Year B Lectionary - Ron Allen, preaching symposium 2012

The Lectionary: Year B

Preaching on Faith and Giving

(Generosity, Use of Material Resources, Stewardship)

ron.allen@cts.edu

 

Strategies for preaching on generosity (stewardship):

Concentrated focus (a few weeks), e.g. financial campaign (spring, fall)

a.       Advantage: Brings attention to use of money/other resources: can help congregation think comprehensively

b.      Disadvantage: Can seem like a special-interest pleading, niche-topic

c.       Disadvantage: If following lectionary, sometimes have to look at texts creatively to find stewardship themes (see below!)

 Over the course of the year  

 a.       Advantage: Helps keep generosity/use of money-material resources a part of everyday fabric of life

b.       Advantage: Topic comes up naturally in connection with texts that mention $$

c.       Advantage: Sensitizes people to think of faith and giving in every day experience

d.      Disadvantage: Scattershot  discussion may not focus intensely on faith and giving/money/material resources

 

Apocalyptic background of Mark, James, and Ephesians as a key to preaching on generosity/stewardship

 

History divided into two ages

Old: Satan, demons, injustice, exploitation, social inequality, fractiousness, injustice, enmity between humankind and nature, violence, death

New (Realm of God): God, angels, Jesus, love, justice, abundance, true community blessing between humankind and nature, peace, life (eternal)

Both old and new ages are material realms.

Ministry of Jesus brings Realm of God into partial expression in present

Use of material resources, including (especially) money, co-operate with one age or the other

Steward/generous: uses material resources in ways consistent with Realm of God

 

Stewardship/generosity helps bring aspects of future (Realm) into present

Stewards/generous ones are in the force field of the Realm when giving

A Fall Series Based on Readings from Mark

The gospel of Mark is almost pure apocalyptic theology in narrative form (per above). Writing about 70 CE in the wake of the Roman sacking Jerusalem and destroying the temple, Mark believes that the second coming will occur very soon.

  

Mark interprets the social chaos of his time as part of the tribulation, the intense suffering expected to precede the apocalypse. The community is conflicted within with regard to how to interpret the present and how to live. Mark portrays the disciples as thick and slow, perhaps using them as a cipher for untrustworthy leaders in his own congregation. The community is also in conflict without, and is especially in tension with some Jewish leaders who accuse the Markan community of not being faithfully Jewish. Mark interprets the story of Jesus in such a way as to help the community believe they are, indeed, still in the stream of Jewish tradition. At the same time, in Mark’s view Judaism was God’s provision for people in old age. A survival religion.

 

This chaos causes many in the community to lose heart, to be in danger of not only of backing away from mission, but of drifting away. Mark’s primary word is to endure the present, and to continue to witness.

 

This vocation includes living as eschatological community in the present, that is, living in the present on the basis of the perspectives, values, and practices of the Realm of God.

 

A question for the Markan congregation is how to use their material resources in a way that is consistent with the Realm. A factor in their deliberations (quite different from today) is that they expected the end of the present age to occur soon. They did not need to make long-term financial plans.

 

Oct 14: Mark 10:17-31 (the person with wealth who does not come into the Realm of God) (not rich young ruler). This is a must-preach text. Our question: do we have to sell what we own and give to the poor?

 

The person with wealth is a kind of symbol of people who are aware that things are happening but does not fully understand them. This person wants to inherit eternal life, i.e. to be a part of Realm of God when it comes fully.

 

The person has kept the commandments: no murder, adultery, theft, false witness, defrauding. Honors father and mother. In other words, has been faithful to Judaism (a religion that gets people to the edge of the new age). These behaviors all contribute to community. BUT, they do not actively provide material support for those who have been dislocated economically by the social chaos. THAT is what Mark has in mind: providing material support between now and the second coming for those who are now in need.

 

However, the person with wealth is still entwined in the old age with its idea that material possessions provide security. In a certain way that was true in the old age, but those structures are passing away.

 

Jesus: “How hard for those who have wealth to enter the Realm of God.” They are attached to the old world and its values. However, “For God all things are possible.” When people are caught up in the force field of the RG, they turn their possessions over the community. God graciously makes the possibility of the Realm available. Those who say yes are caught up in it.

 

Today’s preacher: our situation is quite different. We do have to make long-term plans. But, we can do so from the perspective of the Realm.

 

Oct 21: Mark 10:35-45 (become servant of all). While this passage does not directly deal with generosity/stewardship, its emphasis on Realm-servanthood contains implications for the use of material resources.

 

James and John  want seats on Jesus’ right and left hands after the second coming when the Realm is fully operational (Mk. 10:35-37). Their request comes from an old-age perspective. They assume the Realm will have a hierarchical social structure that will benefit people at the top. Jesus rebukes them because they “do not know what they are asking,” that is, they make an old age request that is not appropriate to the coming Realm. In a pastoral warning, Jesus reminds them that the transition from now to the Realm is through the suffering of their social moment (10:38-39).

 

The text implies that the Realm will have a social structure (10:40), but it will not operate like the hierarchical structures of the present age. The gentiles—the epitome of the rulers of the old world—practice abusive hierarchy (10:41-42). But in the Realm, power is exercised through servanthood, that is, by serving the purposes of the coming world (10:43-45).

 

Many people in the church—and many congregations—view material resources as a way of establishing the kind of old-age recognition that James and John seek. To serve God’s eschatological community and purposes, we should use our money to create the kind of relationships and community represented in the Realm. How can my money serve the Realm?

 

Oct 28: Mark 10:46-52 (opening of eyes of Bartimaeus). This passage does not directly deal with fundage, but it sets out a key perspective that relates to being generous.

 

The miracle stories in Mark often function on two levels: the medical and social situation of the person(s) involved, and at a more symbolic level. Mark uses blindness in reference both to those who are blind (and whose healing is a sign of the presence of the Realm) and to those who do not perceive God’s Realm-bringing purposes through Jesus.

 

Mark 8:22-26 (the two-step opening of the eyes of the blind person at Bethsaida and Mark 10:46-52 are brackets for the central section of the gospel. Prior to Mark 8:22, the disciples (and perhaps the readers0 are like the person at Bethsaida: they have received a first touch in that they perceive some things about the Realm but they do not a second touch in order to perceive that the Realm will come by way of the suffering of the Christ and of his followers.

 

The second touch takes place on the road to Caesarea Philippi (“the Son of Man must undergo great suffering . . . . If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross . . . .”) and in the subsequent narrative.

 

Mark 10:46-52 indicates that they have received what they need to know. The way of discipleship includes the teaching in Mark 10:17-31 and Mark 10:35-45. A part of having one’s eyes opened is embracing what Jesus says to the rich person and to the disciples. Thus, generous giving is a way of indicating that Jesus has, indeed, opened our eyes.

 

Nov 4: Mark 12:28-34 (great commandment). The immediate purposes of this passage are polemical and adaptive, but it contains an implication for the use of material resources in acts of generosity and in stewardship.

 

The polemical purpose: to say that the church that the essence of Judaism is not the network of 600+ commandments but these two: love God and love neighbor. This text assures Mark’s congregation that, contrary to what some of their Jewish neighbors might say, the congregation is truly Jewish.

 

The adaptive purpose: say to the church that the temple and its systems are not essential to Judaism. The temple is now destroyed. The sacrificial system no longer exists. The message of this text is that love of God and neighbor are the essentials, and these can take place without a temple.

 

Implications for the use of material resources: love of neighbor as one’s kin (the meaning of “love one’s neighbor as oneself”) includes doing things that provide for the neighbor’s material well being. In Israel, to love one’s kin meant to provide the resources necessary for a secure and blessed life. In the process, the one providing was also blessed.

 

The community that would be faithful would express its love of God by actively loving its neighbors. The preacher can explore how we love our neighbors through the use of our money and other material resources.

 

Nov 11: Mark 12:38-44 (widow’s offering). While interpreters used to take the widow as the example of generosity par excellence, most scholars today see the text as a part of Mark’s polemic against Jewish leaders.

 

In Mark 12:38-40, the author pictures the scribes as exhibiting fake religiosity which serves their own egos (being recognized by others in public) while the scribes “devour widows’ houses” (12:40a).

 

The widow, under the pressure of the scribes and other temple leadership, feels compelled to put her last two copper coins into the temple treasury. These coins were the smallest in use, so they were worth very little, being worth only 1/64th of a day’s wage (1/64th of a denarius). Key: these coins were the last on which she had to live. In order to have funds, the widow would have to sell her house. Even worse, the scribes may already have devoured her house, and she is now putting into the temple treasury the last of her total worth.

 

From the standpoint of today’s preacher, this passage is a pastoral warning: we should not be like the scribes who misunderstood the financial implications of their own tradition. (The preacher might, of course, reflect on how we in the church and beyond “devour widows houses”).

 

Nov. 18: Mark 13:1-8 (apocalyptic signs now: present world ending/realm coming). This text appears to have nothing to say about faith and giving, generosity or stewardship. In the larger context of Mark, however, the preacher can infer suggestions for our use of material resources.

 

Although Mk 13:1-8 appears to foretell the future, most scholars agree that it describes the situation of Mark’s own congregation. Using the motif of prophecy after the fact, Mark places in the mouth of Jesus things that are already happening in Mark’s world as if Jesus predicted them. Mark’s point, already noted, is that these events are signs that the transition from the old world to the Realm is rapidly moving forward. A purpose of this passage is to help the congregation recognize the critical moment in which it lived: destruction of the temple (13:1-4), confusion over who is an authoritative interpreter of the times (13:5-6), violence and war (13:7-8). In 13:9-13, Mark points to conflict between Mark’s community and some leaders of Judaism as well as conflict within households in the Markan congregation. These are, as Mark says, “but the beginning of the birth pangs.” The destruction of the temple included a latter day “desolating sacrilege” (13:14).

 

The text directs the Markan community to several responses, including: (1) they are to invite gentiles into the eschatological community (13:10); (2) they are to witness to those who harass them (13:11); (3) they are to endure this difficult time (13:13); (4) they are to be ready to move, perhaps to Galilee to welcome the returning Jesus (13:14b; 16:7).

 

Mark does not here mention money, material resources or giving. But as we pointed out earlier, Mark’s community is in a season of collapse with some members on the margins of existence. Mark has earlier called on members to share their material goods with one another so that all can have as much security as is possible in such a transitional time (e.g. in 10:17-31). Mark 13:1-8 intensifies the reader’s sense of  why such sharing and mutual security is important. The world is collapsing and these resources give many in the community a chance to live and witness.

 

The preacher and her or his congregation may not believe we are today living in the last days. But, we do know congregations that are in various kinds and modes of crisis. And we live in a culture with contemporary analogues to the ancient circumstances (e.g. distress, violence, war). Whether the preacher’s congregation is in a situation in which chaos and survival is a question, or whether the preacher and congregation recognize such conditions in the wider world, the implication for giving is clear. We can be on the side of chaos and death (and thus invite chaos and death upon ourselves), or we can give on the side of regeneration and life, and experience regeneration and life personally, as congregations, and as a culture.

A Fall Series Based on Readings from James

 

Readings from James are a major gift to ministers preaching on generosity/stewardship/use of material resources: implications for use of money/material resources in almost every chapter.

 

The theological outlook of James is Jewish as heard through Christian apocalypticism (Jesus is God’s agent in bringing the new and ending the old). In addition to apocalyptic outlook, the wisdom tradition is in the background of James, especially as mediated through Hellenistic Judaism. The preacher can bring wisdom perspectives on the use of material resources.

 

James believes community is living in the time of intense suffering before the apocalypse. James wants community members to support one another in that time. Like Mark, James thinks use of material resources is for the short-term until apocalypse.

 

The use of money and material resources is at the heart of James’ concern. An issue of particular interest to the preacher: some of the people of means in the congregation to whom James evidently did not share their resources with those who were poor; some of the people without means evidently deferred to the people with wealth.

 

It is easy to read James as being against those who have lots of money.  This simple polarization (rich = bad; poor = good) does not take into account the wisdom background in which people with means find blessing by sharing with those who have less.

 

James seeks for those with wealth to use their wealth as the means whereby God would care for those without and to live in egalitarian community. In doing so, per italics above, the wealthy who give are relieved of the dangers that are on the edge of wealth (idolatry of money, selfishness) and those who do not have so much are relieved of the dangers of poverty (starvation, homelessness, shame) while all live together in eschatological community in the present.

 

For James, faith and works are not opposed: they are two sides of the same reality. By “faith” Paul means what James has in mind with “faith and works.”

 

Since attendance may be low on Labor Day weekend (Sept 2), the preacher want to begin this series from James on Sept 9 and move the readings one week later. If the preacher wanted a four Sunday focus on stewardship in September, she or could omit James 3:1-12 (Sept 16) from the sequence.

 

Sept 2 (Labor Day weekend): James 1:17-27 (“Every generous act of giving . . . is from above . . . Be doers of the word”). This is a must-preach text from standpoint of stewardship/generosity.

 

The lectionary sets the stage by noting: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from God . . .  in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Js. 1:17). Preacher could develop a theology of giving here as participating with God: the emphasis on “no variation” means that God is by nature always giving.

 

The famous maxim, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (1:22) is set in the context of discussion of giving as a prime example of “doing” (1:17-18).

 

Famous defn: “Religion that is pure and undefiled . . . is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress . . . .”  Religion is more than taking care of widows, of course, but providing financially as well as emotionally and socially is demonstration case of how religion plays out.

 

Sept 9: James 2:1-10 (11-13), 14-17 (No partiality . . . do not dishonor the poor . . . supply their bodily needs). This is another must-preach text.

 

James addresses two related issues. First, many in the community defer to those who have wealth while giving less honor to those who have less (Js. 2:1-4). Such behavior reproduces in church the same social hierarchy as in old-age existence. Second, those who have wealth have evidently exploited those who do not have means, even taking those without means to court (2:5-10).

 

According to vv. 8-13, those who live in the tradition of Israel are to “love your neighbor as yourself” (i.e. you are to love your neighbor as your own kin).  Showing partiality—including partiality in how you use your money—is sin. The Torah provides the liberty to use your money in ways that support eschatological community.

 

James gives advice as to how to put this principle into practice in 2:14-17: provide clothing and food for those who do not have them. This is the context for the famous saying, “Faith by itself, without works, is dead” (2:17).

 

Sept 16: James 3:1-12 (from the mouth comes blessing and cursing). This passage focuses on the tongue and does not directly deal with material resources or money. However, what we say—both as teachers and as students (so to speak) speaking with one another—determines the quality of our common life. What we say has the power to bless and to curse (Js. 3:9-10).

 

A preacher might note that James focuses here on sins of speech, that is, on speaking with one another in ways that erode true community. Indeed, the misuse of the tongue can turn community into a blazing fire that brings that fire of hell into the present (Js. 3:5b-6).

 

What we say about money and material resources to parishioners, in the congregation, in our homes, what parishioners say to one another—what we say about money can help us towards attitudes towards money that build real community? What attitudes and practices bless? What we say can encourage us toward attitudes that set the fires burning. Such fires may consume others. They may also consume us.

 

How can the preacher help the congregation tame and focus the tongue with regard to money? Something as seemingly weak and insignificant and speech can, like the rudder, steer the ship. Our speech can be the difference in attitudes and behaviors with regard to material resources as between brackish and fresh water.

 

Sept 23: James 3:13-4:3 (two kinds of wisdom . . . control your cravings, especially for material things). This passage is clearly in the wisdom tradition (Js. 3:13): you have a choice of living wisely or foolishly. Choosing to live wisely or foolishly has immediate consequences in how one orients one’s life towards other people and in how one uses material resources.

 

Those who are foolish regard other people as means to build up their own egos and their own social standing and as the resources to be exploited to build up their own material goods (3:14-16). Other people exist to give us what we want (see 4:3). This attitude breeds disorder (3:16)

 

These attitudes (and the conflicts in the community) come from cravings at war within (4:1). These cravings are nearly all material in focus; note the illustrations in 4:2-3: “you want something you do not have . . . you covet something.”

 

The wise life takes its cue from God (the great giver) and regards others as members of a community in which mutual relationships bring blessing to all (3:13, 17-18). Indeed, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (3:18). 

 

God has already given the grace that makes it possible to turn away from the world (and its pathway to destruction) and towards wisdom and life (4:5-6).

 

Sept 30: James 5:1-6 (warning to those who have wealth and who oppress others). This passage sounds like a simple and straightforward condemnation of those who have a lot of money and material resources. James is particularly haunting: “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out . . . .” (Js. 5:4).

 

I regard this passage as a pastoral warning. Its goal is not simply to announce judgment but is to lure those who have means to use those means wisely, i.e. in the service of providing financially for eschatological community.

 

James would like for (a) those who control significant material resources to avoid the fate described in this passage by (b) wisely sharing with the widow, the orphan, and others who are on the margins of security and thus (c) build up eschatological community.

 

The lectionary actually appoints 5:13-20 for today, the call to pray in faith for healing. A preacher might get from that theme to material resources by envisioning those who do not use their material resources wisely as in need of healing. The preacher could invite the wealthy in the congregation to confess their sins of greed and financial mismanagement and the congregation could pray for them to be healed of their attitudinal sickness. Lame, I know.

 A Fall Focus Based on Readings from the Torah, Prophets and Writings

These texts are taken from both the readings that move sequentially through the Torah, Prophets and Writings, and the readings that are paired with the Gospel

 

Oct 7: Genesis 2:15-24 (naming the animals, creation of woman). Among other things this passage reveals not only the nature of human beings as made for egalitarian community with one another, but also the vocation of human beings: to till the Garden (whose purpose is to provide for the human beings and the animals) and to help the elements of creation find appropriate, mutually-supportive relationships (revealed in the act of naming). When we use our resources appropriately, life is a Garden. When we violate relationship and purpose, we invite curse (Gen. 3:1-21), and live “east of Eden) (3:22-24).  

 

Oct 14: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 (oracle of judgment on Israel). The prophet condemns Israel for violating covenantal prescriptions in multiple arenas of life including legal injustice (5:10), economic exploitation (5:11), extravagant lifestyles to the neglect of the poor (5:11), bribery and pushing aside the needy (5:12). Note how many of the violations in the passage relate directly to what we do with money, as well as power and influence. Yet the prophet calls to Israel to “Seek the Lord” so they can “live” (5:6) and to “seek good and not evil,” i.e. to conduct their affairs according to God’s community-building, life-giving principles, which include the covenantal management of legal and material affairs (5:15). A message might suggest that the kind of self-serving fiscal mismanagement characteristic of the U.S. economy in the last few years set in motion values and trends that could bring about our economic demise. We today have time to take corrective courses.

Oct 21: Isaiah 53:4-12 (fourth servant song). This passage shows perhaps the least direct connection to stewardship/generosity of any passage in this section. It is, of course, the fourth servant song. The servant is likely not an individual the community. . Although the servant has suffered, God will vindicate the servant’s message by restoring the life of the community. One way to relate this passage to stewardship is to note that individuals, households, and communities sometimes suffer economically when they use their money and material resources faithfully, especially in contrast to the exploitation and selfishness of typical monetary practices. However, the text would have us believe that covenantally based eventuate in communities that can sustain themselves and in which all are secure.

 

Oct 28: Psalm 126 (This psalm is especially appropriate for communities living in the economically roller coaster times of today. Ps. 126:1-3 recalls that the community experienced distress in the past, but God restored them. The Psalm may recall the exile and the return. Both situations involved economic components: one reason for the exile was unfaithfulness in economic affairs and the use of other material resources. The return meant the re-institution of faithful community-supporting financial practices. However, vv. 4-6 imply another season of distress, perhaps as part of the return and restoration. The community again needs to take corrective action. The congregation might sing “Bringing in the Sheaves” (written by Disciple Knowles Shaw) in connection with v. 6.   

 

Nov. 4: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Shema). The deuteronomic theologians gave their material its form as the community contemplated returning from the exile and rebuilding. This passage is at the heart of what they need to do. According to vv. 1-3, they are to put into practice God’s commandments. If they do so, their days will be long, i.e. they will live a blessed and secure life. The stewardship minded preacher could  point out the central role in the deuteronomic theology for using the land, animals, and other resources in support of covenantal community.

 

Nov. 11: 1 Kings 17:8-16 (widow of Zarephath). The widow is at the end of her resources. The prophet asks her to use them in support of life. When she does, God multiplies them. Indeed, they do not run out. What material resources do have, meager in appearance, that we can put in service to the purposes of God? A fascinating theme here: the woman is an unlikely figure: a woman, a widow, a gentile, without resources. The preacher might ask, “Who, in our culture, is in a marginal social situation similar to the woman yet who may have resources that are clues to community well being, even prosperity?”

 

Nov. 18: Daniel 12:1-3. Today’s clergy reader may ask, “What does the resurrection of the dead have to do with stewardship or generosity?” The hope of the resurrection arose in situations when people were dying while suffering in answer to questions like, “How will God keep God’s promises that the faithful will ultimately be blessed?” Blessing ultimately includes material well being.  The resurrection is a dramatic testimony to God’s concern for material well being. The resurrection body, promised in this text, is a material body (albeit material that does not decay). In apocalyptic theology resurrection is the way God keeps God’s promises. We vote for resurrection, so to speak, when we use our money and other resources in support of the material well being of the community. Indeed, by doing so, we anticipate resurrection.

 

 Fall Series from the Psalms (mixing Psalms from paired and sequential readings) (there are some stretches here . . . .)

 

Sept 23: Psalm 1. The psalm contrasts two ways of life: a life following God’s instruction and a life in the way of the wicked. The preacher could call attention to God’s instruction (per the Wisdom literature) for the use of material resources for self, household, and community.

 

Sept 30: Psalm 19:7-14. The Law (Torah) of God is perfect and revives the soul. The preacher could call attention to the Torah’s teaching on faithful use of material resources and on how these revive self and community.

 

Oct 7:  Psalm 8. In the midst of awesome description of God’s majesty, the psalmist calls attention to the human being as exercising dominion (Ps. 8:6-8). To exercise dominion is to help the elements of creation live together in mutually supportive community. We can exercise dominion (or not) through our money and other material resources.

 

Oct 14: Psalm 22:1-15 or Psalm 90:12-17. Neither Psalm provides a natural portal of entry into generosity or stewardship. Psalm 22 moves from a feeling of destitution to trust in God. The psalm asserts that those who trust in God’s ways—even when faced with circumstances which appear to deny God’s providence—will discover God’s care (e.g. Ps. 22:24-26). Even when circumstances are challenging, we can continue to give believing that God is present in some forms of care.

 

Oct 21: Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c. This hymn praises God for creating a world which contains structures of providence for nature and humankind. While the psalm does not contain this emphasis, the fact is that when the human family cooperates with those structures, we enhance the manifestation of providence. We can use our material resources to work with—or against—those structures.

 

Oct 28: Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22). This psalm gives thanks to God for saving the psalmist from immediate affliection (vv. 1-9) and promises that God will save others (vv. 10-19). Today’s congregation may ask, “In practical terms, how does God save from such circumstances?” The sermon might go beyond the psalm by suggesting that congregations, movements and people today act in such ways. We become a part of such salvific processes when we use our material resources accordingly.

 

Nov 4: Psalm 119:1-8. This psalm, the longest “chapter” in the Bible, celebrates Torah and the life that flows from it. The preacher can point to Torah’s instructions with regard to using material resources to support covenantal community. Those who heed Torah on this point are happy, that is, they experience of the blessing of knowing they are in harmony with God.

 

Nov. 11: Psalm 146. This psalm caution against putting our trust in princes, whom we might figuratively understand as including exploitative and other non-covenantal uses of material resources. If we use our material resources in their ways, we suffer with them (vv.3-4). By contrast, the psalm urges readers to hope in God, i.e. to engage in God’s life-giving ways which becomes the material means for watching over strangers, upholding the orphan and the widow (vv. 5-9).

 

Nov. 18: Psalm 16. Those who choose “another god” multiply their sorrows. To trust in another god includes using one’s resources in the destructive ways of that deity (v. 4). By contrast, when we choose God as our portion, we follow the path of life, including using our material resources for life (vv. 3, 5-11, esp. 11).

Miscellaneous Texts from Readings for the Summer

 

July 1: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15. This is a must-preach text. Paul encourages the Corinthians to contribute to the offering for the saints in Jerusalem. Paul wants them to excel in generosity.

 

July 15: Amos 7:7-15. In this passage the prophet Amos condemns the community especially the priests. In the larger context of Amos, misuse of material resources (serving the wealthy while denying and exploiting the poor) is among the reasons. The priests have not guided the community in using their resources covenantally. We should learn from their mistake: what can we as ministers (priests) do to help the congregation use its resources faithfully and how can we do the same with our own resources?

 

July 22: Mark 6:14-29 (in the lectionary for July 15) and Mark 6:30-44 (in the lectionary for July 22). Clark Williamson points out that these texts contrast two banquets: a death-dealing banquet given by Herod and a life-giving banquet given by Jesus. With our material resources we can serve one banquet or the other: we can reinforce Herod or we can participate with Jesus in the abundance of the Realm.

 

July 29: 2 Kings 4:42-44. A person brings a small amount of food, but through Elisha, God feeds one hundred people. We can bring our resources—small as they appear—in the confidence that when networked with other resources, God can provide. The preacher may be tempted to go to John 6:1-21, but that passage is only the jumping off point for John 6:1-

 

Aug 5: Ephesians 4:1-16. This passage asserts that the church is one in purpose and integrity in the same way that God is one (Eph. 4:1-6 echoes Deut. 6:4-6). The many gifts in the church serve the one body who purpose is to witness to the eventual reunion of all things in mutually supportive life (Eph. 1:9-10). The ways in which we use our material resources can serve or frustrate the purpose of the church in gathering together all things.

 

Aug 12: 1 Kings 19:4-8. Elijah thinks that his resources have run out. He announces that his ministry is finished. But God renews him. The preacher would not to make the bald claim that when we think our resources are exhausted, we should continue to give because God provides. But the preacher could call attention to the ways that God makes it possible for us to give—to continue forms of ministry—even when we find some doors closed.

 

Aug 19: Proverbs 9:1-6. Wisdom builds a house and lays out a great feast. These images bespeak the life of blessing that comes to those who follow wisdom. Going beyond the passage, the preacher can call attention to the fact that responsible and faithful use of material resources is part of the wise life.

 

Aug 26: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43. The mission of the church is in the legacy of the temple whose dedication takes place in 1 Kings 8. The prayer of dedication (8:22-53) voices the purposes of the temple, some of which are shared with the church. The lectionary highlights the temple as a means of grace to the foreigner (vv. 41-43). The offerings of Israel did not simply build an institution (the temple) but created a partnership in ministry. The same is true for our offerings.

 

 

 

Some Resources on Preaching and the Lectionary

 

David Mosser. The Stewardship Companion: Lectionary Resources for Preaching (Abingdon Press, 2007). Stewardship meditations for every Sunday of the lectionary year.

 

Clark Williamson and Ronald Allen. Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews: A Lectionary Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

 

____________________________. Preaching the Letters without Blaspheming the Law.  A Lectionary Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).

 

____________________________. Preaching the Old Testament.  A Lectionary Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).

 

 

Ronald Allen, Dale P. Andrews, Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, editors.  Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary with 22 New Holy Days for Justice: Years B, C, and A (Westminster John Knox Press, Year B: 2011; Year C: 2012; Year A: 2013).

 

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