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.
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Coming Clean

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.
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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

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.

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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.

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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.
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Wait and watch. (with audio)

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Proper 4A, December 18, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 7:10-17 Before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
Romans 1:1-7 “including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.

O God of freedom, 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 year, our fourth Sunday of Advent falls as far away from Christmas as our calendar ever permits. This year, we have six full days after today left in this longest Advent. Perhaps that’s why the traditional Advent themes of waiting and watching and being patient are really chafing this year. Probably, though, it’s more than just the six extra days. My own irritation with the messages of waiting and watching and being patient, surely has something to do with our unfolding national political crisis, with the dramatic rise of hate crimes, with the growing threats to racial and religious minorities, immigrants and refugees, women, people who identify as LGBTorQ, poor people. My irritation with the messages of waiting and watching and being patient, surely has something to do with global political instability, and growing threats to the environmental condition of the planet. Waiting and watching and being patient seems like exactly what we cannot afford to be doing.
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The beginning is near.

First Sunday of Advent, Proper 1A, November 27, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 2:1-5 They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.
Romans 13:11-14 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 24:37-44 No one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son.

O God of new beginnings, 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.

And so we begin a new year in the Church. Our ordinary time has been interrupted like the blast of the ram’s horn, by Advent, a season of preparation and repentance. Preparation and repentance can sound like the season of Lent, but Advent is not about the personal so much as it is about institutional, organizational, and communal preparation and repentance (repentance meaning turning around toward God). Our lessons for this Sunday are about a vision of nations waging peace, instructions to the Church that loving is the fulfillment of the law, and a reminder from Jesus that no one knows when the end will be, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son. No one knows except the Author of creation, the Author of Love.
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