October 19, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Proper 25/C [Pent. 20], 10/23/2022: Gen. 4:1-15; Ps. 5; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-17.
[A]nd the LORD regarded Abel and his offering but He did not regard Cain and his offering, and Cain was very incensed, and his face fell. And the LORD said to Cain … “[W]hether you offer well, or whether you do not, at the tent flap sin crouches and for you it is longing but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4b-7).
We segue way from last Sunday’s gospel when Jesus taught prayer constancy by the parable of “the Unjust Judge”, concluding enigmatically: “[W]hen the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8b). Today Jesus provides answer by a follow-on parable, “Temple prayers from a Pharisee and a Tax Collector” (vv. 9-14).
You have been taught the nexus of the Church’s Prayer and Eucharist; they are not discrete actions; they go hand in glove. The Church’s prayer is initiated by her Offertory.
Deacons collect your secular gifts for presentation before the Altar; by prayer and consecration God receives these offered in the bread and wine; returned out of heaven, Christ’s Bread-Flesh and Wine-Blood, our food in the new creation.
So how do we understand God’s reception of Abel’s offering and his rejection from Cain? What does it mean to “offer well”? God is not arbitrary, nor does he receive mere performance; rather he is the Searcher of hearts, minds, and souls.
Most theologians distinguish the animals of Abel’s “choice firstling” against Cain’s fungible grain, deeming this comparison, one superior to the other (portents of flesh and bread). But these offerings do not account for acceptance or rejection; rather it is the eucharistic heart, mind, and soul attached to the secular gifts. It would await the Son of Man on the cross to offer on our behalf, a pure Offertory.
Consider the communal nature of our worship. Adam, was pastoral “paterfamilias”. He collected the Offertory from his sons and their families, Abel’s was accepted; Cain’s rejected. To understand, we look to the parable prayers of “Pharisee and Tax Collector”.
Today, as on the Last Day, Jesus’ question from last Sunday stands: “[W]hen the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?” The answer is; yes; but surprisingly faith among sinners in contrition pray in humble offering, hoping for Grace alone.
Prepared by God’s word of promise, you approach Eucharist for “exchange” of your sin by Christ’s atonement and heaven’s feeding. Your gifts, the Church’s Offertory neither boasts the Pharisee worthiness nor engages Cain’s lie about his brother’s murder; rather our offerings and prayer in Christ claims Abel’s offering as “Bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25). Amen.