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

Go!

Lent 2A, March 12, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 12:1-4a Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
John 3:1-17 How can these things be?

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.

This is one of those Sundays when I have a harder time giving thanks and praise to God in response to the scripture readings when I first hear them, because it’s hard for me to hear them read without thinking about the damage humans do to one another using these passages as weapons.  The recent and dramatic rise of hateful words and actions against Jews and Muslims (or people mistaken for Muslims) is fueled by arrogance and ignorance of “Christian” teachings. The fighting happens within Christianity as well, between Catholics and protestants, between different kinds of protestants, and within our own Anglican traditions. Perhaps you have a similar experience of knowing these lessons from a standpoint of in and out, us and them, ours and not yours.  Perhaps you’ve heard these lessons as being about tests about who measures up because of what they think or don’t think.  If not, just wait for today’s cantata! All this makes many flee religious practice, and for good reason. Continue reading

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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Coming Clean (with audio)

Epiphany 7A, February 19, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 Do you not know that you are God’s temple?
Matthew 5:38-48 Give to everyone who begs from you.

O Holy 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.

Today seems like a good day to make sure you know some things about the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, because we just heard the only passage that ever gets read in our three-year lectionary cycle. Chapter 19 of Leviticus is sometimes called the mini-Torah because of how comprehensive it is in its summary of what it will look like to be the people of God. In a three-year cycle of readings, this lesson gets read on the 7th Sunday of Epiphany in Year A, when the calendar permits seven Sundays in Epiphany, which is to say almost never.
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Available Resources

Epiphany 4A, January 29, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Micah 6:1-8 [God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed…blessed…blessed.

O God of the strangest blessings, 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. The other day, one of my colleagues asked a group of Central Boston clergy, “how are you preaching in times like these?” The swift and wise answer from another esteemed colleague was, “stay close to the Bible.” At first, I thought, “hey, my approach to preaching may be coming back into style!” That thought was quickly followed by my memory of a scene from the 1974 movie, Young Frankenstein, in which Frau Blücher, carrying a candelabra with three unlit candles warns, “stay close to the candles…the stairway can be treacherous!” But staying close to the sacred story, the Bible doesn’t work so well without the illumination of wisdom and learning, without the illumination of engagement of diverse communities across space and time, and without the illumination of Love (capital L). Wisdom and learning. Engagement of diverse communities. Love. If those three candles are lit, the stairway to the realm of God is not so treacherous. Continue reading

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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Who loved us first.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19C, September 11, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not make a full end.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,
Luke 15:1-10 There is joy in heaven…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

O God Who loved us first, 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 scripture lesson this morning from Jeremiah, sounds to me like it could be a description of life in the 21st century, even though it was written more than 26 centuries ago. The prophet Jeremiah is decrying the sins of those in leadership, the social injustice, the spiritual corruption, the war making that has devastated the land. Just before our passage begins, the priests and prophets have complained to God that God promised all would be well and it’s not. The Holy One delivers a scorching response: your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you – disaster follows disaster. In the verses that are omitted from our lectionary, God cries out in agony (actually it’s the word for childbirth labor pains). God cries out in labor pains that the leadership has broken Her heart with their flags and trumpets that lead people into war. Then God laments with a broken heart about the foolishness of people, skilled in doing evil, not knowing how to do good, making war instead of peace. It sounds like it could be a description of our life doesn’t it? – especially on this somber 15th anniversary. Continue reading

Valued and Cared About (with audio)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C), January 17, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 62:1-5 Your land married for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married – so shall your God rejoice in you.
1 Corinthians There are varieties of gifts.
John 2:1-11 First of his signs…revealed his glory…his disciples believed in him.

O God of justice, 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.

By now many of you have seen the news of the Anglican Communion. This past week the Primates of Anglican and Episcopal Churches around the world met in England to talk about marriage in the Church. While I don’t want to make light of the lives that are at stake with regard to treatment of LGBT people all over the world, it does strike me as a little funny that leaders of our particular expression of church have been arguing about marriage since King Henry VIII. As luck (or the Holy Spirit) would have it, we have three scripture readings teed up for our prayerful consideration on this Second Sunday after the Epiphany that have some things to say to us about discerning a way forward with generosity and humility, with compassion and hope. Continue reading

Pass the peace! (with audio)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 21B, September 27, 2015; The Rev Pamela L. Werntz

Esther 7:1-6,9-10; 9:20-22 Days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.
James 5:13-20 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise…
Mark 9:38-50 Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

O God of our redemption, 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 morning we have just heard a part of the great story of Queen Esther, beautiful, brave, patient and smart, who used her position and her gifts, and risked her own life on behalf of her people. Esther’s name appears more times than any other woman in the Bible, and she speaks more than any named women except for Judith. She is the ideal against which Herodius, in the Christian testament of the Bible, was compared and was found to have utterly missed the mark, when a king, intoxicated by wine and the beauty of a woman, offered to do anything she wanted. Queen Herodius coached her daughter to ask for murder. Queen Esther asked that all of her people be saved from scheduled massacre. The Feast of Purim, which celebrates Queen Esther’s courage, compassion and creativity, is observed by Jews each year at the end of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) with celebrations that include presents for people who are poor, and gifts of food for all. 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