Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21C, September 25, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 32:1-3a 6-15 Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
1 Timothy 6:11-19 But as for you, [person] of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
Luke 16:19-31 They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.

O God of peace, 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.

Welcome to this grand sanctuary – this haven of beauty. Welcome to this magnificent community whose primary mission includes welcoming you, no matter how long you’ve been here, and wherever you are on your spiritual journey, even and especially if you are not in such a good place on your spiritual journey! Welcome to a gathering of people that will love you just the way you are and will love you too much to let you stay that way! Welcome to church in the Back Bay, which often turns out to be very hard to get to because of road rallies, fundraisers, and movie makers! Welcome to a worship service in which the readings are usually challenging and sometimes confounding, the prayers of the people are often disturbing, and the music is reliably sublime! Welcome to a church long on questions and short on answers, and yet, a church where one beggar can always show another beggar where to get some bread. Continue reading


Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 22B, October 4, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Job 1:1, 2:1-10 Do you still persist in your integrity?
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 Someone has testified somewhere… .
Mark 10:2-16 Receive the kingdom of God as a little child.

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.

So how about those readings? One of the things that my clergy colleagues and I often do when we see each other in the week before particularly troublesome readings is ask one another, “are you preaching on Sunday?” And if the answer is no, the response is, “lucky!” If the answer is yes, the follow up question is, “What are you going to do with those readings?” This past week one of my friends gloated that she had decided to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis and to use the readings assigned for that celebration. I thought, “huh, I’ve never wanted everyone to bring their animals to church on a Sunday so badly!” And I thought of the ways that colleagues turn to one another for perspective, guidance, sympathy, insight. Debate is often a part of that engagement.
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Be swift to love, make haste to be kind.

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17B, August 30, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
James 1:17-27 Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.

O generous 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.

This Sunday we turn back to the Gospel of Mark in our lectionary for the rest of the season of Pentecost in our liturgical year. [1] I’m tempted to dive in to this libelous text, to defend Pharisees and certainly to defend hand and dish washing, and also to deplore hypocrisy and all the evils that can come out from within our polluted hearts. I’m tempted to point out that this should be a troubling text for people like Episcopalians who cleave to traditions, sometimes at the expense of healing and feeding and freeing people who are ailing, undernourished and stuck in narrow places. Continue reading

Abundant Life

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, 22A, October 5, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 20:1-4,7-9, 12-20 Do not fear.
Philippians 2:1-13 But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
Matthew 21:33-46 Listen to another parable.

O God of grace, 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.

In our first lesson this morning we heard one of the most famous passages of scripture in the whole Bible. You don’t have to be Jewish or Christian to have heard of what are commonly known as “The Ten Commandments.” In our church tradition, this passage is called the Decalogue – literally “ten words” from God because of references in Deuteronomy to the ten words or ten things that were written in stone on Sinai – ten things that Moses reported hearing from the Source of all being on the Holy Mountain.

Here is the oldest example in our scripture of instructions for how to live long and well in community. The passage begins by telling us that God the Author spoke all these words, reminding the people first that it was God Who brought the people out of the house of slavery. It was God Who brought the people out of the narrow places – mitzrayim – between rocks and hard places – also called Egypt in the Hebrew Bible. This moment marks their new beginning – a fresh starting point for the community – another chance to live in an entirely new way. And God is expressing God’s will – God’s desire for God’s people. “Listen,” God is saying, “I have moved you out from a place of dishonor and disrespect. You are free. You are no longer trapped. You are not enslaved. I have redeemed you. You are valuable. You are precious to me. And here’s how you, my beloved, will behave when you have no other gods more important than me. Here’s how it will be when you know deep in your hearts that you are my people.” Continue reading

Be swift to love!

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 21A, September 28, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 17:1-7 The whole congregation journeyed by stages…is the Lord among us or not?
Philippians 2:1-13 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete… for it is God who is at work in you
Matthew 21:23-32 We do not know.

O God of mercy, 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.

Today our story from Exodus tells us that in the olden days, the people of God used to wonder whether God was really with (or in) them or not. As I recited last week, the people of God had survived the plagues, experienced the Passover, miraculously escaped a pursuing army, escaped slavery, cried out for food in the desert and had meat and bread delivered. Now they were thirsty. They were so thirsty that Moses was afraid for his life if he didn’t find some water for them to drink. When water came bubbling up out of the rock, Moses named the place “squabble” and “disputation” because the people couldn’t agree about whether God was among them, yes or no. Just so you know, getting enough water to quench their thirst didn’t stop the squabbling and disputation about whether God was in their midst or not. We are still grappling with this, aren’t we, whether we are counting this year as 2014 or 5775 or some other number altogether. Continue reading

Be Messiah to each other!

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16a, August 24, 2014, The Rev Rick Stecker

Exodus 1:8-2:10 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
Romans 12:1-8 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Jesus is in the district of Caesarea-Philippi. He is in foreign land. Today we would place him ten miles from Mt. Hermon and two miles east of the Golan Heights. He is near a spring, in a place called Pannias, one of the sources of the Jordan River. As is the case with many springs in ancient times, there are shrines and temples dedicated in thanksgiving for a life source. Back then, there was a shrine to the god Pan, the god of flocks and herds, and Pan is portrayed as having a man’s body and having the horns and legs of a goat. His sudden appearance is cause for surprise; we get the word panic from this god’s name. And so in Caesarea-Phillipi there is a shrine to the god Pan as well as a large temple to Caesar and several more temples to fertility gods. Fertility gods were believed to abide in the underworld during the winter (sort of like going to Florida) and they returned to the earth in the spring. The caves, which produced water, were thought to be entrance places to the underworld. I visited Israel some years ago and on this site now stands a mosque. Continue reading