Training for Easter

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 You will not die…
Romans 5:12-21 But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Matthew 4:1-11 Away with you, Satan!

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.

The season of Lent has begun in the Church and so I want to talk to you a little bit about temptation and about sin! (It seems only right.) It’s not something we like to talk much about so much in the Episcopal Church. Temptation is what leads to sin and sin – well… a parishioner told me once that she doesn’t really like the word sin because it’s such a strong word. “Couldn’t we just use the word mistake?” she asked. But I don’t think “mistake” completely covers it.
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Wait and watch. (with audio)

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Proper 4A, December 18, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 7:10-17 Before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
Romans 1:1-7 “including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.

O God of freedom, 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 year, our fourth Sunday of Advent falls as far away from Christmas as our calendar ever permits. This year, we have six full days after today left in this longest Advent. Perhaps that’s why the traditional Advent themes of waiting and watching and being patient are really chafing this year. Probably, though, it’s more than just the six extra days. My own irritation with the messages of waiting and watching and being patient, surely has something to do with our unfolding national political crisis, with the dramatic rise of hate crimes, with the growing threats to racial and religious minorities, immigrants and refugees, women, people who identify as LGBTorQ, poor people. My irritation with the messages of waiting and watching and being patient, surely has something to do with global political instability, and growing threats to the environmental condition of the planet. Waiting and watching and being patient seems like exactly what we cannot afford to be doing.
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Beloved

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 26C, October 30, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Habakkuk 1:1-2:4 If it seems to tarry, wait for it.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12 The love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.
Luke 19:1-10 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

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. Amen.

Our first reading this morning is from the beginning of the short book of Habakkuk – the prophet. It begins with a title: the oracle, the pronouncement that the prophet saw – although that can also be translated the burden that Habakkuk saw. What Habakkuk saw was indeed a great burden: violence everywhere and a God who seemed not to see the degradation of justice and the utter devastation of well-being, of shalom. Habakkuk has two complaints: 1) God has done nothing to stop the violence so far and 2) it’s about to get worse. In this book, the voice of God is heard, but it’s not particularly good news. Essentially, the response is that the violence is due to the greed of the people and the failure to recognize the Holy One. The violence is understood by Habakkuk as the Holy One’s punishing response, rather than simply a predictable consequence that breaks Love’s heart. 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

Digging deep.

Second Sunday after Pentecost, (4C), May 29, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

1 Kings 18:20-21(22-29)30-39 No voice, no answer, and no response [from Baal].
Galatians 1:1-12 …Not that there is another Gospel…
Luke 7:1-10 Lord…I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.

O God 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.

As I promised you last week, we have returned to the Gospel of Luke, the great story-teller. Today we hear that Jesus has finished all of his sayings in the hearing of the people. What were all of his sayings? Well, the beatitudes, descriptions of both blessings and curses, and Jesus’ instructions on how to live fully into the realm of God: love your enemies; give to everyone who begs from you; do not judge; forgive one another; don’t be hypocrites; don’t be like trees that bear bad fruit. Be like trees that bear good fruit. Those are familiar teachings, often read in church. But then comes a passage that is so rarely read that I don’t remember ever hearing it, and when I looked at the verses leading up to the story of the centurion’s slave, I skipped right over it. Fortunately for me (and maybe for you), my wife Joy was also writing a sermon this week to preach at her parents’ church in Independence, Missouri this morning. Joy is a trained notice. She noticed what Jesus says just before our Gospel portion for today picks up. Continue reading

And that’s not all.

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8B, June 28, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Greatly beloved were you to me. Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 In order that there may be a fair balance…’the one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.
Mark 5:21-43 Do not fear, only believe.

O God of healing and restoration, 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.

What a week. What a week of so many tears. Tears of sorrow, of anger and despair, tears of amazement, tears of joy and relief, and tears of hope and brave determination. The people of Charleston, South Carolina are still burying the nine faith-filled people massacred in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church a week ago last Wednesday while they were praying together and studying the Bible. The families of the martyrs have declared forgiveness for the shooter. They are continuing to testify and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate, and more powerful than death. Wednesday Bible Study went on as scheduled this past week with about 100 people jammed into the room where so much blood had been spilled the week before. Pastor Pinckney’s lesson the week before had been about the parable of the sower. Pastor Goff’s lesson the week after was about the power of love – full of parables from both Hebrew and Christian Testaments that reportedly had the people in that gathering laughing and crying at the same time. What powerful seeds of love are being sown by Mother Emanuel. And that’s not all. Continue reading

Become trusting!

Second Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 12, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Acts 4:32-35 There was not a needy person among them.
1 John 1:1-2:2 If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves.
John 20:19-31 Peace be with you.

O God of hope, 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.

 

Many of you know that one of my life projects has to do with increasing literacy, particularly Biblical literacy among progressive Christians, who have tended to cede the Bible to more conservative Christians. For example, I want people to understand that what we call “The Bible” is actually more like a library or an anthology than a book. The anthology contains more than a dozen different kinds of literature – and each kind of literature has different rules and built-in assumptions for understanding it. For instance, one would read biography differently from reading a sermon or an editorial. One would read legislation differently from poetry or a song. It helps to know what type of literature one is reading in order to understand what it might mean or how to apply it to our lives. Unfortunately, figuring out the genre is often complicated by many centuries and many miles of distance, and further complicated by modern inventions – inventions such as the English language, punctuation, customs of printing, etc. Continue reading