Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of our lectionary texts have had a stewardship feel in them. The other day, I wondered to myself, “Did the authors of the lectionary schedule all of these stewardship-sounding texts for the fall on purpose?” We’ve had a fair number of opportunities to talk about God’s generosity and our response to it. But now, instead, I’m wondering whether that’s just true of the whole bible and that the only reason I’m noticing is because I’m thinking more about stewardship than usual.
Each year for the last few years, I’ve done at least one stewardship consultation with a nearby parish. I love stewardship (more on that elsewhere), and I relish the opportunity to bring some enthusiasm for an oft-neglected subject to another congregation. Earlier this summer, using the wonders of the Internet and the gift that is the Lectionary Page, I scoured the gospel readings to figure out which one (hopefully near October) would lend itself to a stewardship sermon (as if there should be only one). My eye quickly fell to this week and Luke 17:11-19.
Don’t tell the people at St. John’s, but I read stewardship all through this story. Ten lepers see Jesus and, keeping their distance as the Law required, they called out to him from afar, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus saw them and then said (presumably shouting at a distance), “Go show yourselves to the priests!” And, as they walked away, all ten of them “were made clean.” One of them, upon seeing that he was healed, turned around, went back to Jesus, threw himself down at Jesus’ feet, and thanked him. “Where are the nine?” Jesus asked. And then he sent him off, saying, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
- · All ten are blessed; one returns to give thanks—the tithe.
- · All ten are healed; nine keep on walking—those who are blind to God’s blessing.
- · All ten are healed; only one hears Jesus say, “Your faith has made you well.”—The Greek is “Your faith has saved you”; healing comes at a distance, but faith comes with gratitude, and that’s where real salvation is found.
No, this passage isn’t about money, and that’s the best part. This passage is about faith. It’s about receiving God’s indiscriminate blessings and then connecting the blessing with the giver through an act of gratitude. Money is merely the most common currency of blessing.
Here’s the cycle of stewardship that I see in this passage. Maybe you’ve seen it elsewhere in your life.