Preaching on Stewardship- July 16, 2017

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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:

Sunday July 16, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- Time after Pentecost 6A Lectionary 15
First Lesson: Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65: [1-8] 9-13
Second Lesson: Romans 8:1-11
Gospel of Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The gospel this week is a compilation of the of parable of the seed (Matt 13:1-9), and a parable of the sower (Matt 13:18-23). In thinking about these stories, there is ample opportunity for reflection about what the life of a disciple looks like, especially as one who is sown on good soil, and the challenges that come with other kinds of ground.

In terms of stewardship this week though, I think I would lean on the Psalm for insights and nuggets. Psalm 65:9-13 offers five verses that could be a great jumping off point for thinking and preaching on the stewardship of creation. The summer could be a wonderful time in your context to think about how you care for, and steward all of God’s creation that surrounds you. For me, that would now mean all of the (hopefully) fertile farm lands, streams and rivers, that are nearby.

Where I really feel pulled to though is a possibility of unpacking what abundance means with God which is highlighted in Psalm 65:9-13. Here are some ideas:

  • “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it” (Ps 65:9). God provides that which is needed for life. Grain could mean food, or perhaps it also means the Word of God and life that comes through it?
  • “You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth” (Ps 65:10). Not only does God provide, God provides in abundance what is needed, and just as God cares for the earth God has created, God provides the basic sustenance needed for life.
  • “The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy…” (Ps 65:12). God’s abundance is overflowing, and creation (and hopefully our response) responds with joy and gratitude.

Any of these thoughts are sermons in themselves. In looking at the four texts assigned by the revised common lectionary I sense an overarching theme this week being that “God’s word provides.” It’s the theme in the gospel passage, certainly from the Psalm and the portion of Isaiah 55 we hear from as well. Speaking of Isaiah 55, it brings the familiar melody of the hymn, “The Trees of the Field,” to my ear- a song of joy that can get you clapping, stomping, and smiling. If your congregation knows it, sing it this week, and sing it through a few different times, perhaps even getting faster and faster. It fits well this week, and I encourage you to sing it, if it is a song that would work musically in your context.

That song, and passage from Isaiah 55 for me is a beautiful summation of our joyful response to God’s abundance and generosity.

“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

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Speaking of mountains rejoicing and breaking into song, here’s Mount Rainier as I flew past it, while flying to Seattle from Omaha.

Now, the danger in going in this direction is the temptation to leave it at “God provides,” without thinking deeply about people who struggle for water, food, shelter, and the right to equality.

My response is this- God entrusts us all with responsibilities, gifts, and strengths, and when we do this, God provides through us. When we don’t do this work, the whole community of God’s people suffers. God looks lovingly on those who suffer most, who hunger and thirst, etc. This isn’t a condemnation of them. This is a rebuke of us, for not taking our call to serve our neighbors seriously. Perhaps this is where we return to the gospel and wonder, who really is the good soil for the seed? If we think it’s us, we’re probably giving ourselves too much credit, don’t you think? Good food for thought this week anyway.

Sunday July 16, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: God was planning something big before we knew it
Focus Passage: Ephesians 1:1-14
Gospel Verse: John 14:25-27

Last week we wrapped up our five weeks in the Psalms, and today we begin a four week journey through Ephesians. In terms of stewardship, I think this week’s focus passage provides a starting place for thinking or reimagining what it means to be children of God, and perhaps destined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5).

This relationship, adoption, and inheritance is a free gift of God, for us. We also hear that,

“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Ephesians 1:11).

This is good news. It’s freeing news. And a good sermon will likely spend a good deal of time here.

It’s likely that this passage from Ephesians was linked with John 14:25-27, because this idea of adoption and inheritance is “Marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). In this short accompaniment from John, we are told of the gift of the Holy Spirit or “Advocate.

From a stewardship standpoint though, there is the added benefit of the included phrase in this short but rich gospel passage, where Jesus also says, “I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). If you are looking for a way to expand on giving, generosity, and abundance, there it is. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail to make this connection for you.

Ponder about what God’s giving, abundance, generosity, economy, etc. looks like, and how it is different than our own. You could also wonder with your congregation about how we are called to give and steward more as God does (rather than the world or culture models it). There’s lots of possibilities here, especially if you connect back to our gratitude, thankfulness, and joy for the free gifts and promises of God who claims us as God’s own, adopts us, and makes us heirs.

Whatever direction you feel led to preach this week, may God’s love, presence, and joy guide you and be with you in your ministry! -TS

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