Every Monday I share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. This week’s stewardship nuggets based on the appointed readings by the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary are as follows:
After last week’s complicated and not easy to hear gospel passage, we have a much shorter passage about welcome which concludes Matthew 10. Jesus declares, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matt 10:40). He adds a few more descriptors, including the famous reference to a “cup of cold water,” saying, “and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matt 10:42).
On this first weekend of July, thinking about welcome could be a great help for your context and community. If your context is celebrating Independence Day or the 4th of July, you could even add a comment about how different communities, nations, and congregations have worked to live out this call of welcome. In the United States, you don’t have to look any farther than “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus at the Statue of Liberty which famously says:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (National Park Service)
What does welcome have to do with stewardship? They are both a way of life, and both a response to God’s call and all that God entrusts to us to do God’s work.
How do we steward our calls and communities into a deeper sense of welcome? A deeper sense of welcome of different perspectives, viewpoints, and identities? (And this is certainly important in our anxious and very polarized society.) A deeper sense of who God calls us to be as Children of God?
In thinking about this, perhaps the Romans passage is helpful. Two favorite verses of Lutherans appear in the lectionary this week in this one passage. First, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). Ah, the good news of grace, which is a “free gift,” as Paul later writes in the second favorite verse, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
In stewardship preaching I always come back to the fact that all of the work is God’s work, and the Good News is very much a “free gift.” From there, comes our response which shapes and is our stewardship. How do we live in the acknowledgment of God’s “free gift?” How do we steward all that we have and all that we are because of this?
If preaching on “welcome,” or the idea of a “free gift,” doesn’t seem to be generating any stewardship ideas for you, then I would also think about Psalm 89.
“I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations”” (Ps 89:1-4).
In this rich Psalm are themes of God’s love, of gratitude and responding to God’s gifts, and a reminder of God’s promises and covenant. There’s a great deal of depth here which could make for a timely holiday weekend sermon.
I could offer many thoughts on this Psalm for today as we continue our journey through the Psalms, but today’s focus on a “Song of Thanks,” is actually quite rich and straightforward from a stewardship sense. If we accept Chick Lane’s premise of the big three things of congregational stewardship being “asking, thanking, and telling,” then today is a golden opportunity to give thanks.
Some examples from the Psalm’s themes of thanks could include: we give thanks for the healing made possible through God, and for all those are making healing progress for whatever might be ailing them (Ps 30:2); we give thanks for life restored (Ps 30:3); we sing praise and give thanks (Ps 30:4); and though there might be some anger and weeping, we remember that “joy comes with the morning” (Ps 30:5).
In your context I am sure that there is something to be thankful for, even if it’s not obvious that would make for a wonderful sermon illustration and story to lift up in worship. You could even share about spiritual practices of giving thanks. One that I have used this year which I find to increase gratitude, is to write at least 5 thank you notes a week, and often I write many more than that.
If you need another prompt, respond to this question, when have you experienced verse 11 to be true? “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” (Ps 30:11)
If needing a gospel example, the gospel verses from John 6:67-69, are a great compliment. For in this passage is the famous gospel acclamation, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Which Simon Peter follows up with, “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). This is something to give thanks and praise for. And today’s psalm gives words to do just that with.
For all of these things that we give thanks, whatever they are, we respond with our joy and gratitude. We respond living a life of purpose, joy, and challenge as stewards, and we praise and give thanks go God (Ps 30:12).
Wherever your preaching may take you this week, may God’s love, blessings, and abundance guide you. Thank you for your ministry and leadership in your many and various contexts, serving as part of God’s work in the world. -TS
Image Credits: Psalm 30