Preaching on Stewardship- June 17, 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 June 17, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 11)
First Lesson: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
Gospel of Mark 4:26-34

This will be a fun week to preach on stewardship! I know I seem to say that often, but this week it’s most certainly true. Let’s start with the gospel passage which features a couple parables from Jesus trying to help explain and describe the Kingdom of God. 

We read that, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how” (Mark 4:26-27, NRSV).

Consider this a “before” picture. An early spring picture in Fontanelle before things have started blooming. It’s not so different perhaps than before when a seed begins to grow into something else bigger than itself.

This is a beautiful and yet simultaneously simple and complex verse. It describes stewardship, in that, this is God’s work. God plants the seeds and we have no control over what they might become. But how might we be called to be a part of the planting, sowing, and caring for that which God scatters?  It’s an interesting question, and one that particularly fits agricultural and farming contexts well this time of year, especially like where I live in Nebraska. (It might be a little lost in translation in more of an urban setting, however.)

The second half of the gospel lesson for this week includes one of Jesus’ most famous parables, about a mustard seed.

Jesus teaches, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32, NRSV).

Consider this an “after” picture. As things have started blooming in Fontanelle. Trees have filled out. It’s not so different perhaps for crops and plants who have taken shape and pushed up above the soil, and in a few months will soon give and bear fruit.

You could oversimplify this perhaps and say that “even a small little speck can have a huge impact with God.” Though perhaps that’s not oversimplifying it? Sometimes we take for granted the small things, the small moments, small gestures of handshakes, hugs, and smiles- and the impact they might have.

Perhaps this week we might think of these moments and how collectively over time they might have a huge impact in building up the Kingdom of God? They might make all the difference for someone, showing God’s love and that they are loved and have meaning, and purpose. We can never be sure what might be going on in any person’s life, but if recent news stories are any indication, we need to do more to show each other near and far, that we care about them, that they matter, and that we have empathy.

In your context, if it might make sense to talk about depression, mental health, or even suicide, I would do so honestly and openly. Don’t do so in a way that might feel like casting blame, but rather in a way offering hope and comfort. I would tie my preaching here back to the whole community, and wonder together, how might we be bearers of love, comfort, and hope? After all, if a mustard seed as the smallest of seeds can become the Kingdom of God, what might our smallest of gestures become with God’s love?

How might God’s work be done through us, even in our smallest amounts of stewarding our time and daily life? How might our neighbors that we see, and the strangers we don’t, come to know God through us and through these moments? How might they come to know that not only does God love them, but they matter?

If those stewardship ideas aren’t resonating with you this week, perhaps spending some time with Paul’s words might do the trick? You can’t get much more hopeful for what is possible with God, then Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” This is a good reminder that it is God’s work. But it’s also work that we are all called to be a part of in some small way.

For those moments where we think what we do might not matter for our neighbors, Paul writes, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NRSV). The one who gave himself for us, did so, with outstretched arms for all. What can we do but give our thanks and praise for that, and live in response as stewards?

Put another way, perhaps we should join the praise of the Psalmist this week who writes or sings that, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High; To tell of your love early in the morning and of your faithfulness in the night-time, Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp, and to the melody of the lyre. For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts, and I sing aloud at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:1-4, NRSV).

Needless to say, there are so many directions that preaching on stewardship might take this week. I hope one of these ideas resonates with you. But if not, I hope that God’s comfort and challenge pushes you, and that God uses you to share a message of peace, grace, and promise.

Sunday June 17, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Narrative Theme for the Day: The Ten Commandments (Week 4)
Focus Passages: Exodus 20:17
Gospel Verse: Matthew 22:34-40

We conclude the four-week journey through the Ten Commandments in the Narrative Lectionary this week with a verse all about how we are to treat our neighbor and be in relationship with them. We read in our focus passage, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

That sounds straight forward enough. But we’re all not naive enough to know, it’s a whole lot harder than it sounds, isn’t it? This part of the Ten Commandments has a lot to do with stewardship– especially if we believe that our stewardship is our response to God’s gifts and promises for us, and is how we live our lives as disciples with one another.

I suspect it will be helpful this week to pair this verse with at least verse 39 from Matthew 22, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NRSV). How do we treat our neighbors? How do we love them? In what ways have we sinned toward one another, and how might we be called to reorient or change our behavior towards one another?

This could probably easily turn into a sermon that offers a response or corrective to some of the societal forces that seem to be at work right now locally and globally. If that makes sense in your context, great. If not, then I might frame my stewardship preaching on this text around a story or stories that you have read or seen lately about people showing up with, and for one another. Give these familiar texts some new life perhaps with some modern examples of people showing love to their neighbor, and stewarding that which God has entrusted them to do God’s work for others.

In whatever way you might feel led to preach this week, may God’s love and promise be made known to you and through you.

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