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 November 19, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- 24th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A- Lectionary 33)
First Lesson: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11], 12
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30
If you are preaching this week, you are in luck! This is one of the best parables for stewardship preaching in the Bible, well at least in my opinion. The parable of the talents, or “the story of the slaves entrusted with talents,” is a golden opportunity to talk about talents, gifts, strengths, passions, vocations, etc.
How are we stewarding our talents? Are we using them, or are we hoarding them?
Perhaps tackling either one of those questions would make an important stewardship sermon in your context.
The story begins, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Matthew 25:14-15, NRSV).
If the man is God, imagine this as a story about God entrusting our gifts, passions, strengths, talents, and treasure to each one of us. The best part of this translation though, is the presence of the word “entrusted.” This man does not “give,” these people these things, but entrusts them to be managed. That’s a central stewardship understanding of our relationship with God and how God entrusts us with all that we have and all that we are.
Upon the man’s return, it’s time to see what has come from that which he has entrusted. To the first two people who were entrusted, he replies, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 24:21&23, NRSV). There are results. This man, who entrusted these resources, is shown that his trust in them was well founded.
The third person (or slave) who was entrusted to, though, however, let his fear get the best of him. He admits, “So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground…” (Matthew 24:25, NRSV). Of course, the master is not happy about this, and there are repercussions. The third person’s fear was of the master, but it could also have been one of scarcity. It’s like when we don’t think we have enough, so we hoard that which we have, and don’t share or use it.
The story seems to be making this point, as the master who entrusted the resources declares regarding the third person, “So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (Matthew 25:28-29, NRSV).
Be careful here. This is not a verse saying the “wealthy get more wealthy.” No, this is about those who live and trust in God’s abundance, will live abundantly. Those who fall into the traps of thinking there’s not enough and scarcity, will find more scarcity. Perhaps this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? It’s not to downplay the fact that there is hunger, and people in need. Rather, it’s to point out, when people have talents and opportunities to respond to those challenges and meet the needs of their neighbor and don’t, those are the people who are actually living in scarcity.
Or, take it a step further. Those who do not help when they can, are being complacent in the face of need. Zephaniah doesn’t leave any wiggle room, as we hear, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will do harm.’ Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste” (Zephaniah 1:12-13, NRSV). If that’s not convicting enough, we are reminded that only God can save us, not wealth. “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them…” (Zephaniah 1:18, NRSV).
On the small chance you need one more stewardship idea this week, Psalm 90 provides an opportunity to be grateful for life, by saying, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12, NRSV). This might be a small stretch, but when you reflect on or count your days, you have the opportunity to remember what has happened, how God has shown up, and to live in gratitude. It might just be a perfect point of pause and reflection for preaching the weekend before Thanksgiving.
How ever you feel led to preach and minister this week, may God use you, work through you and with you, to show God’s love and share in God’s abundance.
Sunday November 19, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: Isaiah: A Child is Born (Year 4, Week 11)
Focus Passages: Isaiah 9:1-7
Gospel Verse: John 8:12
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness- on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2, NRSV).
This week we hear God’s promises, for us. The prophecy and foretelling of the coming of the Messiah. This text from Isaiah is often heard in late Advent or on Christmas Eve, reminding us of God’s promises, that “a child has been for us, a son given to us…” (Isaiah 9:6).
Perhaps a helpful stewardship sermon in your context might ponder these questions: When we hear the words “for you,” or “for us,” how do we respond? In gratitude? In joy? Do we pay attention, or does it pass us by?
I don’t know about you, but when I hear, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace….” (Isaiah 9:6, NRSV), I am filled with joy, wonder, gratitude, awe… Sometimes when I hear this passage a tear might come down my face. Sometimes, I might want to break into shouts of joy and claps of praise.
How are you moved when you hear these words? Do you have memories of the past, of someone of faith sharing these words with you, and their impact on you? The answers might just be a stewardship sermon in the making too.
For good measure, the Narrative is paired with this verse from John, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Isaiah 8:12, NRSV). This is a reminder of who God is, a God that is with us, and a God that is for us. We can’t do anything to earn this gift and relationship. Which begs the question, how do we live into the light of this?
Wherever you might be led or feeling called to preach and lead, may God’s love and promises be made known to you this week, and through you.
Image Credit: Talents
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