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 22, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- Time after Pentecost 20A Lectionary 29
First Lesson: Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Gospel of Matthew 22:15-22
Perhaps the safest way to engage stewardship with these weeks texts, would be to look toward the beginning of 1 Thessalonians, and to build off the idea of thanksgiving found there (especially 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and following). However, I am not going to suggest you do that unless that seems best in your context.
Instead, I imagine it would probably be more beneficial to wander into the challenge of two kingdoms theology. How do we live in the now and not yet? How are we called to be engaged in the world we live in? This week’s gospel story might prove just the right place to ponder these big questions about life, community, and relationship.
This week Jesus receives “The Question about Paying Taxes,” (Matthew 22:15-22). No doubt this story or preaching on it might lead to some crossing of arms in the pews or chairs in your midst. But you can point to this as just one example of how Jesus talks about money (and money related things) in the gospel, the second most common topic he engages behind only the Kingdom of God.
You can also point to this being yet another story in Jesus’ walk through Jerusalem of being questioned by those threatened by him. Jesus, of course sees right through the danger of the question. Jesus asks, “‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax” (Matthew 22:18-19, NRSV). After looking at the coin, and following up with a question, Jesus unsurprisingly to us, gives the wisest of replies, “‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away” (Matthew 22:21-22, NRSV).
One way that we engage in the world we live in, is by giving to our communities (giving to the emperor) while also giving to God (Matthew 22:21). It takes shared collaboration for example, to provide teaching and education (public education made possible through taxes, for example). It takes participation and partnership to provide emergency services (such as fire, health, medical, police, etc., made possible in part through taxes, for example).
Stewardship involves recognizing these tensions, being engaged in the world that God has given us, and serving and living faithfully. There are questions of justice and vocation here, but at it’s base, not only are we stewards of all that God has entrusted to us, we are also stewards of our communities and contexts. Our stewardship can also be our legacy. Do we want the world to be better because of us? Do we care how we treat God’s creation? Do we care about future generation’s well-being? Perhaps any of these questions would make for a meaningful stewardship sermon in your midst.
Alternatively, Psalm 96 might also be helpful. In our stewardship, we respond to all that God has done for us and continues to do for us. We give thanks and praise with the psalmist, “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2, NRSV).
God has done what God can only do, the work of salvation. How we respond is where our stewardship comes in. One of the ways we do this, is through returning to God a portion of that which God has first entrusted to us. The psalmist recognizes this, saying, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.” (Psalm 96:8, NRSV). If you need an opportunity to think about offering, there you go.
In whatever way you feel led or called to share about God’s promises this week, may God work through you inviting a deeper sense and understanding of our identity as stewards of God’s love in the world.
This week we hear that, “Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13, NRSV). I wonder what David and all of his siblings must have thought about this?
Do we respond to God’s call joyfully or with fear, denial, or complaint? Perhaps this week’s focus on God’s call to David, may be a good chance for everyone to reflect on God’s calls to us, and how e respond to those calls?
In Psalm 51 we hear this week, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12, NRSV). I don’t know about you and where you are at, but this year has been a year it seems across the board of increasing anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and stress. It might be easy to miss the joy we know in God, the joy of life and life and God’s promise of salvation. Perhaps naming these realities in your midst, might provide just the right opportunity to take a deep breath, refocus, and ponder a new what it means to be called as a steward and disciple.
The pairing of the readings this week in the narrative is helpful, especially for both orienting and grounding the story of David, but also for relating it I think to each of us. When we get to points of exasperation and exhaustion, it can be pretty easy to want to give up. It’s precisely in these moments that we remember it’s not up to us, but it’s about God working through us, for us, and being with us just as God has promised.
In these moments, we join the psalmist in calling, “Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance” (Psalm 51:14, NRSV).
There is a lot of work to be done to restore peace, hope, and spread love in this world. We’re stewards and part of this work. But we do not do it alone, nor could we. Whatever this looks like in your midst, may God be with you in your preaching and ministry, and may God use you to show a sign of the kingdom breaking in that we’re each called to be a part of.
Image Credit: Agnus Day Lectionary Comic for these passages in 2014