Preaching on Stewardship- May 27, 2018

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 May 27, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Holy Trinity
First Lesson: Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Romans 8:12-17
Gospel of John 3:1-17

One of the most famous depictions of the Holy Trinity, as three persons.

Happy Holy Trinity Sunday! As long as you don’t try to simply explain the theology of the Trinity and fall into the trap of theological heresy, you’ll be in good shape. Haha…no pressure!

In terms of stewardship, you will find ample possibilities with this week’s gospel passage from John 3:1-17, which begins with Nicodemus’ visit and conversation with Jesus. I always seem to really love focusing on verse 17 in this story, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, NRSV).

This is a story about God’s work for us. Which in terms of stewardship begs the question, how do we live as a people who have been promised and given abundant life? How do we live into the community of the Body of Christ, which itself is a reflection of the community of the Triune God? Any of these ideas and questions would make for a great stewardship sermon. If feeling called to preach on stewardship and this week’s gospel, I encourage you to consider some of these ideas here.

If I were preaching this week, I think I would lean into the possibilities for thinking about stewardship of relationships. Certainly there are possibilities for this out of the gospel text and in thinking about the relationship of the Triune God with all of creation. But I think I would probably dig deeply into the lesson from Romans 8.

Romans 8 might be the clearest place in scripture where the identity of Child of God is explained and named. Paul writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:14-15, NRSV). This spirit of adoption, is one of God’s claim and mark upon us. It’s sacramental. It’s baptismal. It’s a forever relationship, of God claiming and wanting to be with us, and a part of our lives. That’s a multi-directional relationship with God and us individually. It’s also a multi-directional relationship for us with our neighbors, as together we are “children of God” (John 8:14).

This relationship is also one of promise, and perhaps in more stewardship type language, one that involves “inheritance.” As Paul continues, “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15-17, NRSV). As Children of God together, we are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

That leads to some big questions, like what does it mean to be in relationship with the community of the Triune God? As heirs of the promise, we are given the gifts of the promise, and entrusted with much. How do we live our lives as heirs of this promise, entrusted with all that we are by God? 

Do we accept this promise and relationship, and respond to God with thanks and praise, like the prophet Isaiah writes about, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3, NRSV)?

Are we bold enough to be willing to be sent as an heir of the promise, like when we read, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8, NRSV)?

Or do we live our lives to ourselves, closed off from the world? If that’s the case, it reminds me of something Rev. Chick Lane has said, “There’s no such thing as a ‘stingy’ Christian. It’s an oxymoron.” Meaning, if we are Children of God, we are indeed sent into the world, and to be in relationship with one another. That’s an important thing to remember about our identity as stewards.

Any of these are good questions worth some time to ponder stewardship this week, as we celebrate our relationship with the Triune God. As you ponder, prepare, and go about your week, may God’s love fill you with joy, peace, and direction.

Sunday May 27, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Holy Trinity
Narrative Theme for the Day: The Ten Commandments (Week 1)
Focus Passages: Exodus 19:1-6; 20:1-2
Gospel Verse: Matthew 22:34-40

My Pentateuch professor, Rev. Dr. Terence Fretheim would often say that “the point of having and following the law, is so that life may go well for you.” This is an important insight not just for thinking about the Ten Commandments, and our relationship with God and neighbor, but also for stewardship in general.

As the summer series of the Narrative Lectionary begins this week, we start a four week journey through the Ten Commandments. In this first week, we focus on the very beginning of them, and why they exist. God’s message to the Israelites through Moses, as sort of the preamble for the commandments was, “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6, NRSV).

God is saying right here, somewhat fittingly for Holy Trinity Sunday, that God wants to be in relationship with God’s people, Israel. But God doesn’t want to just be in relationship. God wants to entrust to Israel responsibility, authority, and arguably abundant life.

These seem like reasons enough to want to follow and keep the commandments. Of course, that’s all before knowing them, and knowing and coming to know, how hard it might be (actually impossible really) to not break the commandments, and in essence, sin.

For this first week’s focus then, we begin with chapter 20’s first two verses, the reminder of who God is, what God has done, and what God can and promises to do for God’s people. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2, NRSV).

Before digging in and unpacking the commandments, we must first remember who they are for, and who they are from, and why they have been given. They are first about God, and God’s dreams, loves, and hopes for God’s people that life might go well for them, and to be in relationship with them.

In terms of stewardship, maybe this first week of the four-week series might be a good opportunity to point to some examples and stories in your community and context of what you have seen that God has done for you. Mention the incarnation, birth, life, death, cross, tomb, and resurrection of course. But also, lift up the stories of healing, creativity, and love and service in action that you have witnessed. These are God’s work in the world, examples of what God has done, continues to do, and promises to do.

When we engage and follow, and allow God’s work to be done in some way through us, they are responses to Jesus’ summation of the commandments and law found in Matthew 22:

“’Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40, NRSV).

How have you witnessed these commandments being lived out in the lives of stewards and disciples in your midst? These stories just might make for some rich stewardship preaching.

Wherever the Spirit flows, may you experience the love and joy of the Triune God at the heart of the commandments, and may that same love and joy be made known through you.

Image Credit: Trinity

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