Preaching on Stewardship- Sunday January 14, 2018

Happy Monday! Every Monday I share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. (I am aware that a number of contexts moved Epiphany to Sunday January 7th, and are celebrating Baptism of Our Lord on January 14th. If so, please see my stewardship thoughts for Baptism of Our Lord from last week here.) This week’s stewardship nuggets based on the appointed readings by the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary are as follows:

Sunday January 14, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Second Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
First Lesson: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel of John 1:43-51

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. This week we hear stories of invitation and calls. Jesus invites and calls the disciples Philip and Nathaniel. The Lord calls Samuel, as discerned by Eli. And the Psalmist acknowledges that not only does God call, God knows all that we are and all that we are called to be.

An overarching stewardship question for this week could simply be, “What might this mean for us today?” Tackling this question might take more than a sermon obviously, but it could worthwhile in your context to wrestle with it.

How is this for an invitation to “Come and See?” The Trinity Window welcoming any and all with sunrise beaming through it in the distance, before worship on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday at American Lutheran in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

In digging more directly into the lectionary appointed passages this week, a stewardship sermon might focus on Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see.” It’s an invitation he gives to the disciples (John 1:46, NRSV), and particularly in this story Philip and Nathaniel. It’s also an invitation to us, for us, and for us to invite others with. We know what God has done and promises to do, but God is always up to something. What might God be up to now? Are we willing to “come and see” as Jesus calls?

This gospel story pairs well with the Old Testament reading. In fact, I might just feel called to preach on the story of Samuel’s call, and use the full twenty verses which are optional from 1 Samuel 3. This call story, and the way Eli is there as a mentor to help discern the call, is an example of stewardship. How do we steward the whole idea of “call”? How do we discern call? When might we be called to change?

In the midst of the calling, there needs to be a vulnerability to not only be willing to listen, but to actively listen and be willing to be changed and follow that call. It follows from Eli’s instructions to Samuel who says for when/if the Lord calls again, to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9 NRSV).

If the Gospel or Samuel stories aren’t quite calling you, perhaps the Psalmist might be? Psalm 139 is a very well known psalm, but it could be one that you might dig into for thinking about stewardship as something truly holistic. All that we are is God’s, and that means then that God knows us through and through as God creates us, loves us, and calls us. This week we read, for example, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me” (Psalm 139:1, NRSV). No one knows us as deeply as God. As the psalmist also says, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14, NRSV). Perhaps Psalm 139 could be a jumping off point to thinking about holistic stewardship and our relationship with God.

I probably would steer clear of preaching on the Epistle this week, but if you feel pulled that direction, there is a stewardship nugget within the discussion of sin. If all that we have and all that we are, is God’s, that also includes our lives and bodies. As we read, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NRSV). There is obvious risk of the need to ponder agency in preaching on this, but there is a fair point that we aren’t completely our own. Yes, as Luther would say we are “perfectly free,” but we are also “perfectly bound” to God and our neighbor. Perhaps thinking about this distinction this week could prove fruitful.

However you feel called to preach and prepare this week, may God speak to you and through you, offering hope, promise, peace, and challenge.

Sunday January 14, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Second Sunday after Epiphany
Narrative Theme for the Day: Wedding at Cana (Year 4, Week 19)
Focus Passages: John 2:1-11
Psalm 104:14-16

Wouldn’t you know it, the famous story of Jesus turning water into wine, an Epiphany of sorts during the Epiphany season also has some obvious and not so obvious stewardship insights?

On the one hand, this week as part of your preaching you could actually explain the role of “steward,” and it’s relationship to stewardship. You could do so, because the steward is an important character in this week’s story, and the steward is the one who ultimately comments, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10, NRSV). If needing to start somewhere to explain what stewardship is in your midst, perhaps that would be a nice way to think and preach about it.

However, it would probably be best to think about the reality that Jesus is able to do the extraordinary through the ordinary. That seems to be what is at the heart of this story. Jesus turns water into wine, just as Jesus does God’s work for us, and sometimes even through us. How does God do this, and how do we point to it? Perhaps a story might come to mind from your ministry of seeing God’s work be done in unexpected or simple ways that normally might not be seen or noticed? A story or two like this might make this week’s gospel story really come alive.

If making use of the connecting Psalm verses, there are obvious stewardship connections to draw this week. The psalmist declares, “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted” (Psalm 104:14-16, NRSV). God’s role as creator and sustainer are highlighted. The abundance we know and confess in God is also made clear. Either of these insights could be beneficial in unpacking the story of Jesus turning water into wine, or the ordinary into extraordinary.

Wherever you might feel called to preach this week, may God’s promises and presence be made known to you and through you, through the ordinary and extraordinary.

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