During “stewardship season” I usually preach at least two stewardship sermons. In the first sermon I usually introduce the topic of stewardship and then at the end preach about thanksgiving. This year, I’m going to double that number and preach four stewardship sermons, which will be centered around the theme “From Bread and Wine to Faith and Giving.” These passages of Scripture selected by our friend Ron Allen of Christian Theological Seminary focus our attention on the Table and on the continuing presence of Jesus as we join God in making present the realm of God on earth as in heaven.
“He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John has his own story of how the Spirit fell upon the followers of Jesus. It’s different from the traditional Pentecost story, but what he does is connect the Holy Spirit with the very essence of life. In fact, there’s a connection between this story and the story of creation in Genesis 2. In that story, God created the first human being by forming a body from the dust of the ground, and then God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The biblical words for breath and Spirit are the same. So to have breath is to have the Spirit.
In just two weeks, I’ll be heading out on my three-month sabbatical. Back when we were working on a grant proposal to fund the sabbatical I had to come up with a theme. So, I chose the theme – “Reclaiming a Founding Vision.” Over the past year, even after we didn’t get the grant, I’ve been reworking this theme. So as I go out on my sabbath journey, I plan to explore my own spiritual roots. I also plan to spend some time considering Central Woodward’s spiritual roots.
The theme for this year’s General Assembly emerged from this very passage of Scripture – “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” It was a good theme for us to take up as we entered once again into important but often difficult conversations. It is always good to bathe our conversations in prayer. After all, we come together as followers of Jesus who seek to be in relationship with the living God. Sometimes we forget that this is true. Our prayers become perfunctory rituals. We offer a quick word to God, assuming God is paying attention, and then we get on with business, often forgetting that we’ve invited God into the conversation.