Preaching on Stewardship- December 3, 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 December 3, 2017: Revised Common Lectionary- First Sunday of Advent (Year B)
First Lesson: Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Gospel of Mark 13:24-37

And so here we are again. It is the first day of the new church year. Advent is upon us, and so is a year with the gospel of Mark. To get us started in Advent, we start with scenes toward the end of the gospel story, with stories of the apocalyptic, or end times.

We hear the reminder of God’s presence, no matter the time or place. No matter what happens, God’s Word will be with us. We hear, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31, NRSV). We also hear the common Advent theme, “Keep awake” (Mark 13:37, NRSV). In terms of stewardship, this could be an opportunity to follow-up on the sermon to keep awake that you might have preached a few weeks ago. It could also be an opportunity to point to God’s persistence and presence even in the most anxious and uncertain of times.

The psalmist gives us an opportunity to reorient ourselves as part of our Advent devotion. We plead with the psalmist, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:7, NRSV). This is about God’s work. God’s work that only God can do.

From a stewardship focus, I think I would be drawn to Isaiah though, as I probably will be much of Advent this year. Isaiah reminds us of God’s creation and creative power. We hear, “When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence” (Isaiah 64:3, NRSV). Advent, is as good a season as any, to reflect more on how all of this is God’s work for us.

isaiah 648
One interpretation of today’s passage from Isaiah.

It’s a work that is for us, but it is also a call into relationship with God and with our neighbor. We acknowledge and confess our shortcomings with the prophet. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:8-9, NRSV). We do mess up, we do sin. But God, in God’s mercy and love redeems and saves us. The prophet does in face remind, that we are in relationship with God, as “we are all your people” (Isaiah 64:9, NRSV).

As we begin Advent, and prepare for God’s coming again, how can we reorient ourselves and lift up our relationships towards God and one another? God comes to us, for us, and we pray that God comes not only with power, but with compassion. From a stewardship focus this Advent, I feel drawn to the words of the hymn, “All Earth is Hopeful,” as a way to focus on the hope we have in God with Us (Emmanuel), to remember that this is God’s work but also, to know that we are indeed a part of it.

May God be with you with this week, and be made known to and through you.

Sunday December 3, 2017: Narrative Lectionary
Narrative Theme for the Day: Daniel: The Fiery Furnace  (Year 4, Week 13)
Focus Passages: Daniel 3:1, [2-7], 8-30
Gospel Verse: John 18:36-37

It’s the first Sunday of Advent. What a great day and time to dwell on God’s promises and saving acts for us. This week we hear the famous story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. It’s a story we often hear on Holy Saturday or during the Sunrise on Easter Sunday.

It’s a reminder that God is present with us, and God delivers, just as God delivered Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. God was with them, as we hear in the story, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god” (Daniel 3:25, NRSV).

Awe and perhaps some terror came across all those who witnessed this. But in their witness, they speak of God with a promise and acknowledgment of God’s presence and power. The king declares belief and acknowledgement, saying, “there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way” (Daniel 3:29, NRSV).

Speaking of a king, the gospel verse paired with this week’s focus text shares a couple words of Jesus’ testimony to Pilate. Jesus reasons and explains, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37, NRSV).

In thinking about stewardship this week, I wonder, how do we tell and live this story of our God who is not only near to us, but delivers and saves us today? The God of the three in the fiery furnace, was present and is so today. How do we share this good news? What ways do our words and deeds testify to this? And how do we steward this good news?

However you pose or answer these questions, may God be with you, opening hearts and minds to and through you.

Image Credit: Isaiah 64:8

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