Stewards in all seasons? Yes!
Moment by moment, day by day, season by season, life by life, we’re called to be generous, for Jesus’ sake, with our time, talent, treasure and testimony.
Stewards In All Seasons offers monthly devotions to encourage and equip faithful stewards — throughout the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Here are just a few ideas for how you can participate:
- Publish these monthly devotions in your newsletters and on your websites.
- Use these devotions to begin your council and committee meetings.
- Make Stewards In All Seasons devotions the topic for adult and youth. Consider using it for confirmation or Sunday school sessions. Use the devotion’s Bible text and content as fodder for small group discussion, prayer and encouragement in building stewardship into overall discipleship.
Even better, let the NALC Living and Giving Stewardship Team know about the creative approaches you and your congregation have used to raise up stewards in your homes and congregations. Some of our best ideas — like this devotional series — come from pastors, lay leaders and congregations.
We’re the North American Lutheran Church’s Living and Giving Stewardship Team, and we pray that you and your congregations will use these devotions in your year-round stewardship ministries. Visit us at thenalc.org/stewardship.
April 2020: MORE SILVER, Mr. Mike Johnson
We do not know for certain what Judas was thinking when he sought an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the Jewish rulers. Irrespective of his thinking, Judas accepted the bribe.
Money is the one thing we all want and would like more of, hence so many of Jesus’ teachings were about money’s effect on our lives. What is it about the force of money that can cause such destructive behavior if left unchecked? I believe it is temptation. In order to have more money, without honestly earning it, people resort to all sorts of questionable behaviors for its acquisition. Steal it, lie for it, kill for it, sacrifice one’s integrity or reputation, to name just a few.
Have you ever been tempted to take from another what is not yours? What was the outcome and how did you feel about yourself? We might also be tempted to buy what we cannot afford or hoard our money instead of being generous. These behaviors are forms of coveting which Scripture commands us not to do.
However, thanks be to God for His great love and mercy toward us, He provided a wonderful solution to the predicament. God sent us a glorious Savior to give us a new nature. Our new nature in Christ enables us to view our wealth as a gift from God to be used in holy stewardship as He directs! In Christ we have enough. We can trust Him to supply our needs, without resorting to sinful acts to meet those needs. We can become generous and serve others instead of wanting to be served or noticed.
This holy season may the love of God in Christ help us to have pure and right motives in the acquisition and use of silver.
Written by Mr. Mike Johnson. Mr. Johnson is a member of the NALC’s Living and Giving Stewardship Team.
March 2020: LET THAT WATER FLOW, Rev. Eugene Grimm
In the third week in Lent, the Gospel text is the very long story of the woman at the well (John 4:5-42). Perhaps better said, it’s the story of Living Water. It’s also the story of how, once we receive this Living Water, it flows from us into others.
Do you remember a time when you were so excited about the Gospel, you couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it? Yes? No? Was there ever such a time for you? There certainly was for this woman at the well. Jesus only told her to go get her husband, but after the exchange that followed, she went and got the whole town. Two thoughts about this: First, no past sins can bar our access to Jesus Christ, and second, we are called to love and reach out to those who are different, and perhaps even marginalized. The Great Commission applies to us all.
She wasted no time. She didn’t even draw the water to take with her. She left the water for later (she had better water) and rushed back into town. She didn’t just fetch her lover; she spoke to the whole town. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ” (ESV)? A bit of an over-statement, but I’m sure she realized he did know everything about her there was to know.
And what do you think the townspeople thought of this promiscuous woman? She was obviously excited enough not to care what they thought of her. She wanted them to think of the Christ. “They went out of the town and [came] to him” (ESV).
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ … ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world’” (ESV).
Lord, grant that we may be such wonderful witnesses. Amen.
Written by the Rev. Dr. Eugene Grimm. Rev. Dr. Grimm is a member of the NALC’s Living and Giving Stewardship Team.
February 2020: YOU ARE THE LIGHT, Rev. Dona Johnson
You are the light of the world! Jesus says to His disciples, you are the light of the world. He doesn’t say you are to be light. And He doesn’t say you have the light. You are the light of the world! In Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “The light is not some instrument put in their hands, such as their preaching. It is the disciples themselves. The same Jesus who, speaking of himself, says, ‘I am the light,’ says to his followers: ‘You are the light in your whole existence, provided you remain faithful to your calling’” (Bonhoeffer, 117).
If one small flickering candle can light up an entire room, what impact does one generous act of kindness do to light up the human heart?
On Christmas Eve, our new house church community purchased beautifully wrapped boxes of chocolates and gave them to many of the retailers in our village. One of our visits was to a young couple who had just opened a small hotel. They are also expecting their first child. We had no idea if they were people of faith and we had no idea how we would be received. We wished them Merry Christmas and, in addition to the chocolates, we also offered a prayer of blessing for their business. You should have seen their faces. They lit up with huge smiles, saying repeatedly, “Wow, I can’t believe you did this — this is great!”
In being Christ’s light, we are also given a remarkable responsibility. Stewards of the light are not to keep this light hidden away within the walls of the church, but they are to carry it out, protecting it, cupping its flame in their hands (holding fast to the Word) in a world that wants to so often extinguish it. In Luther’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, he writes, “Those who are called to be the light are called to instruct souls and point them to the eternal life … he who wants to be light must see to it that he does not creep into a corner, but stand forth publicly and be not afraid.”
How are you being the light of Christ to others in your neighborhoods and community? Stewards of the light use “all” the available resources to push back the darkness in our world — time, talents, treasure and testimony. The light of Christ shines brightest when generosity is our first response. When we give without calculus and beyond measure from our wealth and possessions, our ministries and congregations are strengthened, and our witness is intensified.
You are the light of the world! From Genesis to Revelation, the light of Jesus Christ (God’s love for and His covenant with creation) peppers the whole biblical landscape. As the light of God’s love never fails to illuminate, let us rejoice in the incarnation of God in Jesus who continues to call us to shine!
Written by the Rev. Dona Johnson. Rev. Johnson is chair of the NALC’s Living and Giving Stewardship Team and and is pastor of a mission start in Sedona, Arizona.
January 2020 – THE GREAT REVEAL, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS
Welcome to Epiphany, the Great Reveal.
“Epiphany” comes from a Greek word that means “appearing” or “revealing.” The Gospel for Epiphany tells of the Magi, wise men from far away who followed a star to find the newborn King of the Jews. Find Him they did, just as prophets promised. The Great Reveal of Immanuel, God-With-Us in the flesh, was truly underway.
Each church year, Epiphany points us to the rest of the story about the Messiah in the manger. Gospel readings for Epiphany and the remaining Sundays in January move us quickly, over the decades, from the visit of adoring Magi to our Lord’s Baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. The Little One adored by shepherds is recognized as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The newborn King, once announced by angel choirs, now issues His own compelling invitation: Drop everything! Follow Me.
To celebrate this Great Reveal over the years, some of my congregations have observed an old custom, the Epiphany house blessing. As pastor, I’d visit residences to chalk the following on entry door sills: 20 C+M+B 20. The letters CMB denotes this blessing: Christus mansionem benedicat (Christ bless this house), while the numbers represent the millennium and century. CMB also recalls traditional names given to the wise men (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar). Prayers are offered for the house and all who reside therein. Some households gather other family and friends, including the blessing as part of their end-of-Christmas festivities.
Whether it’s a single-family dwelling, an apartment, a room in a skilled nursing facility, or another place, these chalk-marked doors bear witness to the world that Christ is Lord of this home. The blessing also reminds us, coming and going, to put Christ and His Church first in all of our discipleship, including our stewardship of all God’s gifts — time, talent, treasure and testimony. So, may it be for us as we celebrate Epiphany, the Great Reveal, and look forward to the year ahead. Amen.
Written by the Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. Rev. Dr. Braasch represents the North American Lutheran Seminary Board of Regents and the NALC Living and Giving Stewardship Team. She is a member of St. John Lutheran Church – Lake Township, Fort Wayne, Ind.
December 2019 – Called and Claimed for Life, Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo
Based on Matthew 3:1-12
As we begin this new monthly devotional series, designed to be a year-round reminder of the calling we have in Jesus and how we are to use our lives and our gifts for Him, it is appropriate that we are beginning in the season of Advent. Advent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a time when we remember that our Lord will return and, until He does, our calling is to follow Him.
It is also appropriate that we hear, each year, a message from the one who was called to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. There was nothing superficial about John the Baptist or about the things he shared. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Eight words is all it took. As simple and straightforward as it was, it was a message that changed lives. And it is a message that will change your life, if you listen to and apply what he said.
John’s message of repentance, of changing our paths and our patterns and turning our lives toward Jesus, was more than a call for a simple course adjustment in life to make things better. It was a call for a complete life change that would make things new, and one that was and is only possible in Christ.
In the same way, stewardship is all about using our lives for a purpose far greater than our lives. It is about returning our lives to the One who first gave them to us. In that sense, it is not a consideration in life we are being asked to make, but a calling for life we have been given. It is not a cause in life we are being asked to support, but a claim on our lives that has been laid upon us.
Too many people make the mistake, when it comes to stewardship, of thinking about it as a series of tasks we are called to do, rather than the people we are called to be. Give your money. Offer your time. Use your talents for service to God and others. They jump straight to the tasks of being good stewards, without fully considering the claim Jesus has made on their lives and the calling they have in Him.
As we move into this season of Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, and as we look forward to that day when He will return, be careful not to mistake the stewardship tasks with the Christian calling and claim. God is not interested in receiving simply your time and talent and treasure. He sent His Son into the world for something far greater. He was born for you. He came into this world for you. On the cross and in the resurrection, He laid an eternal calling and claim on your life. And one day, He will return to take you to Himself. Until then, you are called and claimed to live for Him. Amen.
Written by the Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church.