7), and he is always, always giving. Giving "more than we can ask or even think." (Philippians 3:20) The church literally does "pray without ceasing." Luther says it like this in the Small Catechism, "God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving."
We pray in this prayer that our God would provide the fruit of the vine, wine that is, so that the Eucharistic Cup might overflow with the soul-enlivening blood of Christ. And likewise that the wheat harvest, from the seeds that are sown, would bring forth bread so that "in, with and under" it we might receive the real and glorified flesh of Jesus who was crucified for our sins, and raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25).
We ask herein that the hopes and dreams of all people would be realized in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Kingdom; and not by the plans of men which can never deliver what they promise. We ask here that God would unite those hopes and dreams, the hopes and dreams for deliverance from sin and judgment, with the prayers that are prayed, here and now; in conjunction with this Holy Eucharist; the one we now celebrate, receive and participate in. And lastly that God would, again, keep his Word, and grace this table / altar with his very body and blood, that it may be for us a foretaste of the never-ending feast to come. For that is what the Lord's Supper is, Dear Christians. It is the eternal, never-ending, never-fading Marriage Feast of the Lamb be it under veils and symbols for now. He is the holy Bridegroom, and we the cleansed Bride, made spotless by his sacrificial love on the cross. All that, and more, is found for you, at his altar, each Sunday at 10:30 AM.