Preaching on Stewardship- October 21, 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 October 21, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 29- Year B)
First Lesson: Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Second Lesson: Hebrews 5:1-10
Gospel of Mark 10:35-45

This week’s stories are good ones. In terms of stewardship I would probably lean heavy again on the gospel this week. But before dwelling in Mark, a couple notes about some of the other readings.

The passage from Isaiah 53 is all about the suffering servant. It’s a story you might often hear during or associate with Holy Week, offering perspective and prophecy about the passion. In terms of stewardship, this important story is one at the hear of the story of God for us, and it is always a good and important one to repeat.

Psalm 91 offers reminders of God’s promises and saving work for us. We read or sing with the psalmist, “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16, NRSV). In terms of stewardship, how might we respond to God’s work for us like this?

Now, if wanting to dig in more with stewardship I would dig into the gospel story from Mark 10:35-45. It starts with an odd and perhaps power hungry request. “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory’” (Mark 10:35-37, NRSV). Naturally this request isn’t going to be taken well by the other disciples.

Jesus doesn’t necessarily care about the others’ thoughts in hearing this request, because he sees right through it and knows that James and John don’t know what they are asking. ”

But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared’” (Mark 10:38-40, NRSV).

The sacramental language in this is rich. Perhaps thinking about God’s words (and promises) that accompany these sacraments, “for you,” might be a helpful opportunity for thinking about stewardship.

The wisdom of this story is about serving, and being a servant. This is part of the identity of being a child of God. It’s also what it means and looks like to be a steward, disciple, and arguably even a leader in Jesus’ view.

Signs of true service, care for one’s neighbors, and leadership, as picture in two of the beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in York, Nebraska.

Jesus calls out the false leaders who are power hungry, who defraud or don’t care for their people and who don’t understand service. To the disciples Jesus says, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them” (Mark 10:42, NRSV). Maybe this might be a lesson for us in leadership? Perhaps even a call for pause for thinking about leaders in our midst, spheres of influence, governments, etc.?

Jesus goes further though in offering a view of what service, faithful leadership, discipleship, and stewardship looks like. “But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, NRSV).

In thinking about stewardship this week, it would be an ideal time to share stories of how you see those in your midst serving. This is stewardship in action, and too often these examples are taken for granted, instead of being connected to the deeper why behind what they are doing and why they are doing it as stewards and servants of God’s love.

In whatever way you might describe service and stewardship, may God’s love and presence be with you and be shared through you.

Sunday October 21, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Year 1- Week 7)
Narrative Theme for the Day: David and Bathsheba
Focus Passages: 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9 and Psalm 51:1-9
Gospel Verse: Matthew 21:33-41

The story of David and Bathsheba isn’t exactly an obvious one for thinking about stewardship. You could think about the stewardship of relationships or justice, and depending on your context, it may be an important time for this. Or, given the narrative’s inclusion of 2 Samuel 12, you might take Nathan’s story to David as an opportunity to think about stewardship and especially about how we care for one another, neighbors near and far, as stewards of God’s love.

“The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’” (2 Samuel 12:2-6, NRSV).

David has the response that we would expect of David. One of working and striving for justice and concern for the neighbor. Unfortunately for David, he is also the one that needs to confess, just as we are sinners and fall short, and need to confess our shortcomings. Although in this case, David’s are pretty awful. And Nathan has the wisdom and courage to call him on it.

Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:7-9, NRSV).

As stewards, how do we care for our neighbors in need locally and globally? The answer might lead to stories which could make for rich and inspiring preaching this week. Or, if needed, how might we be missing the mark and falling short in serving our neighbors in need? And in which case, how can we confess our shortcomings, pray, and be open to God’s movement calling us to change direction and be made aware of our neighbors in need? And then give us the courage to respond and serve?

Psalm 51 is included this week as David’s prayer for cleaning and pardon upon Nathan’s wisdom shared with him. It might be a helpful way to frame our own confession, especially for when we don’t respond with joy and gratitude for what God has done for us, and instead focus on our own wants and desires.

The gospel pairing is a bit longer than usual this week, coming from Matthew 21, and it features the “Parable of the Wicked Tenants.” It’s an important and hard stewardship story, to be sure. And it might offer a good story example outside of Nathan’s story and parable to David, for how we are to not care for our neighbors and be stewards, so that by hearing the negative examples, we might strive to be better stewards of all that God entrusts to us to live abundantly, and to love and serve God and our neighbors whom God calls us into relationship with.

Wherever the stories might take you this week, may God’s love and promises challenge and comfort you.

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