Happy New Year friends and partners in preaching! Since New Year’s falls on a Monday, today will be no different, as 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:
For those of you celebrating Epiphany, think about the wise men. The wise men come bearing gifts. For me it leads to the natural question, what do we bring and offer up or return to God in joy, gratitude, and homage for or to God? I think to make this stewardship connection as part of your Epiphany message would be more than enough as you celebrate this special day.
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters” (Psalm 29:3, NRSV). God calls forth and creates (Genesis 1), and through the Water and the Word, we are sealed with the cross of Christ and received into God’s family as children. Before we can be baptized with the Holy Spirit though, God in Christ himself was baptized by John in the Jordan.
In Mark’s telling of this story, much like the Gospel of Mark as a whole, it’s rather short and to the point. Jesus’ baptism takes basically only one verse (Mark 1:9). It’s the two verses after this, which always catch my eye though. “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased'” (Mark 1:10-11, NRSV).
When a voice from heaven speaks, or more pointedly, when God’s own voice speaks, we should listen. It doesn’t happen very often that God speaks directly for God’s self. This matters. Things are changing. With Jesus’ baptism, comes the start of his formal ministry. With this baptism, and God’s declaration, we are told to wake up and pay attention. (This connects rather obviously with today’s psalm, Psalm 29, which talks all about “The voice of the Lord” in verses 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9.)
John the Baptist has been calling the people to repent and prepare. Well, what he has been preparing for, is about to begin. We know the stories of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. They flow out of God’s presence and promise. They flow out of God’s love, and God in Christ’s own identity, as God with us and God for us.
Through God’s grace, we are made heirs of the promise. This might be a good day to think about baptism and baptismal promises, like those that the community and all the baptized make to “live, hear, proclaim, serve, and strive for justice and peace” (as found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship; Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006; pages 228 & 236). It might also be good to consider the very identity of being a Child of God, and how our vocations flow from our baptism.
These connections between baptism and our identity as Children of God, between baptism and vocation, between Child of God and steward, are worth exploring and making. Wherever you feel led to preach this week, may God be with you, inspiring you and opening you up. And may God’s love, peace, and promise be made known through you.
In the Water, Word, and Meal, Jesus says, “come and see” (John 1:39, NRSV). Where do we see God at work? Where is God showing up to you or through you?
In today’s story from John, Jesus has just been baptized, and John is making the connection as to who and what this “Lamb of God” is (John 1:36, NRSV). Jesus throughout this story is beginning to meet, call, and invite the first disciples. He does so lovingly, but with the perhaps mysterious but fulfilling invitation to “come and see.”
If working to make the connection between today’s readings and the liturgical day of “The Baptism of Our Lord,” it could work to connect baptism with call and vocation- particularly as disciples and stewards.
In baptism we make promises (as found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship; Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006: pages 228 & 236). Not that I would say you should preach on assessments, but pondering about how are we doing at living, hearing, proclaiming, serving, and striving as related to the baptismal promises might be helpful in your preaching this week. Or, perhaps ponder, about how Jesus is showing up to us and through us in these ways, or perhaps in spite of them?
If that direction may not work as well for your context, then maybe connecting Jesus’ invitation to the disciples, to us, and to all seekers with Psalm 66 could be helpful. In today’s psalm we hear, “Come and see what God has done” (Psalm 66:5, NRSV). That’s an invitation to all of us. That’s an invitation to come and see. It’s an invitation to tell the story of God’s promises and love, for us and for all.
When we hear and know of these promises, what we do is we join the psalmist. We, “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise” (Psalm 66:1, NRSV). We do so, because that’s all we can do. That, and love, follow, and share as God in Christ calls us and shows us how.
May God be with you this week in this New Year, and may God’s promises and invitation be made known through you.