September 19, 2021

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • Proverbs 31:10-31
    • Psalm 1
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22 or Jeremiah 11:18-20
    • Psalm 54
  • Second reading
    • James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
  • Gospel
    • Mark 9:30-37

The gospel from Mark:
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Children of the Earth Eva Rybakken ca. 2000
Sculpture, freestanding Nordkapp, Norway
Nordkapp or North Cape is the point where the Norwegian Sea meets the Barents Sea. Seven monuments made by seven children from all parts of the world, symbolize cooperation, friendship, hope and joy across all boundaries.
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Sermon
In our gospel reading from Mark this week, Jesus is teaching his disciples, but they did not understand. Only after they will look back will they understand. Jesus is teaching on his authority but they do not yet know what is to happen. In the original text of Mark’s gospel verse 31. “…… The Son of Man is to be betrayed ……” is confusing. They are following their teacher even after this confusion. His ministry is only understood in terms of the cross. Pastor continues his sermon to conclude that we ourselves must look back through the lens of the cross.

September 12, 2021

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • Proverbs 1:20-33
    • Psalm 19
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 50:4-9a
    • Psalm 116:1-9
  • Second reading
    • James 3:1-12
  • Gospel
    • Mark 8:27-38

The gospel from Mark:
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Welcomes All
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu
ca. 21st century Mural
Sudan

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

September 5, 2021

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
    • Psalm 125
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 35:4-7a
    • Psalm 146
  • Second reading
    • James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
  • Gospel
    • Mark 7:24-37

The gospel from Mark:
From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.

The Canaanite woman asks for healing for her daughter
ca. 1500 Juan, de Flandes
Palacio de Oriente Painting
Madrid, Spain http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go–the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Sermon
Pastor Stevensen’s two younger daughters are studying the bible together using Facetime on the Internet. They called their father with a question: Why did Jesus ask the crowd to tell no one? Pastor replies that this has long been a topic of discussion. In fact, it is referred to as a Messianic Secret. An answer is that Jesus did not want a “dog and puppy show.” Why not? It is not God’s plan, which is not easily understood. A bigger slice of time is needed than that for one miracle. The whole life of Jesus all the way to the cross was God’s plan. One must keep in mind Jerusalum in which the Cross is central and where God defies sin and death. What is wrong with people talking? It focuses on short-term problems, such as hunger, starvation, etc. In the wilderness Jesus had been tempted by the devil to turn stone into bread. That was not God’s will. The story is compelling. Pastor continues on in his sermon to conclude with the knowledge that the Cross is offered to all.

August 29, 2021

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • Song of Solomon 2:8-13
    • Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
    • Psalm 15
  • Second reading
    • James 1:17-27
  • Gospel
    • Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The gospel reading from Mark:
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)

Holy Spirit as Dove
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu
Washington National Cathedral
Relief sculpture
Material: Stone
Washington, DC

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.

All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Sermon:
Pastor is reminded of a Christmas movie in which a boy, Ralphie involved in an incident, speaks a naughty word and is subjected to a ritual cleansing of his mouth with soap. Today in our gospel reading, the temple priests cleanse the temple and the congregation cleanse themselves before worship. It is important to them. However, there is a conflict between Jesus’ disciples and the establishment. Conflict is inevitable. In Isaiah, it is prophesized that the messiah will be named Emanuel, meaning God with us. Today too we see conflict. The punishment was not enough to stop Ralphie. Pietistic ritual cannot address all the conflicts of a broken world. Jesus tells his disciples to not discuss the miracles with the people. Miracles are an inevitable conflict. In the wilderness, Jesus is tempted to turn stone into bread, a quick solution but not God’s plan. In his sermon, Pastor Stevensen proceeds to explain that His Son died for you and me. It is happening now.

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August 22, 2021

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THIS WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43
    • Psalm 84
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
    • Psalm 34:15-22
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 6:10-20
  • Gospel
    • John 6:56-69

The gospel reading from John:
Jesus said “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Christ in the Synagogue, Rough sketch in oils
1868, Nikolaĭ Nikolaevich
https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Sermon
Jesus’ disciples, other than the faithful twelve, turned back and no longer went with Him. They said that His teaching was too difficult to accept. Pastor Stevensen’s past confirmands have asked questions about this teaching. They do not readily accept that “No one can come to Jesus unless it is granted by the Father” as Jesus said. Pastor in his sermon today poses the question “Who is going to win?” Jesus asked the twelve who stayed “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter, in particular, grasped the truth. He replied that “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter went on to preach the gospel as far away as Rome. Thomas traveled to India. Pastor goes on to convince us to be not discouraged and to press on.

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August 15, 2021

Twelveth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
    • Psalm 111
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Proverbs 9:1-6
    • Psalm 34:9-14
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 5:15-20
  • Gospel
    • John 6:51-58

The gospel reading from John:
Jesus said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Bread and Wine
2012
Drawing
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Sermon
This is the last Sunday of four Sundays in a row that we read from John about the bread. Today we focus on understanding of the bread as a sacrament. John’s book has a spiral function. We are familiar with the linear function of much that we read, having a beginning that proceeds straight to an end. With the spiral function new ideas are added each time around. Some colleges offer a spiral program of subjects. Related subjects are added as a student progresses. In today’s reading from John what does “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood” mean? A meaning makes sense after what we have read before. Each time it comes around we have a better understanding. The Son who speaks these words is the Lamb of God. We place our hopes on that. In his sermon Pastor Stevensen leads to God’s unconditional promise and our responsibility to trust Him.

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August 8, 2021

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE THIS WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
    • Psalm 130
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Kings 19:4-8
    • Psalm 34:1-8
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 4:25-5:2
  • Gospel
    • John 6:35, 41-51

The gospel reading from John:
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Chinese Orthodox Communion Bread Seal
21st century
Church of the Apostles
Hong Kong
China

Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Sermon
Pastor Stevensen finds the book of John to be remarkable. Our gospel readings from John this month of August include the word “bread” frequently. Today Jesus says “I am the living bread” and “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is.my flesh.” The word “bread” is about much more.than food. John opens with “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God sent His Son as the bread. Bread is a symbol as we take bread at communion. Christian life is a narrow path. On the path is freedom. On one side is compulsion. One TV commercial has a man on a bed with a stomach ache saying “I ate the whole thing.” He had freedom, but in this world are freedom is necessarily limited. Pastor takes this further to conclude with the life of the world being a freedom given by God.

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August 1, 2021

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
    • Psalm 51:1-12
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
    • Psalm 78:23-29
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 4:1-16
  • Gospel
    • John 6:24-35

The gospel from John:
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Bread for First Communion
Special bread with decoration of grapes is a symbolic gift for the Church from children who have their first Communion in a Catholic church in Poland.
2006
http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Sermon
In our gospel reading Jesus says “I am the bread of life”. In his sermon Pastor Stevensen asks what does this mean. We know that Jesus is God revealed. So what is significant about bread? 1. Panera bread is interesting but it is only to eat. 2. Jesus is not talking about bread that perishes. It is sacramental. As we take bread at communion, Jesus is present. We are forgiven and promised eternal life. God desires to be known and for us to believe in Him. The people ask what works must they do. God wants them to respond to his emissary. The same message is found in the other gospels. God wants us to believe in His Son. Pastor goes on to speak about where we can go to meet Him.

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July 25, 2021

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 11:1-15
    • Psalm 14
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Kings 4:42-44
    • Psalm 145:10-18
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 3:14-21
  • Gospel
    • John 6:1-21

Gospel reading from John
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.

Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Christ Walking on Water
ca. 1880
Klever, Julius Sergius von, 1850-1924
https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu


When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Sermon
Pastor Stevensen incorporates into his Sunday sermons not only proclamation of sin and death as would have Paul and forgiveness of sins as would have Luther, but also secondary thoughts which include understanding of the Bible. In our gospel reading from John this week ,two of Jesus’ miracles are followed by the words “It is I. Do not be afraid.” At other times in the gospels He uses the words, when translated from simple Greek, “I am”. In the Old Testament we read that God spoke through the burning bush to Moses saying “I am ……” as translated from the Greek. Pastor goes on by talking about these words as being like holy sacrament, being so rich in meaning, and being followed by who and what Jesus says he is.

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July 18, 2021

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
    • Psalm 89:20-37
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Jeremiah 23:1-6
    • Psalm 23
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 2:11-22
  • Gospel
    • Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The Gospel reading from Mark:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Together
Mural
City College
San Francisco, CA
diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.

And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.