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

Expect miracles.

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9B, July 5, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10King David made a covenant with them.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness…Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Mark 6:1-13 Jesus left that place and came to his home…then he went among the villages teaching.

O God of 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.

This past week has changed the Episcopal Church. Of course, every week changes the Church because to be alive is to be changed, but sometimes change is more noticeable than others, right? This week the Church’s ideas about and practices of home, heart, and hands got stretched and I saw it happen. This past week I traveled to Salt Lake City to attend four days of the ten-day General Convention of the Episcopal Church. By a blessed coincidence, I arrived on Monday, the day that the House of Bishops prayed and deliberated, and at last voted, to extend the sacrament of holy matrimony to same-sex couples across the whole Episcopal Church in jurisdictions where such marriage is legal, and to extend the blessing rite in those places where same-sex marriage is still not legal; and included a requirement that all bishops, even bishops who disagree or disapprove, make provisions for same-sex couples seeking blessing and marriage. The next day the House of Deputies voted to concur. But it wasn’t just extending same-sex marriage. 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

Mystery, Meaning, Risk & Relationship

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 19, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Acts 3:12-19 You Israelites…
1 John 3:1-7 We should be called children of God and that is what we are.
Luke 24:36b-48 And the psalms must be fulfilled.

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.

You probably know that the Gospel of John, for all of its beautiful love poetry and prose, is notoriously anti-Jewish or anti-Judean in its rhetoric about the death and resurrection of Jesus, written as if it were Jews and not Romans who were the threat to Jesus. In the Gospel of John is codified one side of a late first century argument about ways to move forward socially, politically and theologically in the precarious time after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The writer of John places anti-Jewish words anachronistically in the mouths of Jesus and his friends who were, of course, all Jewish. Continue reading