Usually every Monday I share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. Because of schedule demands, this week is a bit different. Realizing it’s Thursday and many of you preachers are already working on your sermon, this is probably more late than useful. But if useful, I am going to offer just a few short stewardship nuggets based on the appointed readings for Reformation Sunday, as well as the readings appointed for this weekend by the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary:
All four readings this week are mighty. (See what I did there? Inside pun for Lutherans intended.) In terms of stewardship, I would lean heavily on the idea of story. What is the story of God? How has it enfolded in the life of a constantly forming and reforming church? How does the story of God continue in our midst? And what might God be up to now, and calling us to be a part of today, tomorrow, and the years ahead?
For those in the midst of the challenges of change, hear the balm that is Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult” (Psalm 46:1-3, NRSV).
For those giving into the idolatry of fear, self-centeredness, and scarcity that seems to have found a home in the places of leadership in our country and world, especially when we know that we are called to love and serve our neighbor. And for all of stewards that know and believe that God entrusts us with all that we need to care for all of God’s children and creation, the psalmist reminds, “The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:6-7, NRSV).
These reminders are good news. They are central to God’s story, which is our story that we are a part of today in the here and now. And for that, we are in awe, rejoice, give thanks, and share the story as the psalmist proclaims, “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:10-11, NRSV).
If you are a Lutheran celebrating or commemorating the Reformation this weekend, perhaps there is no better theological aloe than Romans 3:19-28? In this we are reminded of God’s promises, work, and gifts for us. All of which we could never earn, but are offered to us through grace, justifying us through faith. This again is God’s story for us, and in a stewardship sense, we all need to hear it often and share it with a hurting, anxious, and fearful world bent on hopelessness, fear, scarcity and judgment. As Paul writes, “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24, NRSV). And further, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (Romans 3:28, NRSV).
This good news that Paul proclaims, is built on the promises of the gospel. This week we we again hear about the Spirit of Truth, and the promise of grace and forgiveness. As Jesus proclaims, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36, NRSV).
“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed!” This is Good News. This is central to our story, and our identity as Children of God. On this Reformation Sunday, tell this story. Repeat and remind of these promises. And invite your community to be stewards of this story- sharing it deeply, proclaiming widely in faith, life, story, and action. And if there is a need to take a step back, dwell with the call of the psalmist, to “be still and know” that God is God, and we are not. Thanks be to God for that!
Sunday October 28, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 30- Year B)
First Lesson: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Second Lesson: Hebrews 7:23-28
Gospel of Mark 10:46-52
If not using the Reformation texts, I would suggest thinking about stewardship as it might be related to the gospel lesson from Mark this week. We read about a healing act of Jesus, another act of God’s saving and life-giving work for us.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:51-52, NRSV).
I wonder: How do we respond to these moments of transformation and change? How do we respond to God’s grace like this in our midst? Do we celebrate, give thanks, share the good news of what we have seen and experienced, and follow God on the way as part of God’s work in the world and as part of God’s disciples and stewards?
Or, do we ignore what we have seen and experienced? Do we deny it even? Do we celebrate for a moment, and then go back to what we were doing, choosing not to follow on in this abundant and challenging life of discipleship and stewardship?
Perhaps digging into these questions might be fruitful for thinking about stewardship and this story this week.
Sunday October 28, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Year 1- Week 8)
Narrative Theme for the Day: Solomon’s Wisdom
Focus Passages: 1 Kings 3:4-9, (10-15), 16-28
Gospel Verse: Matthew 6:9-10
It’s Reformation Sunday, and this week we find a story about God and Solomon’s wisdom. What might they have to do with one another? And what might they say about stewardship?
“And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you”” (1 Kings 3:8-12, NRSV).
Solomon, as a wise servant, disciple, and steward of the Lord’s work in the world, asked for wisdom to do God’s work better. He could have asked for wealth. He could have asked for glory, but instead, he asked for wisdom and discernment and understanding. What might this say about him? Might we be so wise?
In this world today, we can get so focused on the “need” or more accurately “want” to have more, or of getting ahead of another person or opportunity, that we can easily forget to be present in the moment that God has placed us in and called us to. We can get preoccupied with not having enough and needing more, giving into the lies of consumerism and scarcity. Solomon offers another way.
Later in this chapter we read the famous story of Solomon putting his wisdom to work (a wisdom that seems all too rare in public leadership these days), when faced with the dilemma of two women and one living boy. “The king said, ‘Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.’ But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—’Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!’ The other said, ‘It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.’ Then the king responded: ‘Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.’” (1 Kings 3:25-27, NRSV).
This is part of our story. Knowing that in the midst of crisis and challenge, God is present offering us help and calling us to prayer to help discern where God might have us go, or what God might have us do. Solomon offers a model for this. And the people recognized it, as we read that, “All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice” (1 Kings 3:28, NRSV).
On this Reformation Sunday, in thinking about stewardship, I would invite us to pray and to dwell more deeply into thinking and wondering about what God might have us do? What might God be calling us to consider? And where might the Holy Spirit’s energy and wisdom be blowing and leading us to as the church and people of God in 2018?
It’s fitting then, that the gospel verse that is paired with this story comes from Matthew 6. “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10, NRSV). Whose kingdom is it? Whose will is it? Rhetorical questions I know, but that “Your” really matters, and helps us remember as stewards it’s not all about “us,” but rather about God with us and God calling us, and entrusting us with all that God does so that we can serve our neighbors, be a part of God’s kingdom building work, and live abundantly.
Whatever lesson(s) and story(s) you are called to preach from, may God’s love and grace, the promise of forgiveness and the gift of life we could never earn be made real for you, and proclaimed through you this week as God is most certainly with you.