April 2019 Stewardship Lectionary Preview
March 14, 2019 by Greg Allen-Pickett
When you think of Lent and Easter, I’m guessing that “Stewardship” is not the first thing that comes to mind. It certainly has not been for me. However if we understand stewardship to be part of our call to discipleship, then we should be weaving stewardship themes through our sermons throughout the year, not just in the fall during the ubiquitous “stewardship season.”
The lectionary texts for the month of April provide some rich material to reflect on related stewarding of our resources. The first three Sundays in April this year provide us: the 5th Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday.
April 7 is the 5th Sunday of Lent. The Psalm for that day, Psalm 126, provides the preacher a great opportunity to reflect on God’s provision and abundance and how we are called to respond:
This call and response from 126:2-3 is beautiful: Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them,” The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. It affirms God’s provision, and invites a response of joy. This is the rhythm of the Christian life, recognizing what God has done for us and responding in gratitude and joy. This is also the basis of stewardship; the sharing of our time, talent and treasure should be a response of gratitude and joy to the blessings that God has given us.
The Psalm continues:
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. The same rhythm of recognizing what God has done and responding in joy and gratitude is present in this section. We go out to work hard, God provides for us, and we come home with shouts of joy, blessed by the abundance of God’s provision. While Lent is generally a time for introspection and reflection, the lectionary has provided us this Psalm to insert a little bit of joy into the season, and the preacher can use that burst of joy in the midst of the Season of Lent to reflect on Stewardship.
April 14 will ordinarily be celebrated as Palm Sunday. The Palm Sunday narrative provides some great lessons in obedience to God with our lives and our resources in the beginning of the story as the disciples take the colt. The disciples take a risk to untie a colt, and the owner of the colt, though unnamed, is offering a significant gift to God by allowing the disciples to take this beast of burden that would otherwise be a source of income for its owner. This is a story about obedience with our resources, giving to God when we are asked so that God can use our gifts and our lives in ministry and mission.
This passage also reminds us that we are to share our best to honor Jesus as people lay their cloaks down in the street and boldly proclaim, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” This kind of language was risky at the time, it flew in the face of the Roman Empire, but people were willing to take that risk, to sacrifice themselves and their safety, as well as their cloaks, in order to honor God. These would all provide rich stewardship themes to expound on in a sermon on Palm Sunday.
April 21 is Easter Sunday. If your church is like mine, it will be full of people who don’t visit very often. Those infrequent visitors may have a perception that the “church is always asking for money,” so it is important to tread lightly on Easter Sunday. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot continue to reinforce themes of stewardship that your regular attendees can hear, while also inspiring generosity in your visitors in a way that is hopefully invitational and invites them to come back.
In addition to the Easter story, the Psalm for the day, Psalm 118, provides rich material to delicately reflect on stewardship, which could be done in the sermon or through liturgies and prayers. It starts with this celebration: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! A fair question to ask would be, how do we give thanks? In light of God’s steadfast love for us, what does gratitude look like? You could continue this theme reflecting on other lines of the Psalm: I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. If we recognize that God is our salvation, and we are celebrating Christ’s resurrection and triumph over death on Easter morning, how do we thank God for answering us and becoming our salvation. One way to thank god is through generously giving of our time, talent and treasure. That is how we can show gratitude for God’s love and grace for us, celebrated on Easter morning.
The Psalm closes with: This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. What does our rejoicing look like? How do we thank God for this day that God has made, the blessing of another day on this earth? If we can see each day as blessing, particularly through the lens of Easter morning, our response to that blessing can be one of joy and gratitude, which can be expressed through generosity.
Lent 5, Palm Sunday and Easter are not traditional Sundays that we would reflect on stewardship, but the Lectionary provides us excellent material to do so. Stewardship is part of every Christian’s call to discipleship, and preachers should keep this theme in front of their congregations throughout the year.
Rev. Greg Allen-Pickett is Pastor and Head of Staff of First Presbyterian Church in Hastings, Nebraska. He is a native of Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was an active member of Federated Community Church. Greg is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and he also holds an Master of Divinity degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Greg has worked in small, medium, and large churches and also worked at the PC(USA) denominational offices in Louisville as the general manager of Presbyterian World Mission.