Generosity as the fruit of gratitude
Resources for a Stewardship Sunday
Each year, Everence® develops a stewardship sermon and worship resources that can be downloaded and used by pastors. Below is our newest release for 2019.
At the end of the article is a link where you can find the complete sermon, along with additional resources. You’re free to take this and make it your own. Thank you for keeping the teaching of stewardship in front of your people.
Sermon title: Generosity as the fruit of gratitude
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50
For Jesus, a parable was less about telling a good story and much more about opening the eyes and minds of his listeners to something new or unseen. His parables repeatedly tug at human hearts, shake us from our slumber, and when needed, offer us a swift kick in the backside. This is the point of a parable – to grab our attention and bring God’s reality into focus.
The parable of the moneylender in Luke 7 serves just such a purpose. Spoken to a gathering of people from different backgrounds and experiences, Jesus’ story confronts each of them – and all of us – with how we will respond when grace comes our way.
Among the Gospels, Luke draws our attention to the deeply compassionate and distinctly prophetic ministry of Jesus. We repeatedly find Jesus caring for the poor, standing with the oppressed, and moving toward the marginalized of that culture, including Samaritans, Gentiles and women.
At the same time, Jesus is a bold prophet rooted in the Hebrew tradition. In his teachings, miracles and confrontations with the powers that seek to contend with God – sin, tradition, Caesar, selfishness – Jesus offers an alternative vision and path for life.
The message of mercy, coupled with the powerful news of God’s reign, must have been especially compelling and liberating to the Gentile readers of Luke’s Gospel.
Though religious leaders could be threatened by and suspicious of Jesus, many are still drawn to him. In Luke 7, Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to attend a dinner in his home.
A gathering like this might be a semi-public event. Small houses with open doors and windows allowed others to lean in and listen to the conversations.
Though not explicitly stated in the text, the poor and those living on the margins of society were often allowed in after others had gone home to collect leftovers from the banquet table. It was a social custom enabling the community to provide a minimum of care for those in need.
The host’s plan for a pleasant dinner conversation among invited guests is upset. One of the people who was expected to stay quiet and remain on the periphery decides to take center stage. A woman, known by Simon and others as a “sinner,” approaches Jesus.
The text does not reveal why she is known this way. Being labeled a “sinner” in this culture could be a matter of unrighteous behavior, but the same label also was given to someone with a medical problem, a mental disorder or the simple fact that she/he was a Gentile. What we do know is that she is known within her community (v. 37) and that her sins were many (v. 47).
Using a vial of concentrated perfume that women often carried with them, this person pours it on Jesus’ feet. Overcome with emotion, her tears mingle with the expensive fragrance to create a lavish and intimate gift of hospitality and devotion. Surprisingly, and somewhat scandalously, she wipes her Master’s feet with her hair and kisses them continuously.
Simon is horrified and disgusted. His plans and program had been ruined. This woman – a woman! – dared to interrupt and violate the acceptable social customs of the day. As a Pharisee, Simon was one “set apart or separated” to be used by God. This sinful woman was also supposed to remain separate and set apart – beyond the reach of God’s love and at a distance from “acceptable society.”
Simon turns on Jesus in his disgust and anger. Unlike the other Gospels, where the crowd grumbles out loud in response to this outrage, Simon thinks to himself that Jesus is clearly no prophet. If he was, “he would know the kind of woman that was touching him.”
But Jesus demonstrates his prophetic power and perception by discerning Simon’s unspoken thoughts. Jesus knows the character of the one who is touching him, just as he knows the thoughts of the one now judging him.
In this case, Simon’s heart reveals self-centeredness, self-satisfaction and contempt. Whether or not the Pharisee truly knows this woman, his evaluation of her is shaped only by her past. How he sees her, or whether he actually sees her at all, is brought into question by Jesus.
The centerpiece of the story emerges in the parable Jesus poses to Simon. A moneylender is owed two substantial debts. Assuming a denarius equaled a day’s wage for an unskilled worker, the two debts were burdensome, if not impossible, to repay. Both borrowers were trapped – with no means to make payment and forever beholden to the lender.
For the full sermon script and related worship resources, go to everence.com/pastors#sermon-and-worship-resources. The sermon was written by Stewardship Consultant Colin Saxton. Additional writers for the worship resources include Stewardship Consultant Lana Miller, Stewardship Consultant Bruce Breckbill and Director of Stewardship Education Beryl Jantzi.