We are doing it.

The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 27B, November 8, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin.
Hebrews 9:24-28 Now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Mark 12:38-44 This poor widow has put in more than all those…she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.

O God of all, 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.

The Gospel lesson that we just heard is a very familiar story about the woman who put two copper coins, approximately enough money to buy one meal, in the offering in the temple. It’s a story many of us learned in Church School. People know it by the title, “the widow’s mite” (mite meaning a tiny little bit). It’s a nice story for little children who are learning about mite boxes and putting coins in offering plates. I’m aware that when the story gets told about Jesus commending the woman for giving everything she had, especially during pledge stewardship season (probably no coincidence, by the way), many of us adults kind of seize up inside. You know – we kind of brace ourselves for what’s coming next. Continue reading

Kindness

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.
Continue reading

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

Getting Chased around the Lake

Pentecost, Year B, May 24, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Ezekiel 37:1-14 Can these bones live?
Acts 2:1-21 I will pour out [from/of] my Spirit upon all flesh.
John 15:26-16:15 I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.

O Holy Source of inspiration, 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.

Happy Pentecost everyone! I am very glad that you’re here – amazed and delighted, really. I expect people on the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) and the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter), but when the Feast of Pentecost falls on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, well, I just never know. Pentecost is my favorite church holiday. I love our parades of puppets in procession at Emmanuel, bracketing the Great Fifty days of Easter. I love the Pentecost scripture readings: the rattling dry bones re-animated by the spirit of holiness, the breath of God. I love the sound like the rush of a violent wind of the Acts story – not a gentle breeze, not a still small voice, but a complete cacophony of the Good News of the powerful Love of God being told in at least 17 languages (we managed 10 languages this morning –wasn’t it perplexing and thrilling?) And I love the promise of the “one called alongside to help” – parakletos is the Greek word, champion, [1] here translated advocate. Perhaps, more than anything, I love baptisms and Pentecost is one of four days specially designated for baptisms. 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

New Beginnings

The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, January 11, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 1:1-5 Beginning…
Acts 19:1-7 We have not even heard that there is a holy spirit.
Mark 1:4-11 He will baptize you with the[sic] holy spirit.

O God of beginning again, 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 is a special day in the Church – a Feast Day called, “The Baptism of our Lord.” It’s a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church. (However, I will tell you that, any day would be a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church, which took place yesterday. Congratulations Patrick!) As most of you know, Patrick lives in New York City now and is working for the Church Pension Fund. He’s been commuting to Boston to serve Emmanuel for the last four months. It’s a long way to come to volunteer to help out at a church! On behalf of all of us, thank you for that, Patrick, and thank you for choosing Emmanuel, Boston as the place for your first Eucharist as Episcopal priest! This is nearly, but not quite goodbye, because Patrick will be back in two weeks to preach and preside while I am away at the end of the month. Patrick, we hope you’ll be back with us whenever your schedule permits. Continue reading

The Mystery of Love

Fourth Sunday of Advent, 4B, December 21, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 I have not lived in a house…but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Romans 16:25-27 According to the revelation of the mystery. Luke 1:26-38 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. – or Here am I.

O God of impossible possibilities, 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.

Many of you know that I grew up in a household where wrestling with Holy Scripture was one of the things we did as a family for exercise. I didn’t know that some families went on ski vacations until I was well into college! I will confess that that discovery made me feel a little jealous, but over the years my gratitude for my dad’s insistence on Biblical engagement has grown and grown. Our Gospel story this morning has been calling people to wrestle – with paint, with poetry and prose, with music, with drama since the beginning. In fact, so many have wrestled with this text before us that we might not think we have to – we might think that we must either accept or dismiss the truth of the annunciation or accept or dismiss the truth of the virgin birth. Did this happen or not? (I think the answer is yes — sometimes.)

The town of Nazareth, in the Galilee is built on a hillside in the southern Lebanon Mountains. It’s a bustling Palestinian city now with a population of about 65,000. In the mid-nineteenth century, a French order of nuns built a convent in Nazareth. The Sisters of Nazareth have exercised their ministry there ever since. When I visited in 2007, they told a story of calling a plumber to repair a leak, who, in the course of his work, fell through the floor of the convent into a well-preserved first century courtyard house where there is evidence of 1st century Jewish occupants; there is also an animal feeding trough (a manger made of stone, not wood); and a burial chamber with a huge stone disk that can be rolled to cover the opening. 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

Squinting

The First Sunday of Advent, 1B, November 30, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 64:1-9 Now consider, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Grace to you and peace from God our [Author] and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark 13:24-37 Keep alert…keep awake…and what I say to you I say to all: keep awake.

O God of new beginnings, 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 marks the beginning of a new church year. Thanksgiving to God was our last act of the year that is now past. Baptism is going to be our first act of the year to come. I love baptisms! Hadley and Piper Stuart have come to us to receive the sacrament of baptism, an official welcome to the family called Christian, in the branch called Episcopalian, and in doing that, Hadley and Piper are giving us all a reason to renew our own baptismal promises. What a blessing! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Advent. Continue reading

Bad News and Good News

Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Proper 29A, 1B, November 30, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 64:1-9 Now consider, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Grace to you and peace from God our [Author] and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark 13:24-37 Keep alert…keep awake…and what I say to you I say to all: keep awake.

O God of new beginnings, 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 marks the end of our liturgical year in terms of Sundays. Today marks the end of our reading of the Gospel of Matthew (I know some of you are thanking God for that). We have reached the end of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel narrative. This passage is the conclusive teaching before the Passion. It’s combined in our lectionary with another great sorting prediction from the prophet Ezekiel, and an interlude from the letter to the Ephesians.

When I was growing up, my parents were fond of prefacing announcements with: “I’ve got good news and bad news.” There was a household expectation of asking for the bad news first. Whatever the bad news, presumably, it would be balanced out by the good news (it didn’t always work). That trope kept coming back to me as I reflected on our readings for today. It’s probably not coincidental that I was anticipating my brother Rob and sister-in-law Anna being in church today! Continue reading