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:
Last week’s story about the wicked tenants was not a happy one, and similarly, this week’s gospel story, “The parable of the wedding banquet,” is not really a happy one either (Matthew 22:1-14). In terms of stewardship this week though, I think I would dig into any one of the other passages.
The passage from Isaiah may prove helpful for thinking about what God’s justice, love, and reconciliation mean, and how we might all be stewards of or participants in it. We hear, “For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat…” (Isaiah 25:4, NRSV). This is God’s work and promise.
Speaking of God’s promises, the last part of the passage from Isaiah brings some more clarity and depth to this. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from the earth, for the Lord has spoken… let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:6-9, NRSV).
Among all of the passages for this week, I think I am probably drawn to Philippians most regarding stewardship. This week we hear one of my favorite verses, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4, NRSV). Depending on your context, today may be an excellent opportunity to preach on joy, celebrating, and giving thanks.
What are some things in your context to celebrate and give thanks for? What stories of ministry in action can be celebrated in your midst? Stewardship is about telling the stories of ministry, giving thanks, and inviting or asking people to join and/or continue to be a part of that ministry. Today you can lift up the message to “keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen” and been called to in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:9, NRSV). What might this look like in your midst.
Finally, if feeling drawn to the stewardship possibilities from Psalm 23, perhaps this sermon from this past spring might be a helpful starting place for you.
Calling and listening, these are two crucial pieces of discernment and the life of discipleship. They are at the center of this week’s story about God’s call to Samuel. In today’s story, Samuel visits Eli three times during the night, thinking Eli had called him, before Eli discerned that it was actually God who was calling the boy, Samuel. “Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening'” (1 Samuel 3:8-9, NRSV).
Samuel then says, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening,” and God reveals some of God’s wisdom, but also begins what will be a long term relationship of God’s presence with him in his prophetic ministry. Even though what Samuel learns is not good news for Eli, Eli says upon hearing of it, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him” (1 Samuel 3:18, NRSV).
The last portion of today’s story, paints a picture of Samuel’s growing up and early ministry, as well as God’s presence. “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19-21, NRSV).
In terms of stewardship, all that we are and all that we are called to be, is from God. It is by God’s gift, grace, call, and blessing. Samuel, like each one of us, is called by God. What might this mean for us today? How are we called by God? How are we called to be stewards? (If connecting to this week’s gospel verse- what might this mean for forgiving or retaining sins?)
However you feel called or led to preach this week, may God’s promises and presence be made known through you and be with you.
Image Credit: Philippians 4:4