Weeds or No Weeds

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9A, July 9, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49; 58-67 Please give me a little water from your jar to drink.
Romans 7:15-25a For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.

O God with us, 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.

Some of the earliest Sunday School lessons I remember learning were from a class taught sitting in the weeds when I was about six years old. (When we sat down in a little circle, the weeds were over our heads.) The first scripture verse I learned was Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord,” and my teacher told us that we were sitting in the house of the Lord. My dad was the pastor of a congregation that worshipped outdoors at a farm in the summer, which was a welcome respite from the gritty urban ministry that characterized the rest of the year. I remember the weather being steamy and hot and I remember being struck by how many bugs there were in the house of the Lord. That’s what came to me as I reflected on our Gospel lesson for this morning. It’s summertime and we’re in the weeds, and I’m still struck by how many things bug us in the house of the Lord. Continue reading

God Sees and God Hears

Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7A, June 25, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 21:8-21 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.
Romans 6:1b-11 Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
Matthew 10:24-39 I have not come to bring peace but a sword.

O God of love, 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.

Our lectionary has dished up some hard readings for us today. Sometimes when I am feasting on the Word of God, I wish it were a little easier to chew and that it tasted better. The trouble starts with the story of the exile of Hagar and Ishmael, when baby Isaac had grown into a boy. Father Abraham is a biblical character that I have a hard time revering; he is so frequently willing (or feeling called by God) to sacrifice or dispose of his wives and his sons. It seems to me that to focus only on the tortured relationship between Sarah and Hagar is to ignore the oppressive patriarchy that is at work in both of their lives. Zimbabwean theologian, Dora Mbuwayesango points out that both Sarah and Hagar are caught in a “patriarchal web that is not easy to untangle,” [1] and I think that applies just as much to 21st century listeners.
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The word is shalom.

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 11C, The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz, July 17, 2016

Amos 8:1-12 A basket of summer fruit.
Colossians 1:15-28 Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
Luke 10:38-42 The better part

O God of shalom, 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.

What a hard week, in a series of hard weeks. There seems to be no end in sight to the violence at home and abroad. I want to say something about each of our three scripture readings this morning. I don’t know about you, but I hear the prophet Amos speaking directly to us from about 760 BCE. Amos, a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees, was the first prophet of the Hebrew Bible to write his description of what happens when some people in a society get richer and more powerful, at the expense of those who are poor and getting poorer. He was writing at a time when his country had expanded in wealth and military might by taking advantage of the most vulnerable, the neediest people, violating the Torah commandments to care for refugees and aliens, and others who cannot care for themselves. Perhaps you already knew what it means that Amos was a dresser of sycamore trees, but I had to look it up. Sycamore trees in the Middle East produce fruit that smell like figs, but taste pretty bad. Only poor people eat it, because nobody with other options would touch it. If the fruit is punctured while it’s still on the tree, it ripens faster. A dresser of sycamores is someone who is helping to feed those who are poor.
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Valued and Cared About (with audio)

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

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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

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

And that’s not all.

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8B, June 28, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Greatly beloved were you to me. Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 In order that there may be a fair balance…’the one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.
Mark 5:21-43 Do not fear, only believe.

O God of healing and restoration, 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.

What a week. What a week of so many tears. Tears of sorrow, of anger and despair, tears of amazement, tears of joy and relief, and tears of hope and brave determination. The people of Charleston, South Carolina are still burying the nine faith-filled people massacred in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church a week ago last Wednesday while they were praying together and studying the Bible. The families of the martyrs have declared forgiveness for the shooter. They are continuing to testify and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate, and more powerful than death. Wednesday Bible Study went on as scheduled this past week with about 100 people jammed into the room where so much blood had been spilled the week before. Pastor Pinckney’s lesson the week before had been about the parable of the sower. Pastor Goff’s lesson the week after was about the power of love – full of parables from both Hebrew and Christian Testaments that reportedly had the people in that gathering laughing and crying at the same time. What powerful seeds of love are being sown by Mother Emanuel. And that’s not all. Continue reading

American Caste System

I have been thinking a lot about vulnerability and how it shows up. I have been thinking about how I can allow my own vulnerability to be a guide into deeper connection with others. I am also curious about the ways in which vulnerability can reveal the nuances of power, privilege, and oppression within interpersonal dynamics. There was a specific conversation that occurred a few weeks ago that had me feeling particularly vulnerable and has given me great pause to reflect on the intersection of vulnerability and systemic racism. Continue reading