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

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

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

Come down, O Love Divine!

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, 12A, July 27, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 29:15-28 This is not done in our country.

Romans 8:26-39 We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Have you understood all this?O God of grace, 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.
Everyone take a deep breath and blow it out twice as slowly as you took it in. Do it again, breathing in the gift of oxygen; breathing out your gift back to the plants of carbon dioxide. Breathe the Divine Love come down – the breath of life – in and out. You know, in biblical terms, the word for breath, and wind, and spirit are all the same: ruach in Hebrew. I thought we might start with feeling thankful for breath – because — Continue reading