This world is passing away.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, January 21, 2018; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 The present form of this world is passing away.
Mark 1:14-20 And immediately…

O God of good news, 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.

Our readings this morning, from Jonah’s advice to the great city of Ninevah, to Paul’s advice to the Jesus followers in the city of Corinth, to the Gospel of Mark’s breathless account of Jesus’ move back to Galilee, all convey a sense of urgency and risk. Ninevah has only 40 days to clean up its act (which seems like a very short time). Paul says that time has grown short, that the present form of this world is passing away. Jesus has come out of the wilderness where he was being tempted by Satan for 40 days (which seems like a very long time) to learn that John has been arrested, and has headed to Galilee quoting John directly: repent, that is, change your hearts toward God. A complete re-orientation is what John and Jesus were calling for. Jesus began to teach that the present form of this world is passing away.
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Calling for a better future.

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B,January 14, 2018; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz
January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-20 The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God and that you are not your own?
John 1:43-51 I saw you.

O God of our hope, 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 our lectionary seems to lob softball pitches for helping us to make meaning of current events and equipping us to better navigate our future. In our first reading from the first Book of Samuel, we read that in the old days, the word of the Lord was rare, and the ability to see clearly was not widespread. Back in the year 1100 BCE, Israel was going through a time of immense societal change. Biblical scholar Bruce Birch calls it “a time of spiritual desolation, religious corruption, political danger, and social upheaval.” [1] Eli the priest and his sons were responsible for guarding the Ark of the Covenant and its holy oracle. Eli’s sons did not behave well at all and Eli wasn’t able to get them to change their violent ways. This is a story of the transfer of authority from Eli to Samuel that highlights Eli’s wisdom and integrity, and Samuel’s responsiveness and bravery. The word of God, here, is like a light that is both harsh and bright – exposing what is shameful and shining like a beacon to light the way. The call that Samuel hears is to prophetic work of declaring both judgment and hope, both repentance and return to the way of obedience to Love (which is another word for God). It’s a call for a better future.
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Resolutions, Revelations, and Realizations

The Baptism of our Lord, Year B, January 7, 2018; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 1:1-5 God saw that light was good.
Acts 19:1-7 No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:4-11 People from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem…[and] Jesus came from Nazareth.

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.

What a treasure trove of scripture readings have been given to us by wise men (and wise women) to celebrate a new calendar year, the beginning of the season of Epiphany, and the feast of The Baptism of our Lord! Today is about resolutions, revelations, and realizations. I have so many things I want to say to you! Where to start? How about in the beginning? The last two Sundays we heard the Gospel of John’s jazz variation on the prologue to the book of Genesis. Now we hear the original.
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And the story isn’t finished.

First Sunday after Christmas, Proper 1B, December 31, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz
December 31, 2017

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 For the sake of Zion I will not be silent. For the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest.
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
John 1:1-18 And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

O God of our story, 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.

 

First a poem by Padraig O Tuama, called Narrative Theology #1:

And I said to him

Are there questions to all of this?

And he said

The answer is in a story

and the story is being told.

 

And I said

But there is so much pain

And she answered, plainly,

Pain will happen.

 

Then I said

Will I ever find meaning?

And they said

You will find meaning

Where you give meaning.

 

The answer is in the story

And the story isn’t finished. [1]

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Angels, Virgins, and Cousins

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, December 24, 2017, The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 I will not take my steadfast love from him.
Romans 16:25-27 Amen.
Luke 1:26-38 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

O God in whom is heaven, 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.

Today our liturgical calendar is giving us the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning and Christmas Eve in the evening. Buckle up! For the past three weeks, our scripture readings have been full of prophetic calls to vast numbers of people for large scale civil engineering projects, leveling mountains, filling in valleys, and making travel easier for God. Today, in a dramatic downshift, we are invited into intensely intimate scenes between David and Nathan, between Mary and Gabriel. You can almost hear our theological engine revving as we slow down to make this big turn.
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Ready or Not

Third Sunday of Advent, Year B, December 17, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 The present form of this world is passing away.
Mark 1:14-20 And immediately…

O God of good news, 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.

Our readings this morning, from Jonah’s advice to the great city of Ninevah, to Paul’s advice to the Jesus followers in the city of Corinth, to the Gospel of Mark’s breathless account of Jesus’ move back to Galilee, all convey a sense of urgency and risk. Ninevah has only 40 days to clean up its act (which seems like a very short time). Paul says that time has grown short, that the present form of this world is passing away. Jesus has come out of the wilderness where he was being tempted by Satan for 40 days (which seems like a very long time) to learn that John has been arrested, and has headed to Galilee quoting John directly: repent, that is, change your hearts toward God. A complete re-orientation is what John and Jesus were calling for. Jesus began to teach that the present form of this world is passing away. Continue reading

We have work to do.

Second Sunday of Advent, Proper 2B, December 10, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 40:1-11 Cry out!

2 Peter 3:8-15a Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.

Mark 1:1-8 He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

O God of the prophets, 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.

Every year our branch of Christianity gives us a new year – a new advent –a new season for longing, to hear and respond to lessons of prophetic wisdom and calls for repentance writ large. These calls are not for personal repentance (that’s for the season of Lent). It’s fairly easy for people like us to understand our individual sins. (Not so easy to repent, but easy to identify.) It’s much harder in our culture for people like us to identify collective or institutional or structural sin, especially when so many of us benefit from it. Advent’s prophets are calling not for individual repentance, but for national repentance, for corporate repentance, and for ecclesiastical – that is Church — repentance. It seems to me that it doesn’t matter what your political perspective or affiliation is, we can probably agree that institutions – nations, corporations, and organizations are failing to care for people with dignity and respect. We are in a period of deep disintegration and the need for repentance, for turning around toward God, or Love, seems more pressing than ever.
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My liberation is bound with yours.

Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Proper 29A, November 26, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will [safeguard].
Ephesians 1:15-23 So that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Matthew 25:31-46 Just as you did it to the least of these…you did it to me.

O God of endings and new beginnings, 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.

Today we mark the end of the liturgical calendar year for Christians. This is our New Year’s Eve day – a time for reflection and review, for celebration, and for renewed hope for the future.  Our year end coincides this year with Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you’ve all found reasons to be thankful. But if this week has been particularly hard, and you haven’t found a reason yet, I hope you will find it this morning in this place!  I am so thankful that you are here.
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The Mystery of God’s Justice

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 28, November 19, 2017; The Rev. Dr. Cameron E. Partridge

It’s a privilege to be with you here at Emmanuel Church. Thank you very much, Pam, for the invitation to preach and to all of you for welcoming me this morning. I enjoyed getting to collaborate with you on the Boston-Cambridge Mission Hub when I served as Campus Minister for Episcopal students at Boston University, and I’m glad that being in town for the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting has finally given me the opportunity to worship with you on a Sunday morning. Continue reading

It’s a miracle!

Sunday in the Octave of the Feast of All Saints’, November 5, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L Werntz

Revelation 7:9-17 These are they who have come out of the great ordeal.
1 John 3:1-3 See what love [God] has given us.

Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed… .blessed… .blessed.

O God of all saints, 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.

From time to time I feel the need to confess things to you, that you probably already know, but I still want to say them. Today I have two such confessions. First, I am a Church geek. I love the Bible, warts and all. I especially love Jesus, although I don’t always understand him, and he often takes me where I do not wish to go. I love the feasts and fasts of our liturgical calendar, especially All Saints’ Day. I love singing hymns and sharing bread and wine when we gather for worship. I also love vestry meetings and annual parish meetings, and overly full Diocesan Conventions like the one we had yesterday at our Cathedral on Tremont Street. In spite of the energy it exacts from this introvert, I love the wide and wild assortment of folks that come together to lead the church in the most crazy, messy, democratic way. I love budget deliberations. I love raising money for and spending money on things that matter, things that promote the well-being of our common life. I love resolution debates about our affirmations of and aspirations for the common good. I love people who express their incredulity, saying to me, “budget and resolution debates? Really, Pam?” Really.
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