Every Monday I usually share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. This week I’m pretty late because of Thanksgiving, but if you are still needing to prep or plan for a sermon this weekend, this week’s nuggets based on the appointed readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary are as follows:
Sunday November 25, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- Christ the King Sunday (Last Sunday after Pentecost- Lectionary 34- Year B)
First Lesson: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Second Lesson: Revelation 1:4b-8
Gospel of John 18:33-37
You have made it. Congratulations! It is the last Sunday of the Church Year. Christ the King Sunday. Reign of Christ Sunday. Or whatever name you want to give it. In terms of stewardship this week, emphasis is probably best given to the story. As this week’s selection of readings are good summaries of the faith, of why we do what we do, hope and the promise, and the reminder of what is most central to our story.
Psalm 93 includes the familiar refrain, “The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Psalm 93:1-2, NRSV). God has established the world. The world is God’s creation. This matters, because we are entrusted with it to steward and care for it. It’s not something to be wasted away or hoarded. Because over it, over us, and over all, is our God and King.
The second lesson for this Sunday comes from the beginning of Revelation, and is a sort of invocation. “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, NRSV). These two short verses are excellent summaries of God’s work for us. If I were preaching on stewardship I would probably lean heavily here. God loves us. God has freed us from our sins. God has made us to be part of God’s kingdom, serving and doing God’s work. Our stewardship and discipleship are a big part of this.
Finally, comes the familiar and powerful story from part of John’s passion narrative. Jesus is before Pilate, and Jesus explains a bit more about his kingship and God’s kingdom. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:36-37, NRSV).
This is who God in Christ is. And because of this, this is who we are- part of God’s kingdom, each a beautiful and beloved Child of God, because of ultimately the saving work of God in Christ for us. That’s what God does. It’s not only servant leadership, though it is that. It is salvific work, not only sacrifice but claiming work, once and for all. That’s probably the most important stewardship sermon to preach this week and any week for that matter.
Sunday November 18, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- Christ the King Sunday (Year 1- Week 12)
Narrative Theme for the Day: Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon
Focus Passages: Jeremiah 1:4-10, 7:1-11
Gospel Verse: Matthew 21:12-13
For this Christ the King Sunday, the Narrative Lectionary features two parts of Jeremiah’s long and interesting life story. It starts with Jeremiah’s call and commissioning. In terms of stewardship there is much potential here.
God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, NRSV). The first part of this verse would well apply to any of God’s children. Because before we are formed, God knows us, loves us, sees us, and is with us. This is all the more true long after we are formed. This is a reminder of God’s promises and presence for all of God’s people.
God says that God has put God’s words in Jeremiah’s mouth. It’s a hope that we all have been entrusted with this, or at least some of God’s work. When we remember this, what we do and don’t do, seems to be all the more important, because God can and does use us and work through us to help those in need, and to spread the good news of God’s promises and saving work. We read, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’ Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:8-9, NRSV).
There is also a reminder of God’s special call to Jeremiah, but also the fact that God calls each of us to different vocations and work. God says, “See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant’” (Jeremiah 1:10, NRSV).
The second part of the Narrative Lectionary story involves Jeremiah’s sermon in the temple. As you might guess by the included gospel verse of Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple many years later, it may not have been so well received. I guess if I heard these words, I wouldn’t necessarily always receive them gratefully either.
Jeremiah proclaims in his sermon, “For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5-7, NRSV). Now as hard as this might be to hear, because of an accusatory tone perhaps, Jeremiah is reminding God’s people of what is central for how we love and serve our neighbor, obeying the commandments of God, and caring for all of God’s people. This is the same stewardship, reconciliation, love and justice work you and I are all called to today.
Rhetorically I might ask, looking at the news and those in leadership:
- How are we doing at caring for and not oppressing the alien?
- How are we doing at caring for the orphans and widows among and around us?
- We haven’t shed innocent blood in the sacred places, like our churches and faith communities, right? (Or, have we condoned violence and turned our heads at common sense gun control solutions perhaps that have made it all the easier for violent acts to happen in temples, synagogues, churches, mosques, and other places of worship?)
- How are we doing at recognizing and remembering that we have one God? Or have we created other gods and idols whom hold more importance than the God we know most clearly in God in Christ?
These all might be hard questions to hear. But on this Sunday it might be important to ponder these, because our answers to these questions might tell us where we need to work and grow or reorient ourselves as stewards and disciples For God has done the hard work, once and for all, of being handed over, crucified, and resurrected for us. Do we live gratefully and share in that love with everyone of God’s children? Or do we limit it and God’s saving work, creating barriers and not doing the kingdom building work of justice for all of God’s children?
Worse yet, as Jeremiah asks and then Jesus similarly will ask a few generations later, “Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:11, NRSV). And from Matthew’s story about Jesus, “Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13, NRSV).
Are we as Christ’s church, whom Christ is king over, living faithfully and leaning into the hard but important kingdom building work? Or have we become a “den of robbers,” or a group of people who are more about ourselves than those in need? Have we gazed and turned toward the powerful, rather than caring for the lowly and working for justice with, alongside, and for them?
Hard questions, but important ones. Perhaps one or more of them, tied to this story from Jeremiah might make for a timely and powerful stewardship sermon on Christ the King Sunday.
Whatever direction the Spirit might lead, may God’s love and promises be made known to you and through you this week.