Preaching on Stewardship- April 28, 2019- Second Sunday of Easter

After taking a few weeks off for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday the blog returns today offering its usual weekly Monday post, in which 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 in Lent are as follows:

Sunday April 28, 2019: Revised Common Lectionary- The Second Sunday of Easter (Year C)
First Lesson: Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:14-29
Second Lesson: Revelation 1:4-8
Gospel of John 20:19-31

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia! Happy Easter friends!

The joy of the season continues this week. In our readings, we pick up with Psalm 118, much of what may have been used as the Psalm on Easter Sunday, it is also the assigned psalm this coming week. In thinking about stewardship then, we’ll start with the Psalm, offer a passing comment on the second lesson from Revelation, and then move to the Gospel.

The psalmist writes, “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21, NRSV). Our stewardship is our response to all that God has done, promises to do, and continues to do, for us. Understanding that, then really stewardship is our response to the promises, actions, and story of Easter. It starts with our thanks and praise, much like the psalmist who gives words to our voice and gratitude for God’s saving work for us.

The beautiful beginning of sunrise on Easter morning out in the country in Nebraska.

The psalmist repeats this theme throughout Psalm 118. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:23-24, NRSV). And again the psalmist proclaims, “You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 118:28-29, NRSV). Preaching the story, response, gratitude, and joy with the psalmist seems like a natural way to incorporate and consider stewardship in preaching this week. 

The reading from Revelation offers a reminder about who our God is. The one who defeated death and the grave is also the one who boldly proclaims, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8, NRSV). In thinking about stewardship, it is important to always point to the center of the story, of our God and who God is, and what God has done, will do, and promises to do. This week’s readings from Acts, Psalm 118, Revelation 1, and John 20 all do this. So if preaching on stewardship, perhaps letting these texts stand with that central claim might be the most powerful thing to do.

The gospel story this week is a familiar one. John 20:19-31 is always the appointed gospel in the revised common lectionary for the Second Sunday of Easter, regardless of whether its Year A, B, or C. Recognizing this, there are a few points to ponder.

As Jesus often greeted when seeing his friends, the story begins similarly, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you'” (John 20:19, NRSV). In joining them, the truth of the resurrection begins to spread, moving the disciples from fear, doubt, and mourning, to wonder and rejoicing. When Jesus speaks to us, what is our response? That might be a stewardship question to consider this week.

The story continues, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (John 20:21-23, NRSV).

The on-going presence of God being breathed on the disciples fills them, and in short order, will send them out around the world. In this good news of the resurrection, I wonder, how might God be up to resurrection work in the world today? In what ways might the Spirit be blowing and breathing around you and your context? Answers to these wonderings might well point to God’s activity in the world, how you might be a part of God’s work and witnessing to it, and help paint the stewardship story in your midst.

But wait there is more. This gospel lesson this week is just filled to the brim. It includes the well known remarks of Thomas too. And when Jesus does ultimately appear to Thomas, Jesus declares, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29, NRSV).

All of this story is for us. And the gospel writer makes that clear at the end of today’s reading. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31, NRSV). It’s made pretty clear here why all of this is written down, and what is the purpose and point of this gospel gift. Perhaps dwelling with these last two sentences might be a powerful place to sit, ponder, wonder, and respond this week.

To be honest, I am preaching this week. I’m excited to preach on stewardship and grateful for these stories. But after my first reading of them to start my week, it’s clearly going to be up to the Holy Spirit to guide me this week. Come Holy Spirit! There’s so much good stuff, and preaching on stewardship with these stories seems to have so much potential. To come up with just one sermon, well, that will be the Spirit’s work. May the Spirit too be breathed on you, and may God’s love and saving work for you and for all be made known through you this week.

Sunday April 28, 2019: Narrative Lectionary- The Second Sunday of Easter (Year 1- Week 34)
Narrative Theme for the Day: Great Commission 
Focus Passages: Matthew 28:16-20
Psalm Accompaniment: Psalm 40:9-10

From the joy of the resurrection, the narrative moves to the end of Matthew. As the Easter story might beg, we too are invited to wonder, “what next?

The story for this week begins understandably with a recognition of how the disciples were doing coming to terms with the resurrection and all that they had witnessed, seen, and experienced. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17, NRSV). In some ways this might humanize the whole experience. When something unbelievable happens, some will be in awe. Some might drop down on a knee in prayer, giving thanks to God. And others might doubt, scoff, or just reject the whole notion whether they were witnesses or not. I suspect these were the responses to the resurrection story when it happened, and am sure they are still the responses today.

But of course the story doesn’t end there. This week’s gospel story also includes the Great Commission. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20, NRSV).

This is the gospel for you and for me. It’s central to who we are. And in some ways these three verses might well define what our stewardship in action should look like. Jesus gives the mandate today not just for his disciples who were there as witnesses, but for all of us, God in Christ’s disciples and stewards of all times and places.

How are we doing as God’s people in responding to the call to “go”? Are we making disciples? Are we sharing God’s promises, and baptizing people sharing God’s promises for them, and God’s love and claim for and on them? Are we teaching about God’s love, and God’s call for us to be bearers of that love? And are we then bearing that love as God would have us do?

Any one of these questions’ answers might make for a sermon series, but in digging into this story this week about stewardship, perhaps pondering these questions might help us reflect on the joy of the resurrection, live in the promises of Easter, but also boldly and courageously ask “What’s next?” And then have the courage to go, follow, and do, whatever the answer(s) might be that God might be calling us to consider and be a part of.

The Narrative Lectionary pairs this gospel story with Psalm 40:9-10. Both verses may offer some extra wisdom for stewardship too. “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord” (Psalm 40:9, NRSV). Perhaps in this verse the psalmist is offering an answer to the questions posed by the Great Commission above? At the very least the psalmist is offering a model for what our response might be to God’s saving work for us, and God’s call for us to share about it and point to it in our words and deeds, in all that we do and live.

And further the psalmist proclaims, “I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation” (Psalm 40:10, NRSV). May we be so bold as the psalmist. And may God’s love, promise, and challenge be made real for you and through you this week.

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