Coming Clean

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

Spiritual Infrastructure

All Saints’ Day (with alt second reading), November 1, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God
Revelation 7:9-17 Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!
John 11:32-44 Come out!…Unbind him and let him go.

O God of all, 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.

Some days on the church calendar are really big – Christmas Eve, Easter Day, Pentecost and All Saints are generally the four biggest for us. Today is the great Feast of All Saints; it’s a day to celebrate the saints, known and unknown. Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day – the day set aside in the church calendar for commemoration of all those who have departed this life, whether they were saints or sinners or both. So this is a Sunday to remember the present as well as the past – to honor all those who go and have gone before us – all saints and all souls. 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

Welcome (with audio)

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20B, September 20, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Proverbs 31:10-31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the city gates.James 3:13-4:3, 7-8 Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

Mark 9:30-37 Welcomes…welcomes…welcomes…welcomes.

O God of radical welcome, 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.

Hello! I’m so glad you’re here! Happy New Year! Part of the fun of living in an interfaith family like the family Emmanuel Church makes with Central Reform Temple is that we double our holidays! This sanctuary is still humming with the celebrations of the Jewish New Year that began last Sunday evening. So we enter this place today in the midst of the prayers of the Days of Awe – the high holy days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The themes of the Days of Awe are hope, reconciliation and repair – in individual lives and in the world – the Days of Awe are days of reflection, renewed commitment, and action. Continue reading

It is I.

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12B, July 26, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 11:1-15 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…David [stayed home].
Ephesians 3:14-21 The power to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ.
John 6:1-21 Ego eimi mey phobeisthe.

O God of wonder, 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.

We have, for our edification this morning, two fantastic stories, so famous that you certainly don’t have to be a Christian to know them – stories of abundance out of scarcity in the loaves and fishes and of walking on water in some rough weather. The stories get larger and more profound with each iteration in the four Gospels. By the time that the Gospel of John was written, the hunger of the crowds and the threatening storm have become less problems to be solved by Jesus and more lessons to be taught by Jesus, who knew all along, according to John, what he was going to do to try to impress on his followers the meaning of the presence, the power, and the promise of God. The Gospel of John has the biggest fish story of 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

Getting Our Own Paragraph Right

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10B, July 12, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Michal…despised him in her heart.
Ephesians 1:3-14This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of [God’s] glory.
Mark 6:14-29 What should I ask for?

O God of our future, 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 “Praise to you, Lord Christ,” just doesn’t seem like the right response after a Gospel reading. Actually, all three of our readings this morning get my dander up. In 2nd Samuel, what gets me is almost a throw-away line about David’s wife Michal, the party-pooper of the story, who saw him leaping and dancing and despised him in her heart. What’s Michal’s problem, you might wonder (if you noticed her at all). Well, Michal has been used and abused by her father King Saul and his successor King David, but according to tradition, she loved David and did not think he should be recklessly prancing around, scantily clad, before the throne of the Holy One. (I’m with her.) Continue reading

See, love, and behave accordingly!

The Second Sunday of Advent, 2B, December 7, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 40:1-11 Cry out!
2 Peter 3:8-15a Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
Mark 1:1-8 He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

O God of the prophets, 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.

Every year at this time, the church gives us a new advent – a new beginning — a new season of longing to hear and respond to lessons of prophetic wisdom and calls for repentance writ large. These calls are not for personal repentance, but for national repentance, for corporate repentance, and for ecclesiastical – that is Church — repentance. And the good news is that this year is no exception! The most magnificent sign of this kind of prophetic action can be seen in the large numbers of people rising up in Boston and all around the country to protest the status quo of racism and injustice. It’s good news. People are watching and waking up and demonstrating anger and calling for change. Continue reading