Preaching on Stewardship- July 1, 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 July 1, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 13)
First Lesson: Lamentations 3:22-33
Psalm 30
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Gospel of Mark 5:21-43

This week the gospel reading features a handful of healing and even resurrection stories, including the famous words of Jesus, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34, NRSV). These stories are stories of God at work, and they hint at the people’s response in the stories to them. The ones being healed, are in awe and perhaps grateful. The ones witnessing the healing, may believe it, but more often than not, they seem to scoff.

I wonder, where do we see God’s healing at work in our communities? In the lives of those whom we are in relationship with? How do we respond to such healing acts? Do we give thanks and praise, and tell of the healing to others? Do we ignore it? Do we some how lose sight of God’s acts in the midst of it? These stories and questions might make for an important sermon. This could even make for a powerful stewardship sermon, in terms of thinking about our responses to God’s work and promises for us.

Dancing and celebrating with old friends and new friends. Last week our daughter Caroline got to hang out with two of our three godsons, and they celebrated with good food, and dancing on parents.

The psalmist gets at this too. The psalmist writes, sings, and/or dances,”You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever” (Psalm 30:11-12, NRSV). Whenever I read this psalm, I think of Tommy Walker’s song, “Mourning into Dancing.” It’s one I like to sing during Easter, to celebrate the resurrection, and today it would be very fitting to celebrate the waking up of the little girl by Jesus. In terms of our stewardship though, do we take the time to give thanks and share our praise not just privately, but publicly by telling of all that God has done, continues to do, and promises to do? 

If looking for some different stewardship ideas, Lamentations and 2 Corinthians might offer a couple possibilities.

In Lamentations, this week we are given an opportunity to think about God’s abundance. We read, “For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone” (Lamentations 3:31-33, NRSV). God’s love is abundant, and that is a central tenant of stewardship.

In the midst of the storms of life, of all those in need of healing and reconciliation, we are reminded that in God’s abundant love, that is possible. Do we celebrate this? Or do we privately wish, that God’s love might be a bit more scarce? Of course, when we admit this desire for control and scarcity, we are confronted by our human identity and many sins- hoping that God is for us, but perhaps not as much so for others. But God doesn’t work this way, because God’s love is indeed abundant, transcending human ideas, differences, and divisions.

In this week’s reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul uses a good deal of stewardship language that might make for an interesting possibility of giving this writing a modern or contemporary response and reflection. We read, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NRSV). Jesus took on the form of humanity for us. He was born, lived, died, and was resurrected for us. It doesn’t get any more generous than this act of love and life, for us by God.

Paul then takes this, and our relationship with God, and shows how it relates to our relationship with our neighbors, strangers, and each other. He writes, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15, NRSV).

Using the concept of abundance, and the idea of “having,” Paul is making the case for having “enough.” This is an important point for his intended audience in Corinth about how to be in community and be the People of God together. Perhaps even more so, this is an important point for us, in how we are stewards of God’s love, and called to share and serve one another, because what we have has been entrusted to our care by God to use, manage, and steward for the sake of our neighbor.

In whatever direction these stories might pull you this week, may God’s abundant love and promises be made manifest to you and made known through you.

Sunday July 1, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Narrative Theme for the Day: 1st John (Week Two)
Focus Passages: 1 John 1:5-2:2
Gospel Verse: John 1:29

In this second of four weeks dwelling in 1st John, we get to spend some time with some words we might know by heart. These are words that are part of our liturgy, words that we often hear during our time of confession.

This week we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10, NRSV). In terms of stewardship, the promise and granting of forgiveness makes stewardship possible. Without forgiveness, how could we live in response to God’s promises? How could we ourselves be bearers of God’s love, mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness in the world?

A little bit further we read this week, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, NRSV). This is reminder that God is with us, but also that this is God’s work. It’s God’s work for us. It’s not work that we could ever do for ourselves. And this is an important reminder, especially in our culture where worth is often measured by how busy we are, by what we do, by our work and results, by how much we have… etc. Maybe this week might be a good reminder to think about this.

Or, perhaps this week might be a good week to think about how we are relationship with God, and what that relationship might make possible for us (and for others)? It seems pretty straight forward from the accompanying gospel verse what this might mean, as we read, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NRSV). So not only do we hear the words of our confession in the liturgy in the reading this week, if including the gospel verse, we hear our introductory liturgy or sung invitation and response to communion as well.

Wherever the Spirit moves you this week, may God’s love be with you, and God’s love and forgiveness be shared through you.

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