Each Monday on the blog 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 Festival of the Holy Trinity are as follows:
All four texts are deep and rich ones this week. You might expect this to be the case, since it is such a festive day where we dwell in the mystery and awesomeness of the Holy Trinity (and don’t try and explain it, for if we do that we’ll all likely just fall victim to one heresy or another).
In terms of stewardship, my first reaction is to dig deep into Psalm 8. The psalmist proclaims, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:3-8, NRSV).
On the one hand this is a great re-telling of what God does- the creative and redemptive work. In making clear what God does, it could lead naturally to the stewardship piece of what is our joyful response for all of God’s work for us.
On another hand, the psalmist references the creation work of Genesis, saying “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands.” Humanity has been given dominion, which means and includes responsibility to care for and steward all that God has entrusted to our care- “all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.”
How are we doing at caring for what God entrusts? Or, perhaps we need to be awakened to a new understanding of the breadth of all that God entrusts to our care, and why God entrusts it to us? Either question would make for an important stewardship point or even sermon. Regarding the Trinity, one might connect these questions to the reminder that the Triune God is present with us all ways, guiding us and calling us in the act of entrusting, but also with us as we discern what God might be calling us to do and in the work of caring for all that is in our care.
Romans is always full of good stuff in the lectionary, and Romans 5:1-5 doesn’t disappoint. “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NRSV). This passage offers good reminders of whose work it is, God’s, and that faith is a gift which justifies, not the other way around. Nor is it a work. Paul continues, “and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5, NRSV). The Holy Spirit has been given to us. Talk about stewardship. With that gift, what has been made possible for us, through us, and with us? I suspect it’s a long list, which might make for a powerful reflection or stewardship sermon in your context this week.
Our gospel lesson from John 16 is another great one too. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15, NRSV).
In thinking about stewardship implications here, I am drawn to the last sentence, and particularly, “he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” There is something happening here. It’s not necessarily a transaction, but it is a change or entrusting. It’s not a gift where there is needed some kind of reciprocity in return. But in declaring that all is God in Christ’s, is ours, that shows the depth of God’s love for us. It also shows though to how deep an extent God is entrusting, and calling us to use what is entrusted to live abundantly, and perhaps even more so, to be a part of God’s work in the world in some way, caring for those in need through the resources we have been entrusted.
Like I said, there’s lots of possibilities for thinking about stewardship this week, and I didn’t even mention the depth of the Proverbs passage. That’s a beautiful text, which immediately draws to mind the hymn, “We Eat the Bread of Teaching.” If feeling led by the imagery in this story, I would highly encourage you to check out that hymn (for you Lutherans, it is #518 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship).
In whatever direction you feel led this week, may the promises and presence of the Triune God be with you and shared through you.
As last week was Pentecost Sunday, year one of the Narrative Lectionary cycle has come to a close. For the summer months, you have the option of a number of short series. It is recommended this year that they begin with a four week focus on the Psalms. So what follows as reflections are with this series in mind.
Psalm 113 begins, “Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord” (Psalm 113:1, NRSV). This is clearly a psalm of praise, which in terms of stewardship is important. By being such a Psalm it offers words that might frame or name our joy and gratitude for all that God has done for us.
In offering such praise, we acknowledge that God is God. The psalmist asks, “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Psalm 113:5-6, NRSV). This rhetorical question is immediately followed by an explanation of some of God’s work. “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 113:7-9, NRSV). This is work that God can only do, and the work God promises to do. And it’s work for which we can only offer thanks and praise, and then be so moved, that we join in this work in some way which God might be inviting us to be a part of through seeing possibilities around us, or the needs of our neighbors and strangers all around.
There is enough richness here for stewardship preaching to be sure. But if you connect it with the appointed gospel lesson from Luke 15, boy do the possibilities multiply.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10, NRSV).
God’s work in this story is obvious. When one returns to God and is found, God rejoices. God will go to any and all depths for God’s people, and that’s a promise like as displayed in the psalm with images of being “raised” and “lifted up.” In the finding of the coin, there is grace. And what is the logical response to such grace? Joy and rejoicing. May it be so with our stewardship in response to all of God’s work and promises for us too.