Valued and Cared About (with audio)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C), January 17, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 62:1-5 Your land married for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married – so shall your God rejoice in you.
1 Corinthians There are varieties of gifts.
John 2:1-11 First of his signs…revealed his glory…his disciples believed in him.

O God of justice, 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.

By now many of you have seen the news of the Anglican Communion. This past week the Primates of Anglican and Episcopal Churches around the world met in England to talk about marriage in the Church. While I don’t want to make light of the lives that are at stake with regard to treatment of LGBT people all over the world, it does strike me as a little funny that leaders of our particular expression of church have been arguing about marriage since King Henry VIII. As luck (or the Holy Spirit) would have it, we have three scripture readings teed up for our prayerful consideration on this Second Sunday after the Epiphany that have some things to say to us about discerning a way forward with generosity and humility, with compassion and hope. Continue reading

It is I.

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12B, July 26, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 11:1-15 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…David [stayed home].
Ephesians 3:14-21 The power to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ.
John 6:1-21 Ego eimi mey phobeisthe.

O God of wonder, 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.

We have, for our edification this morning, two fantastic stories, so famous that you certainly don’t have to be a Christian to know them – stories of abundance out of scarcity in the loaves and fishes and of walking on water in some rough weather. The stories get larger and more profound with each iteration in the four Gospels. By the time that the Gospel of John was written, the hunger of the crowds and the threatening storm have become less problems to be solved by Jesus and more lessons to be taught by Jesus, who knew all along, according to John, what he was going to do to try to impress on his followers the meaning of the presence, the power, and the promise of God. The Gospel of John has the biggest fish story of 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

Miracles

I witnessed a miracle of life last week at Emmanuel Church. While speaking to marginally-housed women at Common Art, I saw a married couple walk in with a 15-day-old baby. The women and I stopped what we were doing and went over to see the adorable newborn. Where before the women’s faces were downcast and desolate, the sight of this young creature completely transformed them. They smiled, their eyes lit up, they laughed, and they cooed at the baby boy. I was almost as excited to see the baby as I was to see the miraculous change in the Common Art attendees. Who knew that one baby could be the source of calm, peace, and happiness for so many people? It was miraculous to me.

A similar transformation takes place on Thursday afternoons at Emmanuel Church, where I teach ballroom dance lessons to the LGBT members of Café Emmanuel. I think that something magical happens when we move our bodies to the beat of a song. I watch as nervousness morphs into timid fun, which then becomes giddy laughter and joie de vivre. It doesn’t matter if someone makes a mistake or does not understand the foot patterns right away. The point is that we are all connecting with our bodies in a joyful way while unloading the burdens from our stressful week. It is a time where we can all let loose without fear of being judged by others.

The women at the prison often make a similar comment; they are so very grateful to have just one moment out of the week (at the Arts and Spirituality group) where they can relax and enjoy the simplicity of card making. During that weekly session, they do not have to worry about all of the complicated aspects of their lives. I believe that we humans have a tremendous amount to worry about on a daily basis, so it is miraculous that we are able to set things aside and enjoy anything in the present. Moments are fleeting, but perhaps we have more miracles in our lives than we previously thought.

-Evey, 9 February 2014

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