Preaching on Stewardship- October 1, 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 October 1, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- Time after Pentecost 17A Lectionary 26
First Lesson: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm 25:1-9
Second Lesson: Philippians 2:1-13
Gospel of Matthew 21:23-32

How do we respond to God’s work and Word in the world? This seems to be a fair question given the “Parable of the Two Sons” described in the gospel passage for this week (Matthew 21:28-32). The parable follows Jesus having to engage in a question of authority, one which Jesus seemingly avoided by asking, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” (Matthew 21:25, NRSV)

The verses though that are drawing me from the gospel this week are Jesus’ conclusion to the parable. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32, NRSV). This repeats the question I posed above, how do we respond to Gods work and Word in the world? 

Our response is our stewardship. And taking up this question might make for a powerful stewardship sermon or message in your context, helping you reflect locally and globally about why you do (or don’t do) what you do (or don’t).

emmanuel cross
Perhaps a beautiful depiction of “The Christ Hymn,” found in the form of a stained glass window in the sanctuary at Emmanuel Lutheran in Tekamah, Nebraska.

For some theological foundation to this response, the reading from Philippians and the inclusion of “The Christ Hymn” (in 2:6-11) might be helpful.  There’s some good stewardship perspective from Paul, where he writes, “Let each of you look not on your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:4-5, NRSV). Looking outward is important, remembering that we are a part of something and a community way bigger than ourselves.

When we respond to God’s gifts for us, one of those is our core belief about Jesus who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross…” (Phi 2:7-8, NRSV). How we live is a response to this gift, and it’s also a recognition that as Paul says, “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13, NRSV). For God is with us, in us, creating us, and loving us, just because we are God’s child. This is a gift. This is a promise. Which raises the question, what does this lead us to do in response?

There are some other helpful thoughts and famous texts in the other readings as well this week. From Psalm 25, we join the psalmist who sings, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5, NRSV). Salvation is a gift of God. There’s nothing we can do to earn this. So instead we give thanks, and praise, and share this gift- through our service, learning, discipleship, vocations, and stewardship.

The reading from Ezekiel offers a reminder that we are all God’s, as God says, “Know that all lives are mine” (Ezekiel 18:4, NRSV). It also seems to offer an invitation to abundant life, as the reading closes with, “Turn, then, and live,” a call for us to change and respond to God’s invitation to us and for us (Ezekiel 18:32, NRSV). This follows what seems to be some famous words which our “Create in me a new heart,” offering response in the liturgy could be drawn in part from perhaps in Ezekiel 18:31.

There are lots of stewardship possibilities this week to preach on. As I will be preaching, I am guessing that I may ultimately be drawn to the joyful response piece posed in the question in the gospel, but also to the reminder of what we are responding to found in Philippians, and the invitation to respond and live an abundant life found in Ezekiel. But we’ll see. Where are you feeling drawn around stewardship this week?

Sunday October 1, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: God’s Name is Revealed  (Year 4, Week 4)
Focus Passages: Exodus 2:23-25, 3:1-15; 4:10-17
Gospel Verse: John 8:58

Last week we joined Jacob in some of his journeying, and in one of his dreams or visions of God. Today, the narrative brings us to Exodus and God’s revealing God’s self to Moses.

The stage is set for something big to happen, when we read that “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them” (Exodus 2:24-25, NRSV). God remembered God’s promises, and these are promises as we heard last week that God has made and must keep. So what will God do?

burning bush
One artist’s interpretation of “The burning bush

Naturally, God will speak to someone through the burning of a bush, of course. Why not? And thus, Moses enters the stage to hear, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6, NRSV) which builds off of last week’s narrative, where God introduced God’s self similarly to Jacob.

In a stewardship sense, it could be another good week to think about God’s promises, but also to add the idea that God hears us, is with us, and is calling us to abundant life, one where perhaps there might even be a “good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8, NRSV). What might this mean today?

Another option would be to focus again on how this is about God’s work for us, which is perhaps summarized in God’s own name, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14, NRSV). Or, on how God works through different strengths, gifts, and relationships to do God’s work such as through Aaron with Moses (Ex 4:10-17).

Wherever you are feeling led to preach this week, I pray that God is with you, uses your words and helps people through their own eyes, minds, hearts, and souls to know that they are God’s beloved children, and that there is nothing they can do to earn this love, but to be caught up in joy, they respond to it through all that they do and all that they are.

Image Credit: Burning Bush

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