March 2 is Transfiguration Sunday, the final Sunday of the Season after Epiphany. On this day, we commemorate Jesus’ transfiguration, which is recorded in Matthew 17.1-9, as well as in parallel passages in Mark and Luke. Like his baptism, Jesus’ transfiguration was an “epiphany” — an event in which his true identity as the Son of God was “manifested” or revealed. The symbolic color for Transfiguration Sunday is white, symbolizing joy and celebration; whereas the color for the rest of the Season after Epiphany is green, the color for ordinary time.
Wednesday March 5 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Season of Lent, a season of preparation for the festival of Easter. The symbolic color for Lent is purple, symbolizing preparation and repentance.
The Offering is not simply a collection of money for the needs of the church. True, the church’s main source of revenue is the givings of its members; but the offering is first and foremost an offering to God — a thankful response to God for his blessings to us.
Our weekly offerings enable the church (local and national) to serve God in a variety of ways. Since the offering funds the life and work of the church, the offering is one way in which we participate in the church’s ministry and mission.
The primary thing we offer to God in the offering, though, is ourselves. Week after week, we offer ourselves again and again to God, to be his people and to serve him in the world — not out of a sense of duty or obligation, but out of a sense of appreciation and gratitude for what he has done for us. The money we give thus serves as a symbol and a token of this offering of ourselves.
The offerings of money go to the local congregation and/or to the national church (through Presbyterians Sharing or PWS&D), as they are designated by the givers on their offering envelopes.
In most Presbyterian congregations, the congregation sings a Doxology (a brief song of praise) as the ushers bring the offering forward. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” is the doxology that a good number of Presbyterian congregations use for this purpose, but any doxology would be suitable.
The offering is dedicated (set apart) to God with a short prayer, the Prayer of Dedication, which always includes words of thanks to God for his blessings.
The Prayers of the People are normally the longest prayer in a regular Sunday service. Like all prayers, it is an act of worship in which the worshipers speak to God. The Prayers of the People generally consist of 4 parts, although in no particular order: a) a part in which prayers are offered in connection with the theme of the sermon or of the season, b) a part in which prayers are offered for the pastoral needs of the congregation, family members, etc., c) a part in which prayers are offered for the church and its ministry (the congregation, particular mission workers or projects, and/or the church as a whole), and d) a part in which prayers are offered for the situations in the surrounding community, the country, and/or the world at large.
In other congregations this prayer is called by a variety of names, among others the “Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession”, and the “Pastoral Prayer”. The word “intercession” comes from “intercede”, which means to make a request in someone else’s behalf.
In this prayer, as in all prayers, it’s important to think not only of what we ourselves want, but also of what God wants; otherwise prayers can easily become self-centered “wish lists”.