July 23, 2023

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 28:10-19a
    • Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 or Isaiah 44:6-8
    • Psalm 86:11-17
  • Second reading
    • Romans 8:12-25
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

The gospel from Matthew:
Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; When everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away, So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them, Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Sower and the Devil
1923 Egger-Lienz
Albin Building:
War Memorial Chapel
Lienz, Austria

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Today’s gospel is often referred to as the Parable of Weeds among Weeds. It is a troublesome parable. The Greek translation in place of weed is a plant like wheat, but toxic. and cannot be used to make bread. In verse 29 the owner is telling his slaves to leave the weed and do not gather it, as you risk losing the harvest. The parables are often followed by an explanation, Pastor Stevenson points out, and he thinks the parable counsels patience. Christians live among others. The parable counsels against purification. It is hard to know who are Jesus’ followers, to know who is in and who is out. Matthew concludes that it is God’s business. We know that God is present. He is like the grower who cares for the wheat by leaving the weeds. Society is a complex mixture. Be patient………..

July 9, 2023

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
    • Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Zechariah 9:9-12
    • Psalm 145:8-14
  • Second reading
    • Romans 7:15-25a
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

The gospel from Matthew:
Jesus said “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

My Yoke Is Easy, And My Burden Is Light

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

July 2, 2023

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 22:1-14
    • Psalm 13
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Jeremiah 28:5-9
    • Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
  • Second reading
    • Romans 6:12-23
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 10:40-42

The first reading from Genesis:
After (other) things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Hand of Christ / The Palm of Peace
1897 Gallen-Kallela, Akseli
Espoo, Finland

The gospel from Matthew:
(Jesus said) “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

*Tarvaspää or the Gallen-Kallela Museum, located in Espoo, Finland and built between 1911 and 1913 was a home and studio for Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Tarvaspää has been a museum since 1961. [from Wikimedia].

This week Pastor Stevensen chose to speak on our first reading, from Genesis, about Abraham and Isaac, his reason being that it has for a long time been of interest and importance. There has been much artwork done of this intense biblical event. Abraham was ready, to do God’s will. Traditional was the practice of child sacrifice in those times. Abraham was tested. It is a hidden question, why was Abraham tested? God did not need to test. He wanted Abraham to learn about himself. What might we learn? God is sometimes absent. We perceive this in various ways. Is it a foretaste of Christ? Pastor Stevensen continued with how at Calvary God sacrificed His own Son without halting it and how it leads to our own beliefs as Christians……

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June 25, 2023

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 21:8-21
    • Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Jeremiah 20:7-13
    • Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18
  • Second reading
    • Romans 6:1b-11
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 10:24-39

The second reading from Romans:
Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Carrying the cross of Christ*
Loire, Gabriel 904-1996
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Aberdeen, United Kingdom

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. or whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Although the figure carrying the cross represents Simon of Cyrene, the power of the image reminds us of Christ’s admonition to take up the cross and follow him. Photo by Lawrence OP.

The gospel from Matthew:
Jesus said “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

The gospel reading this week is difficult to understand. Pastor Stevenson had a friend who tried to conduct a bible study on this scripture, but none of his congregation came. Paul wrote in Romans “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Life of faith can be tough. We come to church to be uplifted and encouraged. But not all our problems are washed away. In his sermon Pastor continues with the help that we receive from God. ……….

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June 18, 2023

Third Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
    • Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 19:2-8a
    • Psalm 100
  • Second reading
    • Romans 5:1-8
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

The gospel from Matthew:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Christ Speaking With the Disciples
Pencz, Georg

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

June 11, 2023

Second Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 12:1-9
    • Psalm 33:1-12
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Hosea 5:15-6:6
    • Psalm 50:7-15
  • Second reading
    • Romans 4:13-25
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

The gospel from Matthew:
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” and instantly the woman was made well.

When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.

And the report of this spread throughout that district.

June 4, 2023

Trinity Sunday

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 1:1-2:4a
    • Psalm 8
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 28:16-20
Christ Appears to the Disciples on the Mountain
Panel from the Maesta Altarpiece of Siena
1308-1311 Duccio, di Buoninsegna
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

The gospel from Matthew:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw hiim, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

May 28, 2023

Day of Pentecost

  • First reading
    • Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
  • Second reading
    • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21
  • Gospel
    • John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

The first reading from Acts:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

The gospel from John 20:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The gospel from John 7:
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

7:39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

May 21, 2023

Seventh Sunday of Easter

  • First reading
    • Acts 1:6-14
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
  • Second reading
    • 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
  • Gospel
    • John 17:1-11

The gospel from John:
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Life of Christ in stained glass
Donated by James T. Womack and Anne Richardson, Nashville, TN.
Cathédrale d’Amiens
Stained glass
Amiens, France

I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

On the left, bottom to top: Angel appears to the Three Wise Men, warning them not to go back to Herod; Herod commands his soldier to carry out the massacre of young children; the massacre of the innocents. On the right, bottom to top: the three Marys at the tomb; Mary Magdalene before the risen Jesus; the disciples as Jesus ascends to heaven.

Today Pastor Stevenson spoke on relevance of scripture. Our readings today seem unworldly. We instead tend to focus on ourselves. Today we see John’s use of the word “glory” in the gospel reading. Vanity is displayed. People often say that the glory of God is shown in that He is all powerful. The glory of God is shown by the Cross. Today is the final Easter Sunday. We move thoughts from the Resurrection to the coming of the Holy Spirit as the Christian church spread. Tradition says that the Holy Spirit takes the place of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit reminds us of the Crucifixion. Pastor spoke further about the relevance of this.

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May 14, 2023

Sixth Sunday of Easter

  • First reading
    • Acts 17:22-31
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 66:8-20
  • Second reading
    • 1 Peter 3:13-22
  • Gospel
    • John 14:15-21

The first reading from Acts:
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The gospel from John:
Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Our first reading this Sunday is from Acts and is a famous speech by the apostle Paul to the Athenians in Greece. He began “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you is the God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth.” Today we cannot assume that all people who go to church are Christian. What is the revelation by God that is to be believed? Why is Paul’s speech famous? First, it is by Paul. Second, it was to the pagan world. It is a timeless speech that tries to find a common ground, even though this would have even been strange to the Athenians. The Jews wanted a sign. The Greeks wanted philosophical reasoning. One revelation we present is the crucifixion of Christ. Paul ends with “(God) has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Pastor Stevenson in his sermon talks about the fundamental revelations.

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