Made by God

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20A, September 24, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 16:2-15 In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Philippians 1:21-30 Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Matthew 20:1-16 Are you envious because I am generous?

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

It is becoming something of a tradition to begin the Emmanuel Church cantata season with Anton Bruckner’s Locus Iste – this place was made by God, a priceless sacrament; it is without reproach. The Emmanuel Music choir always makes it sound to me like the piece was written for this worship space. Anticipating today, I had the words stuck in my head all week. Is it true? What does it mean that this place was made by God? What does it mean that it is a priceless sacrament, profoundly sacred? What does it mean that it is without reproach? Continue reading

Endless Mercy

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19A, September 17, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 14:19-31 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground.
Romans 14:1-12 Welcome.
Matthew 18:21-35 Have…mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?

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

Did any of you see the pictures of the strong east wind that blew the water right out of Tampa Bay during Hurricane Irma? The opposite of a storm surge, Tampa Bay was emptied as the hurricane advanced north. For a few hours, parts of Tampa Bay were six feet below sea level and people could walk across the floor of the bay. Meteorologists speculate that the receding water saved Tampa, because by the time the eye of the hurricane arrived, the storm was weaker and the predicted storm surge just filled the bay back in rather than swamping the entire city. The water never came over the city’s barriers. Whatever the explanation, it was a miracle for the residents of Tampa. Continue reading

Singing Love Songs

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18A, September 10, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L.Werntz

Exodus 12:1-14 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor.
Romans 13:8-14 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 18:15-20 If two of you agree…about anything you ask, it will be done for you.

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

Those of you who have heard me preach, know that I frequently offer alternative translations of Biblical passages as a way of helping us get out from under the heavy rubble of Christian doctrine, burdensome dogma, that can be the weights around God’s ankles. I never want us to be putting on weights around God’s ankles. If Theresa of Avila is right that, “Christ has no hands but our hands,” I’d add that God has no ankles but our ankles, and we must not be weighing one another down, but encouraging one another to be light on our feet, ready to move, able to be swift to love. That seems especially critical in a time of wildfires, floods, high winds, hurricanes, and earthquakes, of devastation and suffering around our country and around the world. It seems especially critical in a culture where what passes for Christianity can have so little to do with the life and love of Jesus. Continue reading

Dangerous Hope

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17A, September 3, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 3:1-15 Here I am.
Romans 12:9-21 Heap burning coals on their heads.
Matthew 16:21-28 Hhose who lose their life for my sake will find it.

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

The other day a parishioner observed that in my preaching, I seldom make explicit connections between scripture and our contemporary political situation. I don’t name names. Do I need to? I trust you to make connections if I stay close to our sacred texts and tell you what I see there. I want you to make the connections – they’ll be deeper and truer that way. Continue reading

Laugh and grow.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 11A, July 23, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 28:10-19a He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
Romans 8:12-25 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
Matthew 13:24-30, 26-43 Listen!

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

Listen!  Very early on Tuesday mornings in July, people have been gathering in the Emmanuel Room to do some exploration of the Gospel lesson appointed for the coming Sunday.  We follow a process of reading the passage three times and after each time we respond to a question.  After the first reading the question is “what did you notice?”  After the second reading the question is “what is speaking to you?”  And after the third time through the question is “what will be different about your week because of this encounter with the passage?”  In other words, “how will you be changed by this experience?”  As a group we generally don’t like that question and it takes considerable discipline to make sure that we have time in the hour that we spend together to ask and respond to it.
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Brave, Foolish, and Extravagant

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10A, July 16, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 25:19-34 If it is going to be this way, why do I live?
Romans 8:1-11 You are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Matthew 13:1-23 Listen.

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

In the Gospel of Matthew, we’ve gone from the weeds to the water. Jesus began his third course of instruction in the Gospel of Matthew, by getting into a boat and speaking to the crowds from the edge of the Sea of Galilee, which is really a small lake, using the hills behind the crowd for natural amplification (surround sound).  I’m sorry that our lectionary doesn’t include reading chapter 12 of Matthew, because it is all about Jesus reminding his colleagues in leadership about God’s strong desire for mercy, God’s character of tenderness, God’s deep concern for all who are oppressed, and God’s hopefulness that people will turn and return to Love and to loving. Quoting material from the prophets Hosea, Isaiah, and Jonah, Jesus was reminding his colleagues about God’s extravagant faith in people, God’s great faithfulness. That is the literary mixer or equalizer for this next course of instruction, the way Matthew has composed his Gospel. (I’ve got sound systems on my mind because we’re trying out an extra speaker in Lindsey Chapel today.) Continue reading

Weeds or No Weeds

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9A, July 9, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49; 58-67 Please give me a little water from your jar to drink.
Romans 7:15-25a For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.

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

Some of the earliest Sunday School lessons I remember learning were from a class taught sitting in the weeds when I was about six years old. (When we sat down in a little circle, the weeds were over our heads.) The first scripture verse I learned was Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord,” and my teacher told us that we were sitting in the house of the Lord. My dad was the pastor of a congregation that worshipped outdoors at a farm in the summer, which was a welcome respite from the gritty urban ministry that characterized the rest of the year. I remember the weather being steamy and hot and I remember being struck by how many bugs there were in the house of the Lord. That’s what came to me as I reflected on our Gospel lesson for this morning. It’s summertime and we’re in the weeds, and I’m still struck by how many things bug us in the house of the Lord. Continue reading

Intervening to Stop Violence

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8A, June 25, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 22:1-14 Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.
Romans 6:12-23 Present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
Matthew 10:40-42 And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.

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

Beginning last Sunday, and all through the week, so many people asked me, “what are you doing with The Binding of Isaac?” Seriously.  In emails, in person, on the phone.  And my response has been, “I don’t know! What are YOU doing with The Binding of Isaac?” Oy. So today I’m to start my sermon with a poem – it’s from David Whyte – called “Sometimes.” [1]
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God Sees and God Hears

Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7A, June 25, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 21:8-21 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.
Romans 6:1b-11 Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
Matthew 10:24-39 I have not come to bring peace but a sword.

O God of love, may we have the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth – come when it may and cost what it will.

Our lectionary has dished up some hard readings for us today. Sometimes when I am feasting on the Word of God, I wish it were a little easier to chew and that it tasted better. The trouble starts with the story of the exile of Hagar and Ishmael, when baby Isaac had grown into a boy. Father Abraham is a biblical character that I have a hard time revering; he is so frequently willing (or feeling called by God) to sacrifice or dispose of his wives and his sons. It seems to me that to focus only on the tortured relationship between Sarah and Hagar is to ignore the oppressive patriarchy that is at work in both of their lives. Zimbabwean theologian, Dora Mbuwayesango points out that both Sarah and Hagar are caught in a “patriarchal web that is not easy to untangle,” [1] and I think that applies just as much to 21st century listeners.
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Hospitality

Second Sunday after Pentecost Proper 6A, June 18, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7) When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them.
Romans 5:1-8 Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.
Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23) When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless…the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

O Lord of the harvest, may we have the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth – come when it may and cost what it will.

Sometimes we have readings from scripture that are difficult to imagine – obscure references, ancient ideas that are hard for our post-modern ears to understand, but not today. Today we have a vivid scene from the Torah of three men who visited Abraham and Sarah; we have an assurance that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through a spirit of holiness in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome; and we have the Gospel of Matthew’s account of when twelve disciples became twelve apostles, and the traveling instructions Jesus gave to them.
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