A Simple Lesson in Stewardship

By Sharron R. Blezard, July 23, 2015

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost Lectionary Reflection, Year B

July 26, 2015

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” John 6:12

This Sunday we segue from the immediacy and speed of Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry to the lush and meaning-laden gospel of John. In fact, for five straight Sundays we’ll be dealing with this idea of Jesus as the “Bread of Life.” On one hand, I can appreciate this run of Sundays because I haven’t met many carbs that I don’t like, so any talk of bread puts me in mind of a feast. However, on the other hand it can be quite a challenge to keep the congregation focused on feasting on Jesus in the midst of summer’s myriad competing claims for attention and time. After all, following the way of Jesus deeply Eric L. Castro.ccinto life’s contours is not necessarily a picnic. It’s also tempting to take the easy way out with these lessons and in doing so fail to mine the rich depths of message and meaning.

Take this week’s gospel lesson for example. We have the miraculous feeding story where a little boy’s lunch in the hands of Jesus becomes a feast for thousands. What abundance! What a miracle! But do you also hear the disciples’ conditioned response of scarcity and fear? Do you sense the crowd’s scrambled response to make this miracle worker their king without counting the potential cost? Do you catch Jesus’ stewardship illustration in instructing his disciples to gather up the fragments so that nothing would be lost. Yep. It’s that last one that speaks to me this week.

Jesus is the one who refuses to waste one morsel (or one life), who recycles, upcycles, and remakes lives, and who makes do and uses what he on hand has to create abundance. From this lesson we learn that Jesus is indeed a model of stewardship on all kinds of levels.

Viewed through a stewardship lens, there are all kinds of fresh and compelling ways to unpack this gospel lesson. This week’s lesson also provides an open door for those serving congregations that “just don’t do stewardship” or “ask for money” to enter into a conversation about what stewardship means in terms of faithful discipleship. Jesus took a little (five barley loaves and two fish) and fed well more than 5,000 folk. There was no question of not having enough resources, enough personnel, or enough of anything else. He just did it. He took what he had and made a meal. He made a meal and met people’s needs. How often do we instead question (like those first disciples) whether we really have enough to be bold, brave, and faithful as the church? Why are we so willing to choose scarcity and fear over faith and flourishing? How might we more faithfully trust and follow Jesus’ lead?

Jesus also models an important lesson about not wasting—anything. In instructing the disciples to collect the fragments he is modeling stewardship of resources. This metaphor can be extended to Amy Gaertner ccaddress many aspects of stewardship—care of the environment, frugality and management of resources, and concern for the care of and provision for all people. Do take care to lift up the truth that these wonderful models of abundant stewardship do not come without cost.

God’s abundant economy makes provision for all to have plenty, but it doesn’t ensure that a few have the right to be greedy and prevent others from having enough. The world tells a different story, and it’s tempting to believe the lie that our choices don’t really affect others, or that we are entitled to more than our share of the world’s resources. There’s sacrifice in both discipleship and in stewardship, but the promise we have is that the end result is more than worth it. Following the way of Jesus ultimately leads to the cross, but beyond the cross lies life—real, abundant, and everlasting life.

Go ahead. Take every opportunity to preach about stewardship, including this one today. Encourage one another to pick up the fragments so that nothing is lost. This same Jesus who feeds, shepherds, and stewards is just as easily able to walk on water to reach us and calm the troubled seas of our lives. God provides. Jesus shows us how to participate in God’s provision. We as the beloved community invite others into this life of both stewarding the mysteries of God and stewarding life in this beautiful, broken, world that is in the process of being redeemed. That’ll preach. Blessings on your proclamation and faithful teaching.

In Worship

The Old Testament lesson from 2 Kings 4:42-44 offers another glimpse of God’s provision through the hands of Elisha. Not surprisingly, there is doubt. But God says to feed the people and there will be leftovers. And it happened that way. Today in worship find ways that your congregation is providing God’s provision through your hands. Perhaps you participate in a weekend feeding program for hungry school children, maybe you serve weekly meals, or perhaps you give generously to a world hunger program through your denomination or other non-profit. Maybe your congregation is active in advocacy through Bread for the World or other groups. Whatever you’re doing, today is a day to celebrate how God is working through you to provide for all people. If by chance you’re not doing anything, might you use this time to have congregants commit to prayerfully considering how you might help feed others?

If you have a parish garden, might part of your worship include a litany for blessing and giving thanks for the food that grows there and the hands that cultivate, tend, and harvest it? Consider having part of worship outside by the garden.

With Youth

Consider with your youth beautiful the prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21. Explore how Christ’s love is made visible in community, in the life of the church. If your youth have recently participated in a mission trip or youth gathering they may be able to find examples from those experiences. Challenge them to find ways to share Christ’s love in their wider community, in and among their circles of friends, and in their extended families. What might it look like to be filled with “all the fullness of God”?

With Children

This week’s psalm is a lovely one to use to help children understand the concept of God’s abundance and provision for all people. Focus particularly on verses 15-16 and the issue of addressing hunger. If you have a farmer (or farmers) in your congregation, invite them in advance to think about what the psalmist’s words mean to them in their vocation or avocation of growing food and feeding others, and then to share those thoughts with the children. If your church has a community garden, bring in some produce for the children to bless. Invite them to bring non-perishable items to share with your local food bank or feeding program. Help them make the connection that God uses our hands, voice, and hearts to feed the world and help spread the news that God loves them. Finish with a simple prayer.

Another activity is to help children put together emergency food kits to give to anyone they might encounter who is asking for help with food, particularly those who are homeless. These simple kits can be assembled in quart zip-lock or paper lunch bags. Decorate the bags with happy stickers or drawings and fill them with easily eaten and minimally processed healthy foods–tuna lunch packs, small containers of peanut butter, packages of crackers,  nuts, granola bars, lunch-size fruit or applesauce cups, and/or shelf-stable juice boxes. Aim for a balanced mix of protein, carbs, and fruit/veggies. Include a short note that says “Jesus loves you, and so do we!” Pray over the completed kits and invite each child to take and share one with someone in need.

Photos: Steve Cadman, Eric E. Castro, and Amy Gaetner, Creative Commons license. Thanks!)


About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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