Date: November 10, 2019

Bible Text: Haggai 1:15b-2:9, Sirach 35:9-17 |

It's stewardship time! But actually, it's always stewardship time, as long as we have anything that belongs to God, like possessions, time, and life itself. Still, we focus on the theme of how we use what God has provided to us at this time of year.

This week we have readings from two books that you are probably not familiar with. Haggai is one of the "minor prophets" of the Old Testament, which just means it's a short book compared to Isaiah. He served as a prophet when the Second Temple was being built after the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, about 520 BC. In fact, our passage is a message to the people who are watching the construction of the temple and are disappointed with what they see. Our second passage is from the book of Sirach, which comes from the apocryphal writings of the period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, around 200 BC. Although it is part of the biblical canon in the Roman Catholic Church, most Protestant traditions consider it only pseudocanonical, sort of B-list scripture. So while it may not have the full force of canonical scripture, it carries wisdom and teachings that are worthy of our consideration.

Now that we have all that out of the way, the passages for this week point out for us the generosity of the Lord God and God's desire for us to experience that generosity. In the Haggai passage it is a promise to provide gold and silver (of which God has plenty) to bring renewed glory to the temple which is somewhat lacking. The Sirach passage invites right offerings to God who promises generosity and justice. We will take a look at how these ideas weave together to help shape our understanding of God's heart and consequently, our own.

Notes from the Preacher

As noted above, Sirach is not a book that most Protestants will be familiar with, as it is part of the intertestamental apocrypha, a collection of semi-canonical texts. Here's a link to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) with Apocrypha on Google Books. The preview of this edition includes the introduction to the Apocrypha, which gives literary, historical, and archaeological background for these texts.

The Sirach text was actually scheduled for the lectionary a couple weeks back, while the Haggai text was on for this week. I found that they worked together well for a stewardship message, which I knew would be coming up on November 1o.

The skit that Molly and I did to close the sermon came to me a couple weeks ago one night when I was settling into bed. It was so insistent on my mind that I had to grab a notepad and start writing it down, for fear that it would otherwise be lost. It became the anchor for the sermon, with all the other things I said aiming ultimately at the skit. While it never actually uses the title phrase of "grace sharking," it demonstrates what the phrase means. The skit's final form is only slightly embellished from the original late-night form. Props to the Holy Spirit for that one.

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