Training for Easter

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 You will not die…
Romans 5:12-21 But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Matthew 4:1-11 Away with you, Satan!

O God of grace, 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.

The season of Lent has begun in the Church and so I want to talk to you a little bit about temptation and about sin! (It seems only right.) It’s not something we like to talk much about so much in the Episcopal Church. Temptation is what leads to sin and sin – well… a parishioner told me once that she doesn’t really like the word sin because it’s such a strong word. “Couldn’t we just use the word mistake?” she asked. But I don’t think “mistake” completely covers it.
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The beginning is near.

First Sunday of Advent, Proper 1A, November 27, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 2:1-5 They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.
Romans 13:11-14 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 24:37-44 No one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son.

O God of new beginnings, 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.

And so we begin a new year in the Church. Our ordinary time has been interrupted like the blast of the ram’s horn, by Advent, a season of preparation and repentance. Preparation and repentance can sound like the season of Lent, but Advent is not about the personal so much as it is about institutional, organizational, and communal preparation and repentance (repentance meaning turning around toward God). Our lessons for this Sunday are about a vision of nations waging peace, instructions to the Church that loving is the fulfillment of the law, and a reminder from Jesus that no one knows when the end will be, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son. No one knows except the Author of creation, the Author of Love.
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Even Bolder Witnesses

Feast of All Saints’, November 6, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 As for me…my spirit was troubled within me.
Ephesians 1:11-23 So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Luke 6:20-36 Love your enemies.

Merciful and 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.

Today we are observing All Saints’ Day in the Church – and we are sacramentally full to the brim with baptisms and Holy Eucharist. Liturgically, our cup is overflowing. Our Eucharistic Prayer will include the names of those in our parish who have died since All Saints’ Day in 2015. After the beautiful Durufle requiem, and before the final blessing, we will pray for our nation, marking the beginning of our election vigil.
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Beloved

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 26C, October 30, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Habakkuk 1:1-2:4 If it seems to tarry, wait for it.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12 The love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.
Luke 19:1-10 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

O God of mercy, 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. Amen.

Our first reading this morning is from the beginning of the short book of Habakkuk – the prophet. It begins with a title: the oracle, the pronouncement that the prophet saw – although that can also be translated the burden that Habakkuk saw. What Habakkuk saw was indeed a great burden: violence everywhere and a God who seemed not to see the degradation of justice and the utter devastation of well-being, of shalom. Habakkuk has two complaints: 1) God has done nothing to stop the violence so far and 2) it’s about to get worse. In this book, the voice of God is heard, but it’s not particularly good news. Essentially, the response is that the violence is due to the greed of the people and the failure to recognize the Holy One. The violence is understood by Habakkuk as the Holy One’s punishing response, rather than simply a predictable consequence that breaks Love’s heart. Continue reading

A Holy Spirit

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12C, July 24, 2016, The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Hosea 1:2-10 Children of the living God.
Colossians 2:6-19 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit.
Luke 11:1-13 Because of his [lack of shame or honor].

O God of dignity, 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.

It seems to me that the themes of our scripture lessons for this morning are fidelity and honor in difficult circumstances.  What excellent timing! Our three readings are saying, “Stay true. Hold fast to the reconciling Love of Jesus Christ. Don’t give up your dignity.  Don’t give up your integrity. Don’t give up.” Continue reading

Go lead!

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, 25B, October 24, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Now my eyes see you.
Hebrews 7:23-28 Prevented by death from continuing in office!
Mark 10:46-52 What do you want me to do for you?

O God of our wildest dreams, 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.

Dan Hazen had a vision of how he wanted his completed life acknowledged at Emmanuel Church and it did not include a sermon being preached about him. (I’ll honor his wish.) But I want to share one of the things Dan frequently mentioned in the seven short years that I knew him. It was that he didn’t like worship services that tied things up in a neat bow. So instead of eulogizing him from this pulpit, I’ll do my best to offer a sermon that is long on questions and short on answers, one that doesn’t even try to make sense of the incongruities and ambiguities! Continue reading

In Time of Need (with audio)

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, 23B, October 11, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Job 23:1-9Today my complaint is bitter.
Hebrews 4:12-16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness.
Mark 10:17-31 For God all things are possible.

O God of possibility, 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.

“Indeed, [according to Hebrews] the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before God no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” Continue reading

Racism is wrong. We must do better.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18B, September 6, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.

James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mark 7:24-37 They were astounded beyond measure.

O God of mercy, 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.

The lessons we just heard from Proverbs and James make it abundantly clear that the blessing of God is upon those who are generous, who share their bread with people who do not have enough. The evidence of blessing is not simply prosperity. I often hear people who are experiencing abundance expressing gratitude, giving thanks to God and saying, “I am so blessed.” But according to Proverbs, it’s not the fact of abundance that is a blessing from God; it’s the distribution of abundance so that everyone gets enough. The evidence of blessing of God is in the sharing. And James says that mercy triumphs over judgment – mercy trumps judgment — every time in the realm of God. Whenever there’s a conflict of biblical values or teachings, ask yourself, which approach is more merciful and go with that. Continue reading

Welcome forward, Emmanuel!

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 20A, September 21, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 16:2-15 In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Philippians 1:21-30 Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Matthew 20:1-16 Are you envious because I am generous?

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.

Good morning! Welcome into this magnificent sanctuary of time and space and parish that is Emmanuel Church. Welcome to you who are here for the very first time. Welcome to you who are returning here, having been away for a short time or a long time. Welcome to you who were here much of yesterday or the day before, or every day this last week. Welcome to you who have been here more times than you could ever count! Welcome into the future of God’s beloved community gathered in this place. You know, it’s our future that I’m most excited about. While I was traveling this summer, someone said to me, “Wow, Emmanuel Church in Boston has such a great history.” I said, “Yes! And a great future too!” I hope you’ll be able to stay for a while after our service to hear about the amazing progress on our north-wall restoration project. And I hope you’ll stay a while in the months and years to come to challenge and change us as we become more and more of who God is calling us to be. This is not welcome back Sunday; it is welcome forward Sunday! Continue reading

Blessing Day

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 19A, September 14, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 14:19-31 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground…the Egyptians pursued and went into the sea after them.
Romans 14:1-12 Welcome
Matthew 18:21-35 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?

O God of mercy, 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.

Today’s Gospel passage concludes the section in Matthew about what discipleship really means for Jesus followers. Those of you who were here last week might remember my rant about the words in the ancient Greek which read, “my brother,” being translated as “member of the church.” Since the problematic translation occurs again in today’s reading, this week I took the time to try to discover when that shift from “my brother” to “member of the church” happened – in the ancient Latin translation of the early church? Was it during the German or the English reformation? I went on an investigative tear. Alas. It was in 1989 with our present translation in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. I’m completely baffled by that. Continue reading