Lectionary Preview for November: Being people of abundance!
October 11, 2021 by Greg Allen-Pickett
For churches that do a traditional stewardship campaign, the month November could fall at the beginning, middle, or end of that campaign. Wherever it falls for your church, this is a great month to focus on the theme of abundance. The passages at the end of Year B of the lectionary cycle lend themselves well to this theme and can provide a great capstone to both the liturgical year and the stewardship season.
Sunday, November 7
On November 7, the gospel lectionary passage is Mark 12:38-44, the story of the widow and her two copper coins. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” The others in the crowd who are putting money in the treasury are comfortable. The gospel records that “Many rich people put in large sums,” Jesus chooses to focus on those who give sacrificially.
The modern-day equivalent to this could be Elon Musk. He has given $150 million to charity, which seems like a huge sum! However, he ranks as one of the five wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of over $180 billion. So what he gives to charity pales in comparison to his overall wealth, representing less than .1% of his net worth.
Those living in Jesus’s time could not have fathomed such sums of money, but the message in this passage from Mark 12 is clear. The poor widow gave sacrificially. Underlying this difference in giving is a mentality of scarcity, possessed by the wealthy crowd, versus a mentality of abundance, possessed by the poor widow. The widow believes that she will still have enough even if she gives sacrificially. We are called to do the same, to be people of abundance!
Sunday, November 14
On November 14, we turn to the epistle lectionary passage, Hebrews 10:11-25. Much of the book of Hebrews was written to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. This passage reminds us that in Jesus, we have an abundance of grace and forgiveness, sufficient to get us through challenges in life.
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds … I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
This one single offering is sufficient for all time. God has made that offering for us, put God’s law on our hearts, and written it on our minds. Through that, we have an abundance of forgiveness and grace. That abundance leads us to “have the confidence to enter the sanctuary … approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” And out of that abundance of grace, we are called to respond in gratitude, generosity, and service. The author of Hebrews writes that this abundance should, “… Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another …” What a glorious response of abundant generosity and love to the gift of abundant grace we have been given!
Sunday, November 21
On November 21, we celebrate “Reign of Christ Sunday,” the final Sunday of the liturgical year. The associate pastor at our church likes to refer to this Sunday as “New Year’s Eve” just before we restart the liturgical year in Advent. He always wishes the congregation “Happy New Year” at the end of worship on Reign of Christ Sunday, and indeed, it is a joyful celebration of the abundance of God’s sovereignty.
The Psalm assigned to this Sunday provides some beautiful reflection on that abundance. The first part of Psalm 132 focuses on King David and the Davidic lineage occupying the throne. The second part declares that God has chosen to abide with, love, and protect Zion. Rather than thinking of Zion as a particular geographical location, it is helpful for the modern reader to interpret this as “God with us” no matter where we are. By reading this Psalm through that lens, we are offered some incredible promises of God’s steadfast presence and abundant provision. The Psalmist writes, “I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy.”
We have a promise in this Psalm that God will provide abundantly for God’s people, and in turn, we will shout for joy! I can think of no better way to celebrate this “New Year’s Eve” before we jump into the season of Advent than in these promises of abundance to us and our call to respond as people of abundance. Happy New 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 a 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.