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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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

Somatic Energy

On Monday at Art and Spirituality I led the group in opening ritual, card making, and the closing ritual. I introduced percussive movement in the opening name share. During our closing sharing, conversation emerged, and there was a shift in the circle. I felt the energy move from sharing about the cards they were making for others to sharing about their preferences, their artistic desires and their ideas for the future art-making. I couldn’t help but notice the program officer and the two nurses who were waiting for the program to finish were drawn to our conversation. Usually I see the nurse sorting pills or making small talk with the officer. This time they watched, silently and patiently waiting for the women to finish. It was as though they were drawn to the increased energy of the circle. Continue reading

Trauma Healing

It was not that long ago that I was writing here about the treacherous ice on the road near my house that caused my only bike wreck of the winter. I referred to the ice in that blog post as a metaphor for various elements in my life that had been unseen by me and thus caused some recklessness or even damage to others due to my blind sightedness. Well, it’s been a couple months since I let my painful and inflamed wrist go untreated for that time. On Monday I went for an x-ray (finally!) and got the good news that there were no breaks although there was plenty of swelling clearly illuminated. I’ll go back to the hospital in a week to see a hand specialist to see if some of the pain and swelling can be alleviated. So, here’s to not knowing. Continue reading

Soul Medicine

While interning with Art and Spirituality, Common Art, and Café Emmanuel I frequently find myself explaining who I am and that I am studying to become an art therapist and mental-health counselor. Recently while at prison, one of the women asked me if I could prescribe her pain medication. I said that while I could not prescribe her any medication, I could prescribe her some meditation. This received a round of laughs from the table and others who had heard the exchange. We live in a fast-paced world where I, for one, can say choosing the option that takes the least amount of work to fix a problem seems extremely appealing. Have a headache? Take a pill with a large glass of water and presto, headache no more. In addition, I can take a moment to think about the cause of the headache in the first place, most likely for me being dehydrated, to avoid it in the future. Continue reading

Sharing the Blessings of the Gospel

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, B, February 8, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 40:21-31 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these.
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, so that I might share its blessings.
Mark 1:29-39 Everyone is searching for you.

O God of blessing, 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.

When I look at the three scripture readings we have before us today I am reminded that, one of the things I love about the Bible is that it gives us more questions than answers. And I love the questions. I hear a question being called out in each of our readings. Our first reading, from the 40th chapter of Isaiah follows the famous plea from God for comfort and consolation for a people who have been devastated and who are despairing. “Comfort, comfort ye my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and call to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is more than fully paid…‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in a desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together. God is going to gather up the lambs and carry them and gently lead the mother sheep.’” What we hear today in Isaiah is the last part of a tender overture to an opus of consolation – a continuation of a love song written to bring relief to people who had been far from home, in exile in Babylon for more than half a century. Continue reading

Holding Space

While reflecting on the past three weeks working with common art, Café Emmanuel and the Art and Spirituality group at the Suffolk county corrections facility I noticed that I have been doing a lot of listening. Holding space is something we talk about often in my courses at Lesley. We talk about holding space in a therapeutic context yet I feel it is applicable in everyday life. For me holding space means engaging on a body level, using my posture to communicate attentiveness and support, and bringing myself into a group and participating cognitively through listening and responding when appropriate. I find that when I am holding space I am receiving so much from others who are given an opportunity to be and express themselves in an authentic way. Continue reading


Constance Hammond was elected our first woman Senior Warden.

The Rev. Constance on her visit to us in Oct. 2017

After ordination in our diocese, she served as rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Parish, Portland OR (1990-98) and then as rector and priest in other churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon and the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia.  Since 1998, she has been a practitioner and instructor in the Healing Touch Program.


See also:  1986