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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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.
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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

A Holy Spirit

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12C, July 24, 2016, The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Hosea 1:2-10 Children of the living God.
Colossians 2:6-19 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit.
Luke 11:1-13 Because of his [lack of shame or honor].

O God of dignity, 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.

It seems to me that the themes of our scripture lessons for this morning are fidelity and honor in difficult circumstances.  What excellent timing! Our three readings are saying, “Stay true. Hold fast to the reconciling Love of Jesus Christ. Don’t give up your dignity.  Don’t give up your integrity. Don’t give up.” Continue reading

Blessing Day

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 19A, September 14, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 14:19-31 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground…the Egyptians pursued and went into the sea after them.
Romans 14:1-12 Welcome
Matthew 18:21-35 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?

O God of mercy, 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.

Today’s Gospel passage concludes the section in Matthew about what discipleship really means for Jesus followers. Those of you who were here last week might remember my rant about the words in the ancient Greek which read, “my brother,” being translated as “member of the church.” Since the problematic translation occurs again in today’s reading, this week I took the time to try to discover when that shift from “my brother” to “member of the church” happened – in the ancient Latin translation of the early church? Was it during the German or the English reformation? I went on an investigative tear. Alas. It was in 1989 with our present translation in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. I’m completely baffled by that. Continue reading

As a Gentile and a Tax Collector

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 18A, September 7, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 12:1-14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.
Romans 13:8-14 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 18:15-20 Let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

O God of mercy, 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.

Those of you who have heard me preach more than once or twice might know that I often complain about lectionary reading combination – the scheduled selections of the Hebrew Bible, Second Testament, and Gospel readings. Today I love them. Today, the reading from Exodus in the Torah, the piece of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the Gospel passage from Matthew all speak to each other so beautifully, at least to my ears. I especially love the way the first two readings can help us realize what the Gospel reading is all about, not in a way that props up the Gospel, but in a way that illuminates the path for us. Continue reading