November 15, 2020

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Judges 4:1-7
    • Psalm 123
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
    • Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 25:14-30
Stained glass (detail) from
the parable of the Talents,
St Edward the Martyr’s Church,
Corfe Castle, Dorset

Gospel reading from Matthew
Jesus said “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.

For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

Pastor Stevensen in his sermon this week admits that the parable in the gospel reading is harsh. There are two penitential seasons per year in our church calendar and we are entering one of them. He once taught a class on Jesus’ parables, and this parable was challenging. The purpose of the ending verses is not about greed. For a meaning the parable can be turned around. The slave was harsh toward his master, who can be a stand-in for God. He is indolent, lazy and fearful. But to be “tossed out” is a severe punishment. His trouble is in a lack of trust. The parable is saying we must get on with the work. It is about not all work being glamorous and about trust in Him. It is like a glamorous video Pastor once received from a “5-talent” congregation looking for a pastor. Should Pastor dig a hole? Feel sorry for himself? Martin Luther persuaded trust in God and go to work. The slave even accused his master of being a thief. Saying that to your boss could be disastrous and to God even worse. The parable really says keep on being a witness. Criticism is an unwillingness to trust and serve Him.

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November 8, 2020

Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

Readings for the Coming Week
  • First reading and Psalm
    • Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
    • Psalm 78:1-7
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18adig from
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 25:1-13

Psalm 70
78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,

78:3 things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us.

78:4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

78:5 He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children;

78:6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children,

78:7 so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Gospel reading from Matthew
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

We are undergoing at this time a wave of stress. In his sermon Pastor Stevensen expressed concern. Thr psalm this week may be of more help than the gospel reading. There are 150 psalms, Psalm 70 is a way for people to express themselves. Pastor told the story about a bearded Concordia professor riding his bike daily through a park chanting the psalms from memory. Psalm 70 has an emergency about it. For interpreting the gospel reading the psalm helps. In our gospel reading the bridegroom is Jesus. Five bridesmaids filled their lamps with oil. Five did not. The oil is a symbol. We are asked to be open to the deeds of God. The wise bridesmaids became open. The others did not think that the Christ would come. Be open to what God has done.

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November 1, 2020

All Saints Day

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Revelation 7:9-17
    • Psalm 34:1-10, 22
  • Second reading
    • 1 John 3:1-3
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 5:1-12
Sermon on the Mount,
relief sculpture, church in
Schwebsange, Luxembourg

Gospel reading from Matthew
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Today Pastor spoke on the second beatitude.” Lutherans preserve tradition. All Saints Day is ancient. On this day we remember those lost. People struggle with the loss of friends and family often much longer than an expected 18 months. But we can put that into perspective. Pastor related that his high school friends 16-20 years old were not always good to each other. Two cousins’ sons were two years apart in age . The younger one was more athletic than the other. He went to prestigious Cal Tech. This sometimes infuriated the other. They were just young men. All achieved in their own way. Pastor won and had peace, Many have like situations. Here this church festival, All Saints Day, is set aside to work on these issues and put them in perspective. Jesus was reading the bible of the day when he taught his disciples the Beatitude “Blessed is he who mourns, for he shall be comforted.” Through the words of Jesus we learn to cope.


October 25, 2020

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost


  • First reading and Psalm
    • Deuteronomy 34:1-12
    • Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
    • Psalm 1
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 22:34-46

Gospel reading from Matthew
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

To Love My Neighbor, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:”What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”

He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


This Sunday, being Reformation Sunday, Pastor Stevensen’s message was based on the following scriptures:

  • First lesson: Jer 31:31-34
  • Second lesson Rom 3:19-28
  • Holy Gospel: John 8: 31-36

Pastor reminded us that God had made a covenant with the Israelites, a two-sided covenant which in time they broke. As written in Jeremiah 31, God made another covenant, a one-sided one, in which His people were chosen to be united with Him. God makes the same covenant with us in forgiveness of our sins. The Catholic group with whom we share our building, are critical of our beliefs. They are living out a two-sided covenant. Christians became divided as to what God does for us, What happened? Constantinople fell to the Muslims. Christians fled the city, one of whom was Martin Luther. We are dependent upon God. Pastor often gets calls for help. This is adverse to the one-sided covenant. At GM where he worked higher-level employees were given cars they were expected to drive, and if driven enough miles, were given the cars. One manager became irate when he missed given a car by only 8 miles, and he asked why was he not reminded. Pastor urges his students to keep up with the lessons. But people do not keep up. In the spiritual realm it is different. We learn what Paul learned. God expects only our love. He is looking out for us.

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October 18, 2020

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost


  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 33:12-23
    • Psalm 99
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 45:1-7
    • Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 22:15-22

Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

Roman Coin of Caesar Augustus
British Museum, London
Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.”

Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.


Vanderbilt Divinity Library

A sermon on the gospel reading

This Sunday Pastor Stevensen told us that in 6 A.D. Jewish leaders went to Rome and made a deal with the Romans. There it was agreed that the Roman coin would not be used in Judea and that the Jews would be taxed, the taxes to be used to reconstruct the Jewish temple, which would be used to worship Caesar. The Pharisees show a Roman coin to Jesus and try to corner Him by asking “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” With His answer “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus sidesteps a trap. Before the Roman conquest, Israel had long had both a king and a prophet. Government and religious authorities were separated, unlike the Arabic Muslims, and were accepted by the people. With his wise answer Jesus offered a cornerstone to Christianity, a blueprint for the future. And not only authority was involved but also image. The coin bears Caesar’s image, but there is also a hidden image. In Genesis “Man is Made in God’s Image.” We are the image of God. He has complete claim on all people. Jesus made an assertion and the Pharisees walked away. We must stay and accept God’s claim on ourselves.


October 11, 2020

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost


  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 32:1-14
    • Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 25:1-9
    • Psalm 23
  • Second reading
    • Philippians 4:1-9
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 22:1-14

Gospel Reading from Matthew

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.

The Marriage Feast,
Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896.
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library,
Nashville, TN.

Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedd ing banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Sermon on the Gospel reading

Pastor Stevensen in his sermon admits that the gospel reading this week is difficult to interpret. In it a king gives a banquet, a common metaphor for our God, but guests who do not come our his people. Few ministers use it for their sermon text. But Pastor knows of one who did and spoke of it as gospel of great joy. We are the people who come to the wedding banquet. Those who do not come do intend to come, someday. The parable is a caution. Our communion table is the marriage feast, or the feast to come. This is our real King. We come to church and feel the essence of Him.

October 4, 2020

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
    • Psalm 19
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 5:1-7
    • Psalm 80:7-15
  • Second reading
    • Philippians 3:4b-14
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 21:33-46
Vine Cultivation,
quatrefoil on exterior of
Cathedrale d’Amiens,
Amiens, France

Gospel Reading from Matthew:
Jesus said “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way.

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’ Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

September 27, 2020

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 17:1-7
    • Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
    • Psalm 25:1-9
  • Second reading
    • Philippians 2:1-13
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 21:23-32

Gospel reading from Matthew:
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Margaret Almon, Faithfulness

Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

September 20, 2020

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 16:2-15
    • Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Jonah 3:10-4:11
    • Psalm 145:1-8
  • Second reading
    • Philippians 1:21-30
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 20:1-16

Gospel reading from Matthew:
Jesus said “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.

And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

20:10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

Jesus Mafa, The Late-arriving Workers – Matthew 20:1-16

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

September 13, 2020

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 14:19-31
    • Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Genesis 50:15-21
    • Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
  • Second reading
    • Romans 14:1-12
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 18:21-35
Maurice Harron, Hands Across the Divide

Gospel reading from Matthew
Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.

So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’

Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.

When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’

And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries, Vanderbilt University

Art by Maurice Harron, Hands Across the Divide.