Every Monday I 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. Here are some stewardship nuggets for this coming weekend.
I am feeling a bit of deja vu this week. Psalm 100, the appointed Psalm was the focus text from the Narrative Lectionary last week. And even so, I still want to start there because I believe it is a rich passage for thinking about stewardship.
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing” (Ps 100:1-2). What better thing could we do than to give thanks and praise to and for God? This could be a golden opportunity with this psalm or hymn of praise to think about how we give praise to God, and respond to God’s gifts and promises with joy? If that is the direction you feel called to preach, what an important stewardship sermon.
Later in the Psalm we read or sing, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps 100:5). This is a reminder of God’s promises. This reminds me of God’s promises to Abraham, of God’s promises to Moses and the people Israel, but also of God’s promise of relationship with God’s creation and God’s children. What does our praise and joyful response look like, sound like, and feel like?
God’s promises are repeated in the readings this week. In Exodus, we hear God telling Moses, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the people. Indeed the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:3-6). God is repeating the covenant, and claim to God’s people. God also reiterates the stewardship point that the whole earth is God’s.
The second lesson from Romans also highlights God’s promises and work for us done through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul writes, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Avoiding digging into atonement theory, this is a good place though perhaps to highlight the different examples of promises that God makes to us and for us.
When we return to Psalm 100, we are given words for what our joyful response to these (and the many other) promises God makes for us, and all that God has done, continues to do, and will do for us, might be.
The gospel passage appointed for today highlights the importance of the various works of ministry, and how “the laborers are few” (Matt 9:37). Perhaps this is a passage not lost on us in the ELCA as we are currently 800 full-time pastors short, and in two years, will be 1,000 short?
Even so, I find this gospel passage encouraging because we are reminded to serve without expectation of return, simply because God has called us to this work and entrusted us with the gifts, strengths, and responsibilities to do and live out these vocations. As Jesus says, “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment” (Matt 10:8). This is a stewardship sermon all its own too. And one that is counter to our current societal expectations of return, quid-pro-quo, and “what have you done for me lately” mentalities.
Whichever direction you feel called to preach, these passages this week are rich with stewardship nuggets and food for thought.
From the hymn of praise we sang together last week, we move to another type of psalm this week, that of lament, or a prayer for help. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps 13:1) The thought of being out of relationship with God is a terrifying one. And it leads the psalmist and is to more questions. “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” for example (Ps 13:2).
Even in the midst of this pain and seeming rejection, the psalmist’s faith and trust remain true. “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps 13:6).
It’s easier said than done to have this kind of faith though. Perhaps today would be a good opportunity to highlight how faith does not always mean one is happy? Perhaps a discussion about lament in the Psalms and a relationship to the content of the Prophets might be useful for your context?
In a stewardship sense, I would argue that this passage (and many like it) is a good opportunity to debunk the popular culture and theology of a “Prosperity Gospel,” and even perhaps a “Theology of Glory.” When you pair this passage with the Gospel passage from John 6:35-40, it could even be a good pairing to juxtapose a “Theology of Glory” with the “Theology of the Cross.”
For someone grieving or lamenting what might have been, they may find resonance in Psalm 13, and reminders of God’s promises and presence in John 6. As Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
If your context is grieving or mourning, or wondering and living in fear of where the church may be, and its present and future, this could be a wonderful week to speak truth- acknowledge the pain, but also remember God’s presence and promise. This may be an important week more than others to tell the story, to tell about the good and bad of life, to tell of God at work in the world and how God wants to be in relationship with us.
Wherever you might be led by the Spirit this week, may God guide you in your preaching, teaching, and leading friends! -TS