Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 22B, October 4, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Job 1:1, 2:1-10 Do you still persist in your integrity?
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 Someone has testified somewhere… .
Mark 10:2-16 Receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

O God of love, 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.

So how about those readings? One of the things that my clergy colleagues and I often do when we see each other in the week before particularly troublesome readings is ask one another, “are you preaching on Sunday?” And if the answer is no, the response is, “lucky!” If the answer is yes, the follow up question is, “What are you going to do with those readings?” This past week one of my friends gloated that she had decided to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis and to use the readings assigned for that celebration. I thought, “huh, I’ve never wanted everyone to bring their animals to church on a Sunday so badly!” And I thought of the ways that colleagues turn to one another for perspective, guidance, sympathy, insight. Debate is often a part of that engagement.
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What Difference It Makes

Trinity Sunday, Year B, May 31, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 6:1-8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!
Romans 8:12-17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
John 3:1-17 How can anyone be born after having grown old?

O God incarnate, 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.

Last week I told you that the Feast of Pentecost is my favorite church holiday. It’s always followed by Trinity Sunday – not my favorite. It’s the only Sunday in the church year entirely devoted to a doctrine – that’s the good news I guess (that there’s only one). Even though it is the most beautiful of doctrines, I doubt if it’s possible (for me) to preach on Trinity Sunday without accidentally tripping over some orthodoxy and falling headlong into heresy. One option, I guess, is to just choose the alternative lessons for the first Sunday after Pentecost, or focus on the Feast of the Visitation, which falls on May 31 (and is the twelfth anniversary of when the Church named me a priest). The thing is, though, I love the Trinity hymns. I love St. Patrick’s Breastplate – the name of our processional hymn this morning. It’s frequently playing in my head. I love the hymn we will sing at the offertory – Holy Holy Holy – called Nicaea. In the hymnal of my childhood, it was number one in the book and in my heart. I still remember the time about thirty years ago when I first heard someone read Isaiah 6:1-8 in Hebrew, demonstrating the power of the poetry and the mystery – Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh. Continue reading

The Mystery of Love

Fourth Sunday of Advent, 4B, December 21, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 I have not lived in a house…but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Romans 16:25-27 According to the revelation of the mystery. Luke 1:26-38 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. – or Here am I.

O God of impossible possibilities, 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.

Many of you know that I grew up in a household where wrestling with Holy Scripture was one of the things we did as a family for exercise. I didn’t know that some families went on ski vacations until I was well into college! I will confess that that discovery made me feel a little jealous, but over the years my gratitude for my dad’s insistence on Biblical engagement has grown and grown. Our Gospel story this morning has been calling people to wrestle – with paint, with poetry and prose, with music, with drama since the beginning. In fact, so many have wrestled with this text before us that we might not think we have to – we might think that we must either accept or dismiss the truth of the annunciation or accept or dismiss the truth of the virgin birth. Did this happen or not? (I think the answer is yes — sometimes.)

The town of Nazareth, in the Galilee is built on a hillside in the southern Lebanon Mountains. It’s a bustling Palestinian city now with a population of about 65,000. In the mid-nineteenth century, a French order of nuns built a convent in Nazareth. The Sisters of Nazareth have exercised their ministry there ever since. When I visited in 2007, they told a story of calling a plumber to repair a leak, who, in the course of his work, fell through the floor of the convent into a well-preserved first century courtyard house where there is evidence of 1st century Jewish occupants; there is also an animal feeding trough (a manger made of stone, not wood); and a burial chamber with a huge stone disk that can be rolled to cover the opening. Continue reading