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:
The gospel passage picks up right from where we left off last week. Jesus turns towards Jerusalem, and I’m pretty sure you know the rest of the story. In this week’s passage, Jesus rebukes Peter, not long after saying he would build his church on the rock that Peter is. If you are looking for a “saint and sinner” type image, there you go.
In terms of stewardship, I think this week’s gospel’s direction from Jesus is most helpful and important,
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life, will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” – Matthew 16:24-26, NRSV.
Being a follower of Jesus as a disciple and steward, means to take up one’s cross. It means to re-orient oneself as a follower of Christ. It’s life changing, to be sure. It’s a life that’s abundant and rewarding, but one that’s also hard and challenging at times.
In terms of stewardship though, I think I would draw heavily on the relationship of taking up one’s cross and all of the elements related to vocation and our role as Children of God that Paul expands upon in this week’s passage from Romans 12. For example,
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers…Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.” – Romans 12:12-14, 15-17, NRSV.
These are all marks of discipleship and stewardship. Together we contribute to the needs of all through our vocations and gifts. Together we live in hope, and persevere in prayer. Together we rejoice and we weep. These marks are then also signs of community.
In this time of polarization in our society and politics, perhaps it’s especially important to hear from Romans, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21, NRSV). This is who we are as Christians. This is what it means to be a disciple and steward, and this is also what it looks like to take up your cross. It shapes how we live. It also shapes how we share with our neighbors and engage them in community together.
This comes also when we give thanks and sing our praise, telling of God’s wonderful deeds (Psalm 26:7). This comes also when we remember that this call to take up the cross, is a response to God’s promises of life and salvation. We hear as much this week from Jeremiah, “for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:20-21, NRSV).
For me, taking up the cross is taking up the call to live as a steward, and then letting the way we live our life share God’s message of peace, hope, and promise through us and with us. Taking up the cross means putting God first, but it also means seeing God in our neighbors and strangers, whether we agree with them on everything or nothing at all. There is no differentiation here. And that’s really what it means to live in community, because God’s love transcends all of our self-created differences, ranks, and importance. Perhaps thinking about this might make a good stewardship sermon or even Labor Day weekend sermon in your context?
Sunday September 3, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: Communion- the fourth of a 4-week series on the sacraments
Focus Passages: 1 Samuel 21:1-9, Matthew 12:1-8 (or Mark 14:12-25)
Congratulations. You have made it! This is the last week of the summer series before the new ministry year cycle of the Narrative Lectionary begins next week. If I were you, I might try and tie together this last four week series on the sacraments.
But in terms of stewardship, I think there is tons to be said in connecting the sacrament of Holy Communion with feeding the hungry, whether this is “holy” or “sacred” or not. This seems be the image that is unpacked in 1 Samuel 21:3-4. It’s also similarly to the illustration and response Jesus offers to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:1-8.
As I think about Hurricane Harvey, and the flooding that continues to build in Texas; as I think about the needs of our neighbors locally here, and globally; I think this week’s readings are an opportunity to connect the sacrament with our service, but also with our call to feed the hungry.
Jesus reiterates this idea with his quotation, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7, NRSV). What might this mean for us as we remember God’s promises, and share together in God’s meal of forgiveness?
If you haven’t read it before, I would highly recommend reading Samuel Torvend’s book, Luther and the Hungry Poor: Gathered Fragments. Regarding the Matthew 12 reading, Torvend explains some of Martin Luther’s thinking on this and the importance of feeding the hungry:
“Luther recognized that Christ responded to physical hunger: he ensured that five thousand people received food (Matt. 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-13); he defended his hungry followers when they plucked grain and ate it on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 6:1-5); he spoke of outcasts unexpectedly invited to a great banquet (Matt. 22:1-14; Lue 14:16-24); he warned against religious leaders who ‘devour’ the poor (Mark 12:38-40); and he promised that God will feed the hungry (Luke 6:21). Christ offered bread, that is, food and more than food.” – Samuel Torvend, Luther and the Hungry Poor, 81.
Torvend goes on to connect this to Luther’s explanation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I think there’s a lot in this line of thinking about stewardship and holy communion. What do you think?
In whatever direction your preaching and preparation leads this week, may God be with you, guide you, and give you courage and peace; and may God use you to do God’s work and to share God’s message of peace, hope, challenge, and comfort.
Book Citation: Samuel Torvend, Luther and the Hungry Poor: Gathered Fragments, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008).