Softhearted

Fifth Sunday of Easter Year A, May 18, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Acts 7:55-60 ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.
1 Peter 2:2-10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.
John 14:1-14 Do not let your heart be troubled.

O God of our waking up, 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.

This morning our deacon, Bob Greiner is away on retreat with other deacons, and so he is missing the gruesome account in the Book of Acts about the first deacon, Stephen, becoming the first martyr because an angry mob threw stones at him until he died. I think the deacons may have been reading ahead in the lectionary when he scheduled his time away. And the stone references in our scripture readings today in Acts and in 1 Peter were on my mind this past Friday as I sat in my study trying to think while stone masons sawed boulders making a stone wall surrounding my next door neighbor’s back yard. The sound of cutting stone is a crying out that reminds me of Jesus’ response to people who tell him to silence his followers. Remember? He says that if they were quiet, the stones themselves would cry out. Deadly stones and living stones, stumbling blocks and building blocks, crushing weights, and substantial foundations – hard and heavy either way.
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Demanding and Exhilarating

Lent 4A, March 26, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

1 Samuel 16:1-13 But the LORD looks on the heart.
Ephesians 5:8-14 Live as children of light.
John 9:1-13, 28-38 So that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of [the One] who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

O God of our vision, 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 is an anniversary of sorts. Nine years ago, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday, aka Mothering Sunday), I began my service to Emmanuel Church as your priest with these readings from the lectionary. I brought a basket of red pencils with me that first morning for Steve Babcock, our trusty head usher, to hand out with the bulletins. His eyebrows went up just a little bit when I handed him the basket, but he was a great sport about the odd request. (It was the first of many.) I had collected the red pencils from art supplies from my prison ministry program, raided my kids’ colored pencil sets, and I probably bought two boxes or so. I’m so happy to report that nine years later, that I would need more than twice the number of pencils that we used in 2008 and I did not have the time on my hands to collect the additional pencils needed this week!
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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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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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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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Peace

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21C, September 25, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 32:1-3a 6-15 Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
1 Timothy 6:11-19 But as for you, [person] of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
Luke 16:19-31 They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.

O God of peace, 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.

Welcome to this grand sanctuary – this haven of beauty. Welcome to this magnificent community whose primary mission includes welcoming you, no matter how long you’ve been here, and wherever you are on your spiritual journey, even and especially if you are not in such a good place on your spiritual journey! Welcome to a gathering of people that will love you just the way you are and will love you too much to let you stay that way! Welcome to church in the Back Bay, which often turns out to be very hard to get to because of road rallies, fundraisers, and movie makers! Welcome to a worship service in which the readings are usually challenging and sometimes confounding, the prayers of the people are often disturbing, and the music is reliably sublime! Welcome to a church long on questions and short on answers, and yet, a church where one beggar can always show another beggar where to get some bread. Continue reading

The Parable of the Dimes

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20C, September 18, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 Is there no balm in Gilead?
1 Timothy 2:1-7 I am telling you the truth. I am not lying.
Luke 16:1-13 You cannot serve God and wealth.

O God of our struggle, 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.

In our readings for this morning, we heard Jeremiah tell us what we already know: the summer is ended and we are not saved. Poor people are not being properly cared for. Poor people are hurting and that hurts the heart of the Holy One. The epistle of Timothy is urging prayers for kings and others in high positions – presumably this instruction is directed to people who do not wish to pray for those in power – presumably because it is the powerful and the wealthy who benefit from economic systems that trample on people who are needy, people who are poor. And Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke, seems to be celebrating and encouraging dishonesty. What? Continue reading