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 March 18, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Fifth Sunday in Lent
First Lesson: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Second Lesson: Hebrews 5:5-10
Gospel of John 12:20-33
We are entering the last Sunday in Lent, before the start of Holy Week. I don’t know if you feel this way or not, but it sure has felt like this Lent has been going fast. In terms of stewardship this week, I think I might be drawn to the Old Testament lesson actually from Jeremiah. In this story God describes a new covenant, and the forgiveness that will come with it (Jeremiah 31:31, 34).
God says, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33, NRSV). This is a reminder of relationship, but also a new understanding of the covenant between God and God’s people.
God expands further, “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34, NRSV). We have come to know this to be true through God in Christ, and the saving work of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
With that in mind, it is a great call from Jeremiah to reflect on God’s promises and gifts this week, as we move through Lent toward the start of Holy Week next week.
If that direction doesn’t seem to be pulling you, perhaps thinking about stewardship and service would be fitting in your context. Jesus this week seems to set the stage for this, in a way that he will further expand upon in the act of foot washing on Maundy Thursday. In this week’s story, Jesus says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will be my servant also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor” (John 12:26, NRSV).
The psalm could be fruitful as well, with the familiar text often used in worship as the offertory response: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” (Psalm 50:10-12, NRSV). In terms of stewardship, perhaps some reflection on what it might look like to “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” may be helpful in your midst.
In whatever direction you might feel the Spirit leading, may God’s love and promise be made known to you and through you.
Sunday March 18, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Narrative Theme for the Day: Jesus Condemned (Year 4, Week 28)
Focus Passages: John 19:1-16a
The sham of a trial continues in the narrative this week, with Jesus’ condemnation. By itself, this story is not one with much stewardship in it. But, perhaps with the inclusion of Psalm 146 this week, there might be some room to ponder our identities, relationships, and the tensions we live in?
In the story this week, we hear the cries of, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (John 19:6, NRSV). We also hear the even harder words to hear, knowing that perhaps we too say them in the way we live and serve (or not), “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15, NRSV).
But there is indeed a tension here. This week in the cries of “crucify him,” we are reminded by the psalmist that “The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:8-9, NRSV).
Pondering this tension this week might prove fruitful, especially as we near the end of our Lenten journeys and the beginnings of Holy Week. How do we live in this tension? Put another way, how do we live as Easter people in a Good Friday world?
Whatever questions confront you, and wherever the narrative may take you, may God’s love and promise be with you and be made known through you.
Image Credit: Jeremiah 31:31-34