Preaching on Stewardship- August 18, 2019- The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

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Each week 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 Tenth Sunday after Pentecost are as follows:

Sunday August 18, 2019: Revised Common Lectionary- The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Lectionary 20 (Year C)
First Lesson: Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Second Lesson: Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Gospel of Luke 12:49-56

This week’s stories are important ones. In terms of stewardship though, they don’t offer quite as obvious stewardship wisdom as compared to some of the stories we have read and dwelled in the past couple of weeks. That said, there are a few nuggets I think worth highlighting.

Psalm 82 offers reminders of what God does, and what we are called to do as God’s people. “Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4, NRSV). These words and ideas are consistently repeated throughout scriptures. God saves, we cannot. But that saving work also is connected to our call. God saves and delivers us, so how do we respond to this work for us? Our response is our stewardship. And amid a current climate in our society and world, where othering, racism, and division are running rampant, and despite what those in power might say, our call as God’s people is clear. To work for justice and peace. To help those in need.

The second lesson from Hebrews might provide a lens to think about legacy and stewardship. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV).

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Speaking of a “Great Cloud of Witnesses,” last week we had the joy of being gathered together with some of our dearest friends from across the country. Friendships, relationships, and love borne out of time spent together in seminary (and college). And amazingly, new relationships since like that of being godparents. Caroline was lucky enough to have seven of her godparents together in this picture. And we were lucky enough to have all three of our godsons visit us last week too.

The image of a “great cloud of witnesses,” is one that could make for a powerful stewardship theme. Imagine for yourself or your community who that cloud includes. What stories might you tell about them? What examples of discipleship and stewardship have they shown or embodied? Perhaps thinking about this, might make for some timely stewardship reflections or preaching in your context.

The gospel this week is a tough one. Jesus isn’t hiding the truth here. He is boldly acknowledging that his presence and call will not always bring people together. God’s presence changes things. God’s call changes things, including relationships and community. Jesus says, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12:49-51, NRSV).

Our identity as stewards and disciples flows out of our baptisms. For through that water and the Word, and the promises made through it all, our lives are changed. That is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a hard thing. Because in that, in those promises, we cannot shirk them and the responsibilities that flow through them- responsibilities like those reiterated by the psalmist this week. It’s not always easy to be a follower of Jesus. There’s a cross at the center of our walk and life together, after all. But perhaps in thinking about this, as it relates to our roles and identities as stewards and disciples it might be timely for you and your community.

Whatever story or idea catches your imagination, may God’s love and promise be made known to you and through you this week.

Sunday August 18, 2019: Narrative Lectionary- The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Narrative Theme for the Day: Creeds (Week 1)
Focus Passages: Genesis 1:1-5 and Matthew 6:30-34

The middle of August, means we are close to the start of another program year and another year in the Narrative Lectionary cycle. But first, we have three more weeks of summer. The Narrative Lectionary offers a couple possibilities for this time, and for the sake of this blog, I am going to focus on the three-week series suggested on “Creeds.” In thinking about stewardship, the two appointed passages offer rich possibilities for thinking and preaching about stewardship.

First, the story from the beginning of Genesis. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5, NRSV).

God’s work is creation and creativity. God does this as God can only do. God’s work is that of a promise, life, love, and relationship. And that begins here in this story. A story that we acknowledge in our confession and profession of faith. A story that is on-going, a story that we are each a part of. In thinking about stewardship, if you follow the story in Genesis, we know that God entrusts this creation to God’s children. And this entrusting is one that comes with responsibility. We are to care for, manage, and use responsibly that which God entrusts to live abundantly, care for those in need, and do some of God’s work in the world. 

In thinking about the entrusting of God’s creation, the Genesis story this week is connected with this story from Matthew 6. In this, the act of entrusting is connected to the work and upbuilding of the Kingdom of God. Jesus says, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:30-34, NRSV).

“Do not worry…” and “strive first for the kingdom of God.” Either one of these phrases from Jesus would make a compelling stewardship theme. Perhaps they might inspire you as you think about your own stewardship, but even more so the stewardship and discipleship that your whole community is called to embody.

So, even though there may be much to worry about in the world, God is with us, just as God has always been since the beginning of creation. With that presence and promise, may we all strive for the kingdom of God. May we steward that which God entrusts, and may we join in the work of loving our neighbor- of bearing God’s love and grace for all.

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