Every Monday I share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. This week’s nuggets based on the appointed readings from the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany are as follows:
In terms of stewardship this week, I think there are two readings that stand out to me, Psalm 138 and Luke 5:1-11. Let’s start with the psalm and then end with the Gospel.
The psalmist uses words of thanks, gratitude, and praise for God. “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down towards your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything” (Psalm 138:1-2, NRSV).
These words give helpful language for our response to all that God has done, continues to do, and promises to do for us. It might be worth wondering, given that congregations by and large have finished their annual meetings for the winter now, and in most cases relatively recently approved budgets for the ministry year, to spend some time thinking about how is our budget and ministry living out faithfully our response to all that God has done for us, promises to do, and calls and entrusts us to be a part of God’s work in the world today around us? Does our budget reflect this call? Or perhaps are we called to step up and do more?
Also helpfully, the psalmist reminds further about how God is there and present with us, even in the hardest of times offering hope, love, and deliverance. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands” (Psalm 138:7-8, NRSV). If it might be a tough time in your context, perhaps this reading might be a balm this week.
Now let’s shift gears to the gospel. On the surface, this is one of those famous stories. If you grew up in the church, it’s one of the ones you probably learned and heard almost every year in Sunday School. Maybe you even sang the Sunday School song, “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me….” (Forgive me for the gendered language, thankfully the gospel in the revised common lectionary says “fishers of people.”) Okay, I’ll admit it, that song is the first thing that went through my head reading this week’s story once again.
In terms of stewardship, let’s focus on two big chunks. First, when Jesus gets into the boats. “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets'” (Luke 5:3-5, NRSV).
In the usual unpacking of this story, it’s common to think about faith and answering the call of Jesus to go out to the deep waters and let down your nets. There is nothing wrong with this interpretation. But in thinking about stewardship this week, I am actually drawn to Jesus’ use of the boat in order to preach and teach from. Think about those things that are near you or entrusted to you in your daily life. Whether they are boats or something else, how do we use the boat(s) or resources at your disposal to share and steward God’s story and that which God entrusts us to live abundantly and do God’s work? Unpacking this image or question might be fruitful for stewardship in your context.
Now the second chunk in this story I am drawn to, is its conclusion. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:8-11, NRSV).
In thinking about stewardship, how do we answer the call that we have all received in baptism and life into our vocations? The disciples are being called in this story, and they are being called to “catch people.” And to be honest, that’s a call we all have and are given as people of faith. How do we answer that call in the way we live and serve? In the way we show up in the world? And in the way we share and live out the good news which Jesus has entrusted and promised to us?
However you might answer these questions, or in whatever ways these readings might draw you, may God’s love and promise be made known to and through you this week.
Sunday February 10, 2019: Narrative Lectionary- The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Year 1- Week 23)
Narrative Theme for the Day: The Golden Rule
Focus Passages: Matthew 7:1-14, 24-29
Psalm Accompaniment: Psalm 37:16-18
There is so much packed into Matthew 7, you could really preach on just about anything in this chapter. In terms of stewardship, perhaps you might be drawn to verse 6, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Matthew 7:6, NRSV). Granted, this is an image of contempt and might well be a metaphor for persons and the dangers and problems of judging others and othering. In terms of stewardship though, perhaps there is some wisdom in discerning how you use (or steward) what you have been entrusted with.
I also have to caution you, because the “ask and receive” wisdom appears in this chapter as well (verses 7-11). We believe in a God that provides and answers prayers and needs. However, there can be a slippery slope here when not careful theologically between this and a prosperity gospel. This is not a prosperity gospel supporting story, but rather a reminder that God is present in the midst, and God is there with you.
Breathe deep and recognize God’s presence, but also acknowledge that asking God for just anything like one might in the fables to a genie (like a million dollars) is not what this story is getting at. But rather, that as we pray, “give us our daily bread,” we ask God for what we really need and trust that God will help provide it. Whether that comes directly in manna from heaven, through our vocations, or in the way we or our neighbors show up for those in need around us.
My favorite verse in this chapter for stewardship is probably verse 12. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NRSV). This is Matthew’s summary of the golden rule, and also an articulation of neighbor love. Perhaps this might be a good week to ponder in your context about how you might be doing at this individually and as a faith community. How are we showing up and serving and doing to others as we would have them do to us? Or put another way as a friend of mine recently put it, “do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” How do you want people to show up and treat you in the world? Whatever your answer is to that question perhaps is your call to live as a steward and disciple for your neighbors.
There’s so much more in this passage, but I think that’s probably enough for a starting place for thinking about stewardship. Whatever wisdom strikes you in Jesus’ teaching this week, may it remind you of God’s love and promise, and challenge you to share that love and promise anew.