August 8, 2021

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

  • 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

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.”

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 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

  • 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.

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.

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

  • 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

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.

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

  • 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.

City College
San Francisco, CA

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.

July 11, 2021

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
    • Psalm 24
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Amos 7:7-15
    • Psalm 85:8-13
  • Second reading
    • Ephesians 1:3-14
  • Gospel
    • Mark 6:14-29

The gospel reading from Mark
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”

But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.

6:21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Feast of Herod
Lucas Cranach
Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries, Vanderbilt University

The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

July 4, 2021

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
    • Psalm 48
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Ezekiel 2:1-5
    • Psalm 123
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
  • Gospel
    • Mark 6:1-13

The gospel reading from Mark:
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.

Pilgrim Path*, Waymarker(Ireland)

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.

If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

*Pilgrim with Staff. 
Waymarking sign comprising an image of a pilgrim with a Celtic tonsure, tunic and staff and a directional arrow in yellow inset with a cross of arcs in yellow, used in Ireland to denote a Pilgrim Path developed by the Heritage Council. The pilgrim image based on an image on a stone at pilgrimage site in County Cork. The cross of arcs is one of the main symbols of pilgimage in Ireland.

Freedom is Pastor Stevensen’s sermon topic this Independence Day. He has read a book and taken a course that cover the concept of freedom, which was introduced by the Greeks. The New Testament, written originally in Greek, is full of examples of freedom. In Jerusalem was written the Old Testament and Jesus instructs his disciples from it. Pastor explains how Christianity has woven the two together and urges us to reflect on this fourth of July the freedom granted us by our God

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June 27, 2021

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
    • Psalm 130
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24 or Lamentations 3:22-33
    • Psalm 30
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
  • Gospel
    • Mark 5:21-43

The gospel reading from Mark
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live. So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?'”He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Daughter of Jairus
Digital photograph
Copyright © 2020 Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries, Vanderbilt University

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further? “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.

Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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June Twentieth 2021

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
    • Psalm 9:9-20
    • 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16
    • Psalm 133
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Job 38:1-11
    • Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
  • Gospel
    • Mark 4:35-41

The gospel reading from Mark:

Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

Peterson, Kathleen
Spring City, UT

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and the sea obey him?”

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Pastor Stevensen told about a certain German writer, after mid-life introduction to Christianity and reading the New Testament, wrote that Mark is not a history or biography, but more like a classic tragedy, until Jesus is resurrected. Today we read that Jesus was asleep and when awakened he rebuked the wind. In the Old Testament Jonah is also asleep and in Job there are the forces of nature created by God. But in today’s gospel lesson it is Jesus who ceases the storm. The miracles of Jesus have opened eyes. Mark’s gospel may be short and unpolished but it must be taken seriously.

June 13, 2021

Third Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
    • Psalm 20
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Ezekiel 17:22-24
    • Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
  • Gospel
    • Mark 4:26-34
White Mustard Seeds
Edal Lefterov, 2012

Gospel reading from Mark:
Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come. “He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

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June 6, 2021

Second Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
    • Psalm 138
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 3:8-15
    • Psalm 130
  • Second reading
    • 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
  • Gospel
    • Mark 3:20-35

Mark 3:20-35
The crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

House Divided,
Luke Siemens, 2008
Saskatoon, SK,Canada

And Jesus called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”