Preaching on Stewardship- July 23, 2017

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 23, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- Time after Pentecost 7A Lectionary 16
First Lesson: Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Second Lesson: Romans 8:12-25
Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

We pick up from last week in the Gospel of Matthew with more from the parables of the seeds, weeds, and the sowers (Matt 13:24-30), but then are offered Jesus’ explanation for them (Matt 13:36-43). It pairs well with the continued journey through Romans, as today we hear, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:14). This pairs well with the images of good seed in the gospel.

There’s plenty in both the gospel and Romans passage to preach on for sure, but perhaps there aren’t as many obvious stewardship insights. The psalm and Isaiah passage also offer help in thinking about who God is, and how that relates to us.

Speaking of relationships and community, my wife Allison and I have been enjoying time back in the Northwest this past weekend visiting family, catching up, and enjoying summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

For stewardship, this week, I think it might be good to think about the stewardship of community and relationships. What might it mean that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God,” as Romans contends (Rom 8:14)? And if this is so, and we believe it is, what does this mean for our stewardship and vocations together? How do we engage with each other in our congregation? In our larger community? In our global and connected society? How do we do our work and ministry together?

This might be timely food for thought for preaching in your context. Perhaps a story or two from your community, partner congregations, synod, etc., could be helpful to illustrate the work that your congregation is a part of locally and as part of a larger body of Christ, who are partners and fellow Children of God.

All of this work and ministry is done because: 1) there is a need that at least one person has heard a call or nudge to respond to; 2) we are entrusted with the gifts, strengths, resources, passions, ideas, capacity, etc., to respond to these needs; 3) because it is how we live out our faith in daily life (vocation); and 4) we do this, because of our gratitude and thanks for a God who has done it all for us.

If you tell a story such as this, I suspect you will be faithfully preaching and sharing Jesus’ words and message that we hear in Matthew today. Wherever you feel called or led to preach, may God guide you and use you.

Sunday July 23, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: “The plan of God was necessary because of the estrangement humanity knew from God and one another, divisions broken down by Christ.” (according to Rev. Dr. Mary Hinkle Shore).
Focus Passage: Ephesians 2:11-22
Gospel Verse: Matthew 28:16-20

The Lutheran in me wants to scream a bit, because as we move into the second of four weeks of a journey through Ephesians we somehow skip over Ephesians 2:4-5:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

And, also Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the free gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But perhaps we skip over these in the narrative because these are well known passages that come up often in worship? That being said, I think if it were me preaching this week on the narrative, I would find a way to tie one or two of these familiar words into my sermon somehow, especially given the focus of verses from 2:11-22, having to do with our relationship with God and one another.

We are reminded that this is all God’s work. God in Christ has “brought near” us who were once far off (Eph 2:13). Christ Jesus has “broken down the dividing wall” (Eph 2:14). And in him and through the cross, we might be reconciled (Eph 2:16), and through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2:18). Those are just a few examples, but this passage today does a beautiful job of highlighting all of God’s work for us.

Perhaps this is a good week to remind us of all that God has done? Or perhaps it’s a good week, to reiterate the point that this is God’s work for us- free gifts for us.

Which begs the question, what are we going to do because of this? That for me has always been the big question from the tensions posed by Martin Luther about being both free in Christ, but also bound to our neighbor, as written about for example in The Freedom of a Christian.

Perhaps in the midst of the 500th commemoration of the Reformation it’s a good time to think about this? And perhaps this is the natural connection with the gospel accompaniment for this week of the “Great Commission”? (Matt 28:16-20). We are called, created, empowered, and equipped to live out this commission, and that is our response to the good news of all that God has done and continues to do for us.

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

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