The Mighty Power of Love

Third Sunday of Easter Year A, April 30, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Acts 2:14a, 36-47 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away.
1 Peter 1:17-23 Love one another deeply from the heart.
Luke 24:13-35 Were not our hearts burning within us?

O God of our aching and burning hearts, 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.

This morning we hear the Easter story of two on the road to Emmaus – one named Cleopas and the other is unnamed, which gives me room to understand that the other was a woman. It’s a beautiful account of the art of resurrection, about how, even when we don’t understand it, we can’t imagine it, and we certainly are not looking for it, we can come to recognize that the Risen Lord can be walking along with us; the Risen Lord can be right in front of us without our knowing it. But before I go further down this Road to Emmaus, I must go back to our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Continue reading

The Art of Resurrection

Easter Year A, April 16, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 31:1-6 I have loved you with an everlasting love.
Colossians 3:1-4, 5-15 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Matthew 28:1-10 Go and tell.

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

I love the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus. But before I get to it, I need to say something briefly about our readings from Jeremiah and Colossians. Many of you know that promoting Biblical literacy is one of my life projects, and so I don’t want to miss the opportunity to draw your attention to the God of Love represented in our First Testament (also known as the Old Testament) reading. In Jeremiah, God is saying to Jeremiah “In the days to come, I will be their God and they will be my people. [Remember] the people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness when they were returning homeward.” Then God says to those who are living in exile as captives of the Babylonian Empire, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…I will build you up again and you’ll make music and dance, you will plant long-term crops and live to enjoy the fruit.” Continue reading

We will grow in love. (with audio)

Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Proper 29C, November 20, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 23:1-6 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them!
Colossians 1:11-20 Making peace through the blood of his cross.
Luke 23:33-43 Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

O God of mercy, 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.

Perhaps you are wondering what a crucifixion story is doing being read this far away from Holy Week. Today marks the end of our liturgical year. This Gospel lesson is appointed for today because, while we are celebrating the all-embracing authority of God’s Christ, that is, Love’s redeeming urge, and we sing hymns of gratefulness and praise, we can always use a reminder that our King of kings and Lord of lords was executed as a criminal with other criminals. He was friends with criminals while he lived, and then he died with them too. The word that Luke uses for criminal is literally “evil doer.” Our king, our highest earthly authority was executed for sedition – that is, for inciting resistance or disobedience to the government.
Continue reading

The Missing Letter

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22C, October 2, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Lamentations 1:1-6 How lonely…her priests groan, her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
2 Timothy 1:1-11 Recalling your tears…I am reminded of…a faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice…rekindle the gift of God that is within you.
Luke 17:5-10 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

O God of our weary years and silent tears, 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.

Our first reading this morning was taken from the book of Lamentations, and I want to linger there a while because we so seldom read anything from this book of the Bible. Only once every three years do we hear any passage from Lamentations during our Sunday worship. It doesn’t surprise me that we don’t read from this book more often, because it’s a collection of five dirges, five poems of deep pain and suffering, of outrage and grief, of complaint and protest, in response to political calamity, social and economic devastation, and utter theological collapse. The poetry of Lamentations challenges the notion that religious life should somehow be spiritual but not political. I often think that anyone who believes that hasn’t read very much of the Bible, but the lectionary colludes by not scheduling many overtly political readings. Continue reading


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

Join the crowd!

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 11B, July 19, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 7:1-14a I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day.
Ephesians 2:11-22 He came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near [to God].
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 You give them something to eat.

Loving God, 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.

I hope that some of you noticed that our Gospel portion for this morning leaves out nineteen verses and acts like nothing happened. Perhaps you recall that frequently, the writer of the Gospel of Mark interrupts one story to tell another. It’s a rough and tumble story-telling method and the lectionary often takes out the interruption from one Sunday and place the offending story in a subsequent week. German theologians have a fantastic word for the rhetorical device of interrupting a story to tell another story: “Ineinanderschachtelungern.” [1] I feel like I want to use that word in a sermon at least once every three years when we’re in Gospel of Mark year! But, the verses removed from today’s portion aren’t an interruption at all. They’re essential to the story and they never get read in church – not next week or any week. Next week we will begin a series of five readings from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John! (It’s a long chapter.) Continue reading

Expect miracles.

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9B, July 5, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10King David made a covenant with them.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness…Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Mark 6:1-13 Jesus left that place and came to his home…then he went among the villages teaching.

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.

This past week has changed the Episcopal Church. Of course, every week changes the Church because to be alive is to be changed, but sometimes change is more noticeable than others, right? This week the Church’s ideas about and practices of home, heart, and hands got stretched and I saw it happen. This past week I traveled to Salt Lake City to attend four days of the ten-day General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By a blessed coincidence, I arrived on Monday, the day that the House of Bishops prayed and deliberated, and at last voted, to extend the sacrament of holy matrimony to same-sex couples across the whole Episcopal Church in jurisdictions where such marriage is legal, and to extend the blessing rite in those places where same-sex marriage is still not legal; and included a requirement that all bishops, even bishops who disagree or disapprove, make provisions for same-sex couples seeking blessing and marriage. The next day the House of Deputies voted to concur. But it wasn’t just extending same-sex marriage. 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

Compassionate Presence


Since beginning at Emmanuel and participating now numerous times in Art and Spirituality, Café Emmanuel, and Common Art, I have often found myself seeking a theoretical framework for myself to work within. What am I doing here and how is it rooted in my value system? What words do I use to describe it that fit me and can be applicable to all three of the communities that I work with as a part of my internship experience? In pursuing this interest I have been able to identify one word that I cannot get behind. That word is help. Continue reading

Bridges across Time & Space

I learned of my Aunt Libby’s passing two weeks ago and the news did not come easily to me. She came to Asheville, NC the same year that I did- for me to begin my adult life as a college freshman and her to end hers. She moved to an assisted living facility there that offered end-of-life care. The serendipity of this still baffles and amazes me. We spent countless hours together throughout the eleven years that we shared a zip code and she served as my primary family support throughout my twenties. I have been reflecting a lot on our time together and attempting to hold onto the lovely memories of her that I hope to cherish for a lifetime. I want to introduce her to you as a way to honor her. Continue reading