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

Spiritual Infrastructure

All Saints’ Day (with alt second reading), November 1, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God
Revelation 7:9-17 Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!
John 11:32-44 Come out!…Unbind him and let him go.

O God of all, 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.

Some days on the church calendar are really big – Christmas Eve, Easter Day, Pentecost and All Saints are generally the four biggest for us. Today is the great Feast of All Saints; it’s a day to celebrate the saints, known and unknown. Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day – the day set aside in the church calendar for commemoration of all those who have departed this life, whether they were saints or sinners or both. So this is a Sunday to remember the present as well as the past – to honor all those who go and have gone before us – all saints and all souls. Continue reading

Getting Chased around the Lake

Pentecost, Year B, May 24, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Ezekiel 37:1-14 Can these bones live?
Acts 2:1-21 I will pour out [from/of] my Spirit upon all flesh.
John 15:26-16:15 I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.

O Holy Source of inspiration, 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.

Happy Pentecost everyone! I am very glad that you’re here – amazed and delighted, really. I expect people on the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) and the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter), but when the Feast of Pentecost falls on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, well, I just never know. Pentecost is my favorite church holiday. I love our parades of puppets in procession at Emmanuel, bracketing the Great Fifty days of Easter. I love the Pentecost scripture readings: the rattling dry bones re-animated by the spirit of holiness, the breath of God. I love the sound like the rush of a violent wind of the Acts story – not a gentle breeze, not a still small voice, but a complete cacophony of the Good News of the powerful Love of God being told in at least 17 languages (we managed 10 languages this morning –wasn’t it perplexing and thrilling?) And I love the promise of the “one called alongside to help” – parakletos is the Greek word, champion, [1] here translated advocate. Perhaps, more than anything, I love baptisms and Pentecost is one of four days specially designated for baptisms. Continue reading

New Beginnings

The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, January 11, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 1:1-5 Beginning…
Acts 19:1-7 We have not even heard that there is a holy spirit.
Mark 1:4-11 He will baptize you with the[sic] holy spirit.

O God of beginning again, 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 is a special day in the Church – a Feast Day called, “The Baptism of our Lord.” It’s a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church. (However, I will tell you that, any day would be a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church, which took place yesterday. Congratulations Patrick!) As most of you know, Patrick lives in New York City now and is working for the Church Pension Fund. He’s been commuting to Boston to serve Emmanuel for the last four months. It’s a long way to come to volunteer to help out at a church! On behalf of all of us, thank you for that, Patrick, and thank you for choosing Emmanuel, Boston as the place for your first Eucharist as Episcopal priest! This is nearly, but not quite goodbye, because Patrick will be back in two weeks to preach and preside while I am away at the end of the month. Patrick, we hope you’ll be back with us whenever your schedule permits. Continue reading

Grapes

First Sunday after Christmas B, December 28, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest.
Galatians 4:4-7 So that we might receive adoption as children.
Luke 2:22:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

O God with us, Emmanuel, 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 Gospel portion that I just read is only told in the Gospel of Luke. It follows immediately after the verse which says, “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child, and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. If it had been a little less chaotic at Emmanuel Church in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I might have remembered to expand our Gospel reading in your bulletins to include this verse, because of the reference to Jesus’ naming ceremony. Only Luke tells anything about Jesus before he reached later adulthood. So I wonder, what is it that Luke wanted to demonstrate with these stories of Jesus’ infancy and boyhood?

I think the first is that Jesus was a real human, according to Luke. He was born to human parents, with a genealogy that went back to Adam — earthling (who Luke calls the Son of God). The Good News of Jesus Christ in Luke is that God anointed a human being to fully embody God’s intention of freedom and right-relationship for God’s people. Jesus increased in wisdom as he increased in years. According to Luke, Jesus didn’t land on earth knowing it all. Jesus learned as he went. According to Luke, Jesus was fully, really human. Continue reading

Reasons to Rejoice

The Third Sunday of Advent, 3B, December 14, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 66:1-4, 8-11 To give them a garland instead of ashes.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

O God of 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.

One of the benefits of sharing sanctuary and programs and families and friendships with a synagogue is that we are regularly called out of theological complacency when it comes to our Christian scripture and Church tradition’s references to Jews – or Levites, or priests from Jerusalem, or high priests, or Sadducees, or scribes, or Pharisees. I changed the word Jews in our Gospel lesson to Judeans by way of putting a speed bump in our path, not because Judeans is necessarily the best translation of “Judaios” here, but because I want us all to slow down a little bit when we listen to this reading. John the Evangelist (that is, John, the Gospel writer) begins his version of the story of Jesus with tension between “the Jews” and Jesus in a way that the other three Gospel writers do not. For John the Evangelist, the tension started before Jesus even appeared on the scene. It’s not exactly clear to scholars who John means when he writes, “Judaios.” He’s certainly not talking about all Jews or all Judeans even at the time, since Jesus and his followers were all Jewish. He may be contrasting Judeans and Galileans – but most likely he’s writing about some of Jerusalem’s religious authorities.[1] He clearly has an ax to grind that the other Gospel writers do not have. The Gospel of John uses the term “Judaios” some sixty-four times compared with six in the Gospel of Mark, five in Matthew, and three in Luke.[2] It seems that John, who was writing in the last first century, is caught up in a late first century conflict that he is applying retroactively to the first part of the first century. I wonder if John is using the word the way some of us refer to “the police,” or “the military,” or “the government,” when we are angry or despairing in the midst of struggle. I don’t know John’s intent, but I do know that we cannot let it slide. Continue reading

Squinting

The First Sunday of Advent, 1B, November 30, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 64:1-9 Now consider, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Grace to you and peace from God our [Author] and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark 13:24-37 Keep alert…keep awake…and what I say to you I say to all: keep awake.

O God of new beginnings, 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 marks the beginning of a new church year. Thanksgiving to God was our last act of the year that is now past. Baptism is going to be our first act of the year to come. I love baptisms! Hadley and Piper Stuart have come to us to receive the sacrament of baptism, an official welcome to the family called Christian, in the branch called Episcopalian, and in doing that, Hadley and Piper are giving us all a reason to renew our own baptismal promises. What a blessing! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Advent. Continue reading

Be swift to love!

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 21A, September 28, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 17:1-7 The whole congregation journeyed by stages…is the Lord among us or not?
Philippians 2:1-13 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete… for it is God who is at work in you
Matthew 21:23-32 We do not know.

O God of mercy, 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 story from Exodus tells us that in the olden days, the people of God used to wonder whether God was really with (or in) them or not. As I recited last week, the people of God had survived the plagues, experienced the Passover, miraculously escaped a pursuing army, escaped slavery, cried out for food in the desert and had meat and bread delivered. Now they were thirsty. They were so thirsty that Moses was afraid for his life if he didn’t find some water for them to drink. When water came bubbling up out of the rock, Moses named the place “squabble” and “disputation” because the people couldn’t agree about whether God was among them, yes or no. Just so you know, getting enough water to quench their thirst didn’t stop the squabbling and disputation about whether God was in their midst or not. We are still grappling with this, aren’t we, whether we are counting this year as 2014 or 5775 or some other number altogether. Continue reading