Lectionary Reflection for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
October 2, 2016
Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. 2 Timothy 1:14
What? You want me to preach and teach another lesson on stewardship? You betcha! You see, the more we talk about stewardship as part of all aspects of life and every decision we make, the easier it becomes to talk about stewardship of that oh so taboo subject: M-O-N-E-Y. This week’s gospel and epistle lesson provide important instruction about being stewards of the very faith we name, claim, and live. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.
Think about it. The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. They figure the more the better. More faith should equal bigger and better results, right? Not according to our Lord. He uses the example of a tiny, tiny mustard seed as being far more than enough faith to get the job done. It’s not the amount of faith that matters; it’s in whom you place your faith and what you then do in response to that. Think of what the Lord requires in Micah 6:8, to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Does this mean that stewardship of faith is more like a humble version of Nike’s slogan, “Just do it”? It would seem that way according to Jesus’ next example, that of the expectations of slave and master. The slave does what is commanded and expected, fulfilling what ought to be done. According to Jesus, we can lay aside the bluster, the fluster, the positioning, and the pandering when it comes to living out our faith. Good stewards of faith do what they ought to do. They follow Jesus and trust the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit to guide their heart, mind, hands, lips, and feet into humble service in Christ’s name.
Paul echoes this theme in the introduction to his second letter to the young pastor Timothy. Timothy’s faith is not something of his own creation or doing. It is a faith that has been carefully stewarded and passed down from Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice. It is a faith that does not necessarily promise an easy, carefree journey, and there is no guarantee of success in worldly terms. Just ask Paul. He has suffered for his witness and faithfulness to the gospel, but that does not deter him from clinging to that mustard seed faith and spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. He has enough faith to live … well, faithfully.
So, too, do we today. Even as we witness congregations in decline, shrinking budgets, and more and more competition for our time, resources, and attention, Jesus still calls us to take hold of our tiny faith and trust that God is still at work in the world doing new things all the time. Our job? Just keep on keeping on and just do this thing we call faithful discipleship. After all, it’s not about us; it’s all about what God has done and continues to do. We just steward the gifts, the abundance, and even the tiny bit of faith to which we cling. It is enough—and then some. This is good news, friends. This is very good news indeed, so preach it, teach it, and model it for those you serve. Just do it. Do it in Jesus’ name.
Faith is a funny thing. Like the mustard seed example, one needs only a little to begin. In the beloved community, as we live out our faith in worship, service, and relationship, we find that it grows and flourishes exponentially and organically. Invite congregants to consider how their faith is nurtured in and through congregational life. What small groups, ministries, and opportunities help transform a small and fragile seed of faith into a mature and deeply grounded disciple? Give congregants paper leaves on which to write the things that nurture and feed their faith. Collect these leaves with the offering (or at another time in the worship service) and later create a tree image on a wall or large poster with the leaves attached. Help people visually see and experience the ways we grow in faith through our congregations when we worship, serve, and learn together. You might also create a word cloud for your congregational Facebook page and/or website. Consider using the hymn “We Raise our Hands to You, O Lord” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, #690) to reinforce this theme.
Don’t fret, says the psalmist in this week’s palm (Psalm 37:1-9). Don’t worry about the evildoers and the wicked around you. God is in control. Instead trust in God and do good. That’s right, just because we aren’t to fret and worry doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. God calls us to do good, to combat the forces of evil and powers of empire. The only way we are able to do that, however, is by committing our way and our life to God, by trusting God, and by spending time in God’s presence (worship, prayer, and silence). By spending time with God and by nurturing our faith in community, we are strengthened to face to the world and be the difference we would like to see. Invite the youth to lift up faith leaders throughout the ages they admire. Print some photos or images of faithful leaders throughout the centuries, disciples who grounded themselves in God and worked for a better world–sometimes at great personal cost. Discuss what it takes to be an everyday saint as we look to Jesus in all aspects of our life and at all times.
Guarding the Good Treasure
Use the epistle lesson (2 Timothy 1:1-14), especially verse 14 to help the children form a visual image of stewarding, guarding, and nurturing the good treasure of faith entrusted to them. If you have an old family Bible or an old congregational pulpit Bible share that with the children and tell them the story of how the faith has been passed down generation to generation through reading and obeying and treasuring the Word and stories of faith. If you have old photos of family members who were important in shaping your faith, especially those whose names might have been recorded in a family Bible, share them with the children and tell a little bit about those stories and how they helped nurture your faith. If possible give each child a small pocket Bible or Psalm book (you can often find tiny inexpensive Bibles at religious bookstores) that they can hold and keep as their own. Encourage them to treasure the faith which they have been given–in baptism and by the faithful witness of others–and to guard it well so that they can pass it on. End with a simple prayer.
Photos: Rex Regum, Creative Commons, and © laurent hamels – Fotolia.com. Thanks!