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


First Sunday after Christmas B, December 28, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest.
Galatians 4:4-7 So that we might receive adoption as children.
Luke 2:22:40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

O God with us, Emmanuel, 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 Gospel portion that I just read is only told in the Gospel of Luke. It follows immediately after the verse which says, “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child, and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. If it had been a little less chaotic at Emmanuel Church in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I might have remembered to expand our Gospel reading in your bulletins to include this verse, because of the reference to Jesus’ naming ceremony. Only Luke tells anything about Jesus before he reached later adulthood. So I wonder, what is it that Luke wanted to demonstrate with these stories of Jesus’ infancy and boyhood?

I think the first is that Jesus was a real human, according to Luke. He was born to human parents, with a genealogy that went back to Adam — earthling (who Luke calls the Son of God). The Good News of Jesus Christ in Luke is that God anointed a human being to fully embody God’s intention of freedom and right-relationship for God’s people. Jesus increased in wisdom as he increased in years. According to Luke, Jesus didn’t land on earth knowing it all. Jesus learned as he went. According to Luke, Jesus was fully, really human. Continue reading

Reasons to Rejoice

The Third Sunday of Advent, 3B, December 14, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 66:1-4, 8-11 To give them a garland instead of ashes.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

O God of hope, 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.

One of the benefits of sharing sanctuary and programs and families and friendships with a synagogue is that we are regularly called out of theological complacency when it comes to our Christian scripture and Church tradition’s references to Jews – or Levites, or priests from Jerusalem, or high priests, or Sadducees, or scribes, or Pharisees. I changed the word Jews in our Gospel lesson to Judeans by way of putting a speed bump in our path, not because Judeans is necessarily the best translation of “Judaios” here, but because I want us all to slow down a little bit when we listen to this reading. John the Evangelist (that is, John, the Gospel writer) begins his version of the story of Jesus with tension between “the Jews” and Jesus in a way that the other three Gospel writers do not. For John the Evangelist, the tension started before Jesus even appeared on the scene. It’s not exactly clear to scholars who John means when he writes, “Judaios.” He’s certainly not talking about all Jews or all Judeans even at the time, since Jesus and his followers were all Jewish. He may be contrasting Judeans and Galileans – but most likely he’s writing about some of Jerusalem’s religious authorities.[1] He clearly has an ax to grind that the other Gospel writers do not have. The Gospel of John uses the term “Judaios” some sixty-four times compared with six in the Gospel of Mark, five in Matthew, and three in Luke.[2] It seems that John, who was writing in the last first century, is caught up in a late first century conflict that he is applying retroactively to the first part of the first century. I wonder if John is using the word the way some of us refer to “the police,” or “the military,” or “the government,” when we are angry or despairing in the midst of struggle. I don’t know John’s intent, but I do know that we cannot let it slide. Continue reading