Preaching on Stewardship- August 27, 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 August 27, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- Time after Pentecost 12A Lectionary 21
First Lesson: Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Second Lesson: Romans 12:1-8
Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20

Lots of questions are posed in the gospel. But perhaps none more directive than this one, from God in Christ today to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15, NRSV). The question is an easy one, to some degree. But if we sit for it, for a minute, we start to see just how important and deep a question it is. If we allow this question the space it deserves, we start to see how our very faith, and identity as disciples and stewards come from the answer.

Peter’s answer might be that of the teacher’s pet, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, NRSV). It’s absolutely the right answer, and for it, Jesus starts to outline just how grateful he is for Peter.

Jesus tells Peter,

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:18-19, NRSV

Today not only do we face the question of who Jesus is, and what this idea of God in Christ really means for us, and all people, we are also given the first glimpse of the creation of God’s church. Ah, what a beautiful body. But also, boy, it’s been 2,000 years, and we still haven’t figured out everything, have we?

who do you say
The central question this week from which our lives as stewards and disciples follows.

I sometimes wonder if we took Jesus words at the end of today’s passage more seriously then the rest of it, “Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20, NRSV). We’re not always great about telling the story of God and God’s people, and God’s on-going story with us. Perhaps we take this verse too literally? And maybe today, in thinking about the question Jesus poses would be a good day to start practicing our own response to this question, and what our faith is and what it means for us and all people?

This would be a stewardship sermon in the sense, that stewardship has to do with telling God’s story and inviting people to be a part of it.

If needing some other inspiration, the lesson from Paul to the Romans today offers an opportunity to think about vocation, roles, and even generosity and leadership, all components of our understanding of stewardship:

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” -Romans 12:4-8, NRSV

Psalm 138 reminds us of the importance of giving thanks to God, but also of God’s promises, presence, and salvation. With the psalmist we declare, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise…” (Psalm 138:1, NRSV). We also remember that God is with us, as with the Psalmist we also say, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me” (Psalm 138:7, NRSV). This seems like an important and timely reminder given the time and space we find ourselves.

What we do as stewards, how we respond to God in Christ’s question about who do we say that Jesus Christ is, is a response to all that God has done and continues to do for us, which includes a promise of salvation and deliverance like which the Prophet Isaiah recalls. Isaiah declares, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and whose who live on it, will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended” (Isaiah 51:6, NRSV).

There’s a lot packed into the four readings this week, any idea which could make for a good stewardship sermon. I think I would lean toward letting the question be the starting place, and see how our response to that question shapes our lives as stewards and disciples. What do you think?

Sunday August 27, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: Communion- the third of a 4-week series on the sacraments
Focus Passages: Psalm 65 & 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Half-way through this four week series on the sacraments, we move this week to the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion. The appointed reading from 1 Corinthians 11 gives important instructions, food for thought (pardon the pun), and plenty to discuss.

I think a great stewardship sermon would connect the blessed sacrament with our identity as Children of God, and our joyful response to the gifts of God for the people of God. When we hear, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” we hear directly from God that God is for us, and God gives God’s self for us (1 Cor 11:24, NRSV). When we hear, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me,” we hear directly from God about God’s covenant and promise which we receive and share (1 Cor 11:25, NRSV).

How rich. How wonderful! These gifts we could never earn. How do we say thanks for them? How does this meal nourish us and send us out? How do we respond changed in our daily lives? How do we steward these mysteries and blessings of God?

If looking for beautiful words to describe our response, as well as God’s overflowing abundance, Psalm 65 is full of them. For example, “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it…” (Ps 65:9, NRSV). Or, “You water its furrows abundantly,” or “The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy” (Ps 65:10-12, NRSV).

Any of these verses or questions could make for a beautiful stewardship sermon. Wherever you feel called to preach this week, may God’s grace, peace, and love guide you and be with you.

Image Credit: Who do you say that I am?

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