Demanding and Exhilarating

Lent 4A, March 26, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

1 Samuel 16:1-13 But the LORD looks on the heart.
Ephesians 5:8-14 Live as children of light.
John 9:1-13, 28-38 So that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of [the One] who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

O God of our vision, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Nine years ago, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday, aka Mothering Sunday), I began my service to Emmanuel Church as your priest with these readings from the lectionary. I brought a basket of red pencils with me that first morning for Steve Babcock, our trusty head usher, to hand out with the bulletins. His eyebrows went up just a little bit when I handed him the basket, but he was a great sport about the odd request. (It was the first of many.) I had collected the red pencils from art supplies from my prison ministry program, raided my kids’ colored pencil sets, and I probably bought two boxes or so. I’m so happy to report that nine years later, that I would need more than twice the number of pencils that we used in 2008 and I did not have the time on my hands to collect the additional pencils needed this week!
Continue reading

Go!

Lent 2A, March 12, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 12:1-4a Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
John 3:1-17 How can these things be?

O God of grace, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

This is one of those Sundays when I have a harder time giving thanks and praise to God in response to the scripture readings when I first hear them, because it’s hard for me to hear them read without thinking about the damage humans do to one another using these passages as weapons.  The recent and dramatic rise of hateful words and actions against Jews and Muslims (or people mistaken for Muslims) is fueled by arrogance and ignorance of “Christian” teachings. The fighting happens within Christianity as well, between Catholics and protestants, between different kinds of protestants, and within our own Anglican traditions. Perhaps you have a similar experience of knowing these lessons from a standpoint of in and out, us and them, ours and not yours.  Perhaps you’ve heard these lessons as being about tests about who measures up because of what they think or don’t think.  If not, just wait for today’s cantata! All this makes many flee religious practice, and for good reason. Continue reading

Training for Easter

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 You will not die…
Romans 5:12-21 But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Matthew 4:1-11 Away with you, Satan!

O God of grace, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

The season of Lent has begun in the Church and so I want to talk to you a little bit about temptation and about sin! (It seems only right.) It’s not something we like to talk much about so much in the Episcopal Church. Temptation is what leads to sin and sin – well… a parishioner told me once that she doesn’t really like the word sin because it’s such a strong word. “Couldn’t we just use the word mistake?” she asked. But I don’t think “mistake” completely covers it.
Continue reading

Coming Clean (with audio)

Epiphany 7A, February 19, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 Do you not know that you are God’s temple?
Matthew 5:38-48 Give to everyone who begs from you.

O Holy God, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Today seems like a good day to make sure you know some things about the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, because we just heard the only passage that ever gets read in our three-year lectionary cycle. Chapter 19 of Leviticus is sometimes called the mini-Torah because of how comprehensive it is in its summary of what it will look like to be the people of God. In a three-year cycle of readings, this lesson gets read on the 7th Sunday of Epiphany in Year A, when the calendar permits seven Sundays in Epiphany, which is to say almost never.
Continue reading

Available Resources

Epiphany 4A, January 29, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Micah 6:1-8 [God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed…blessed…blessed.

O God of the strangest blessings, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

What a week. The other day, one of my colleagues asked a group of Central Boston clergy, “how are you preaching in times like these?” The swift and wise answer from another esteemed colleague was, “stay close to the Bible.” At first, I thought, “hey, my approach to preaching may be coming back into style!” That thought was quickly followed by my memory of a scene from the 1974 movie, Young Frankenstein, in which Frau Blücher, carrying a candelabra with three unlit candles warns, “stay close to the candles…the stairway can be treacherous!” But staying close to the sacred story, the Bible doesn’t work so well without the illumination of wisdom and learning, without the illumination of engagement of diverse communities across space and time, and without the illumination of Love (capital L). Wisdom and learning. Engagement of diverse communities. Love. If those three candles are lit, the stairway to the realm of God is not so treacherous. Continue reading

Inauguration

Epiphany 3A, January 22, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 9:1-4 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius…(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else). [to me, this is one of the funniest lines in all of scripture]
Matthew 4:12-23 He saw [them]…and he called them.

O God of light, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

This morning we hear scripture readings and a cantata text that invite us to ponder a new start – a new year — an inauguration. The timing could not be better, because we just had an inauguration on Friday, and then we had another one yesterday, one that took place in more than 600 cities around the world as more than a million, maybe more than two million people used their bodies to testify to the values of respecting human dignity and caring for our creation. Continue reading

Vision of Dignity (with audio)

Epiphany 2A, January 15, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 49:1-7 I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 God is faithful.
John 1:29-41 Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

O God, manifest in us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Last week in our Gospel lesson, we heard Matthew’s version of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. You might remember that I said that, according to Matthew, the voice that Jesus heard was an inside-out rather than an outside-in voice. Matthew was describing the bat kol – the voice of the Divine that sounds like the voice of a little girl, or the daughter of a voice, an echo. Matthew mentions that the heavens opened up to Jesus and a spirit of holiness landed on Jesus like a dove and he heard the voice of the Divine – the bat kol – saying this is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Matthew does not describe this as a voice that any of the others who were there would have heard. Continue reading

Saved for a New Year

Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Numbers 6:22-27 I will bless them.
Philippians 2:5-11 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
Luke 2:15-21 Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

O God of our hearts, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Continue reading

The Work of Christmas

The Feast of the Nativity, December 25, 2016

Isaiah 52:7-10 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem.
Titus 2:11-14 Let no one look down on you.
John 1:1-14 Full of grace and truth.

O God of grace, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Continue reading

Pieces of Emmanuel

Epiphany 1A, January 8, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 42:1-9 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand.
Acts 10:34-43 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Matthew 3:13-17 And [pay attention] the heavens were opened to him…and [pay attention] a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

O God, manifest in us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Today is the day in the church liturgical calendar called “The Baptism of our Lord.” In the early church, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord was much more important a celebration than the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord (which we know as Christmas). The ancient church celebrated three feasts of light: Epiphany, which was the story of people wise enough to seek after and find Jesus, The Baptism of Our Lord by the incredulous John at the River Jordan, and the Wedding Feast at Cana where the story goes that Jesus changed water into some really good wine. These feasts of light were understood to illuminate the nature of God, they were manifestations or revelations initiated by God and noticed by people. These three feasts demonstrated to early Christians not only what God is like but also Who (God) wishes us to be in community – in relationship to one another.
Continue reading