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 February 4, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)
First Lesson: Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Gospel of Mark 1:29-39
Last week Jesus healed the man with an unclean spirit. This week, he keeps it up, as we are still in the first chapter of Mark. This week we read the stories of Jesus healing many at Simon’s house, and then, of him going on a preaching tour throughout Galilee. His ministry is off to a fast pace now.
We read that Jesus, “came and took her (Simon’s mother-in-law) by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (Mark 1:31, NRSV). Jesus’ healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, was not going to be kept quiet for long. And boy did that news travel fast.
“That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:32-34, NRSV)
Last week we heard about the one man being healed. Now it’s a whole city of sick and possessed. That’s a lot of healing, love, and mercy. It’s no wonder Jesus needed a break and went out to pray in a quiet place (Mark 1:35). It’s no wonder that Jesus might have also wanted to move on a bit, to spread the good news of God. And that’s precisely what Jesus and the disciples did, as Jesus called, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (Mark 1:38, NRSV).
Jesus goes throughout Galilee serving, healing, and doing his ministry. This week’s gospel story highlights that well. In a stewardship sense, I think it leads to a few fair questions. How are we called and sent to continue God’s work? How are we called and sent to point to it? How are we called and sent to be a part of it, and share the story of God in Christ’s gifts of life, health, mercy, grace, and redemption?
Any and all of these questions might be helpful for connecting the story to your midst, and also for unpacking some stewardship insights.
Another possibility that could be fruitful might be to wonder about how we are called to share and steward the good news? Jesus seems to open the door to this toward the end of this week’s story saying this is “what I came out to do.” It resonates with Paul’s words this week too, who writes, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23, NRSV).
One other stewardship focus could be found from Psalm 147. This psalm highlights themes of thanksgiving and praise, while also recounting God’s work and promises. For example we read or sing with the psalmist that, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:2-4, NRSV). For this work, for God’s work like this, we “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry” (Psalm 147:7-9, NRSV).
Wherever the Spirit leads you this week, may God’s love and grace be made known to you, and shared through you.
Even Jesus gets tired from his work. Naturally, Jesus decides to stop by a well. We read that, “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon” (John 4:6, NRSV). It just so happened while there, that perhaps one of the most important conversations in all of scripture happens. Jesus sees and talks to a woman at that well, whom society might have otherwise ignored.
Jesus asked this women for a drink. To his request, she offers a fair and understandable response. “How is that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9, NRSV). Fair question given the barriers in society people create. Fair question given the barriers we see in our own world today between and within peoples, perspectives, ideas, places, and communities.
In their conversation Jesus says that, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14, NRSV). Naturally, the woman wants this abundant life giving water. She says, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15, NRSV).
The conversation continues. The relationship is built. Barriers that might have otherwise divided, are removed. Today’s story is reminder that Jesus sees us and sees all, including this woman at the well that society might have otherwise ignored. Jesus comes near and offers life and living water. It’s a reminder of who Jesus is, and also a chance to remember why we do what we do, as stewards. How can we embody Jesus’ example and love? How can we open our eyes to our neighbors like this woman? And how has God come near to us and through us?
The story is not quite done though. The woman’s faith and understanding becomes clearer and more significant. “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes he will proclaim all things to us'” (John 4:25, NRSV). Jesus doesn’t hide from this recognition. Instead he professes or confesses, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” (John 4:26, NRSV).
This good news leads the woman to go and tell and share with our community. The story of God is told and shared through and by this woman. She invites those near to, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he? They left the city and were on their way to him” (John 4:29-30, NRSV). They would come to believe, because of the woman’s invitation to “come and see.”
How do we invite people to “come and see” that the Lord is good? How do we steward and share God’s on-going story? And how do we work to break down barriers that we ourselves might create, that get in the way of sharing God’s love and story, and serving our neighbor?
Tackling any one of these questions might make for a powerful stewardship sermon in your context. But whatever direction you might end up going, may God’s love, healing, and abundance be made known to you and through you.