Happy Monday! 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 January 21, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Third Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
First Lesson: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel of Mark 1:14-20
“I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me. If you follow me. If you follow me. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.”
Perhaps you are like me and grew up singing those words in Sunday School. Or maybe you didn’t? Please forgive the gendered language, but that song comes to mind every time I read and hear this story that is in our gospel reading this week. Jesus calls and invites the soon to be disciples. He says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17, NRSV).
Fish for people? On the one hand it’s a rather crazy image. But on the other hand, it’s a core part of what it means to tell the story and live the story of faith in action. If stewardship really encompasses the areas of “Ask, Thank, Tell,” as Chick Lane wrote about, perhaps this week is a week to ask or invite people to come and see? Perhaps this week is a week to ponder how do we share the story of God’s love for us and for all?
How do we share it? How do we invite others to come and see, and then to be a part of this work and life of faith? Either one of these questions might make for a timely sermon in your context.
Sticking with the story from the gospel for a minute, I have always wondered what Zebedee thought?
“As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20, NRSV).
Maybe it’s the same thing that parents of rostered ministers think when the Holy Spirit calls them to go far from home? Or, maybe it’s what every parent must face when a vocation or relationship means moving and distance for loved ones, children, and grand children? That’s probably not something to preach about, but for those of you who are preaching, I thought it might be worth a passing mention anyway.
In terms of the other passages this week, I really would stick to the gospel story. But if looking for any other stewardship inspiration, there is a piece from Jonah. Included this week is the verse 3:10, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10, NRSV). This highlights that God can change God’s mind, and God does want things to go well for God’s children. This could be a starting place for thinking about our identity as Children of God, and our relationships with each other and with God, and how we stewards those relationships.
Wherever you might feel called to preach, may God’s love and promise be reminded to you, and made known through you.
Sunday January 21, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Third Sunday after Epiphany
Narrative Theme for the Day: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Year 4, Week 20)
Focus Passages: John 2:13-25
The cynic in me wonders if the creators of the Narrative Lectionary had the timing of congregational annual meetings in mind when planning this reading for January. On the one hand, this can be a hard story to reconcile with, one where Jesus is seemingly mad and perhaps even violent. But on the other hand, it’s an example of Jesus standing up for what matters and trying to strongly redirect God’s children.
As we approach this story, I wonder, do we sometimes lose sight of why we do what we do? Do we get so caught up in our fundraising, service, volunteerism, activities, etc., that we lose sight of the bigger picture? Is our narthex full of things to sign up for, but little explanation of how that is (or isn’t) part of our calling as followers of Christ? How do we steward our time and resources, and how might we need to adjust these and re-prioritize?
I am wondering these questions, obviously because of this story:
“In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take those things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!'” (John 2:14-16, NRSV)
These questions that I offer above, could be starting places for us to think deeply in our faith community contexts about ministry in action. In what ways do we do ministry that could be better connected to the heart of worship? In what ways could we be more intentional and effective in telling the why or story behind these ministries?
The why and story could well be beautiful, but perhaps over time somethings have been taken for granted and the meaning or “why” behind something could be not widely known anymore. Alternatively, perhaps there are ample fundraisers for schools, benefits, sales of other kinds happening in your church building. If that’s the case, perhaps this week is a good week to reexamine ministry and congregational practices in light of ministry and stewardship?
If pondering these questions may not make sense in your context, then perhaps another stewardship tact you could take is to ponder, how do you steward relationships, especially when conflict might happen or need to happen? Because that seems to be what Jesus is inviting today with those who had been in the temple.
Whatever the questions you are wrestling with, whatever the direction that the Holy Spirit calls you in, may God’s love and challenge be made known to you and through you.
Image Credit: Pinterest Pin for Mark 1:17