Hello friends, and welcome to my blog if it’s the first time you have visited, or if this is the return to it after awhile. Today marks a new rhythm for this space. Beginning today, and hopefully on every Monday that follows, I will share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching this week based on the appointed readings by the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary. (Today, I offer a bonus including a few stewardship thoughts on Ascension too, in case you are observing it in your context.)
In this in between time, between the Ascension and Pentecost, it is a good Sunday to focus on prayer and how through it, we dwell more closely with God and with each other. This week, I am particularly struck by the Acts reading, where in verse 8 we hear, “and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This is a call and foreshadowing of the sending that will come with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is also an opportunity to think and talk about how we have such a beautiful story to tell- the story of God in Christ, the story of God at work in the world for us and through us. How do we tell these stories? How do we share these stories?
We’re in this together, and we hope to be in this in the unity of the Spirit (like alluded to in John 17:11). What this call, sending, and story looks like will be different everywhere, but this work may be like what the Psalmist describes in Psalm 68:9-10, where we hear about the ideas of the restoration that comes through God, the abundance that we know through God, and the provision that is made for those in need which we are entrusted with to share with others. I wonder what this might look, sound, taste, and feel like for you and your context?
On this Sunday before Pentecost as we continue our journey through Galatians, we hear some of the more famous verses from Paul. We are reminded of our identity as Children of God, and heirs of the promise. As Paul writes, “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Gal 3:26). This is a gift, a grounding gift which points to our relationship with God and one another. And then Paul, gets to the heart of what the community of Children of God looks like, or what we hope the Kingdom of God might look like, where “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:28-29).
Perhaps this is a good day to remind your context about the promises of God, but also that God is not done working and promising. God continues to fulfill God’s promises, in us and for us. It’s a helpful pairing to have the “Benedictus” be the gospel companion this week from Luke. The hymn from Zechariah is a gorgeous text of joy, and a reminder of the promises of God made manifest in Christ.
Of all the beautiful lines in this gospel passage, this week I think I am drawn to the portion which is included in the “Matins” or “Morning Prayer” liturgy. Zechariah declares, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). We are one in Christ, guided in the way of peace for the sake of God’s world. (Perhaps an extra fitting passage for those mourning or grieving those who have served this Memorial Day weekend.)
In thinking about stewardship, it’s always a good week to think about God’s promises, and how because of them, and God’s gifts- all that God has done and continues to do, we live and serve in joy.
Thursday May 25, 2017: Ascension of Our Lord (or Sunday May 28, 2017, if being observed on a Sunday)
First Lesson: Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47 (or Psalm 93)
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1:15-23
Gospel of Luke 24:44-53
It’s unfortunate that many of us don’t observe Ascension. It’s really an important day in the life of the church when you think about it. I mean, if it makes it in the Creeds, you know it’s kind of a big deal.
In the gospel of Luke, I’m drawn to the last portion of the passage. “Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50-53).
God has done all of this for us. All of this. For us. The question that I am left with, is one I often ask related to stewardship, so what is our response? The disciples, it says, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” Of course, we also know with Pentecost next week the rest of the story, of how with the Holy Spirit they are filled and then sent out. And we are too. So what does it look like when we are sent out? How do we steward God’s mysteries such as the ascension in our daily lives? How are we bearers of God’s love in the world? Any stories that respond to these questions would be welcome reflections which may help bring the mysteries of the Ascension to life today.