Preaching on Stewardship- September 23, 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 September 23, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 25- Year B)
First Lesson: Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
Second Lesson: James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Gospel of Mark 9:30-37

At first glance, you might think that the revised common lectionary may not offer as many nuggets for stewardship as it usually does this week. In terms of the first and second lessons, I would probably agree. But take another look at the gospel story and Psalm 54.

The seven verses in this gospel story are packed. The first half features a passion prediction and explanation. That’s definitely something that could and should be preached on. But in terms of stewardship, I think I would be nudged towards the second half of the gospel story. Within this, Jesus continues to teach and offer some important points for discipleship, and I would argue stewardship.

Jesus, “sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all'” (Mark 9:35, NRSV).

This is what discipleship looks like, and it’s also what stewardship looks like. God entrusts us with what we have to serve our neighbors, and meet their needs. In so doing, God uses us to help build the kingdom and do some of God’s work in the world. In this sense then, a leader is one who views their life and leadership as service. How are you helping better others? How, through your gifts, strengths, passions, etc., are you helping build up others? Answering any of these questions could make for a powerful stewardship sermon by itself.

You could also think about welcome and inclusion. We also read that, “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me’” (Mark 9:36-37, NRSV).

How do we show welcome? Do we bring the little ones close, like Jesus says? (Picture is of a stained glass window at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Hickman, Nebraska)

I wonder, how do we show welcome? How do we steward our worship spaces and experiences, to welcome and include all of God’s people? How do we steward our communities in such a way, that we are willing and able to welcome any and all? And are we vulnerable enough, to admit when we might need to change for the sake of our neighbors’ needs- and meeting them, and being able to include them? 

Any of these stewardship questions from the gospel this week, might make for a prophetic message in your context. Some of the questions might not be popular. But hey, Jesus wasn’t always liked for his teaching either. And as he predicted in the first half of this week’s story, there was going to be death involved, just as any major change might mean dying to something in order to find resurrection and new life.

If looking for one more stewardship nugget, look towards the end of Psalm 54. “With a freewill-offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies” (Psalm 54:6-7, NRSV). Are our offerings really freewill? And if so, what does that mean for our stewardship of what God entrusts?

Whatever questions you might ponder this week, I hope that even as challenging as they might be, that God’s love and comfort be there to you, and may they be known along with God’s promises through you.

Sunday September 23, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year 1- Week 3)
Narrative Theme for the Day: Joseph in Prison
Focus Passage: Genesis 39:1-23
Gospel Verse: Matthew 5:11-12

Three weeks into this year’s journey through the narrative, and we’re already 39 chapters into the Bible. Last week we were with Abraham, and this week, we’re with Abraham’s grandson Joseph. Dwelling in this story, it has to be hard not to feel for Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, and even though he is an excellent servant and steward of his master’s estate, his master’s wife is up to no good.

Imagine a soap opera, where when someone doesn’t get their way, they are out to make the person who didn’t give into them pay dearly. Well, that’s what seems to be befalling Joseph in this week’s story. For the record, Joseph comes off extremely well in this interaction, especially in this day of the #MeToo movement. Joseph would not be taken advantage of, and would not allow himself to take advantage of another person.

As we read, Joseph “refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’” (Genesis 39:8-9, NRSV).

Jospeh’s master’s wife would not take “no” for an answer. And though Joseph escaped another close call, he did so without a piece of clothing. And, well, that was all the potential evidence that was needed to send Joseph to jail.

It was in the prison though that we again read that God was most certainly with Joseph. “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (Genesis 39:21-23, NRSV).

In terms of stewardship, perhaps at the heart of this story, is the idea of being a steward and disciple even when it’s hard and not easy- even when it probably means risking your freedom or life situation. Coupled with this is also the affirmation of the promise that God made to Joseph’s grandfather Abraham, that God would be with Abraham and his descendants. Thus, God maintains God’s promise, and Joseph trusts that promise and lives and grows as a disciple and steward trusting it.

This story about Joseph pairs well with the appointed gospel verse from Matthew 5. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12, NRSV).

How does one rejoice and be glad when everything in the world around them seems to be going wrong? In terms of stewardship, perhaps it might be worth noting things that are not going well in your midst. Perhaps there are some illnesses or diagnoses which are wearing on you or your community?

Today’s stories in the narrative offer a chance to remember, that even in the bad and hard times, as challenging and awful as they might be, God is right there with us in the muck and darkness. God is there, just as God has always promised to be. And that’s the Good News that continues to send us out into the world, as dark as it might be some day. Trusting that the light of God, and the promises of God are most certainly true.

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