Softhearted

Fifth Sunday of Easter Year A, May 18, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Acts 7:55-60 ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.
1 Peter 2:2-10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.
John 14:1-14 Do not let your heart be troubled.

O God of our waking up, 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.

This morning our deacon, Bob Greiner is away on retreat with other deacons, and so he is missing the gruesome account in the Book of Acts about the first deacon, Stephen, becoming the first martyr because an angry mob threw stones at him until he died. I think the deacons may have been reading ahead in the lectionary when he scheduled his time away. And the stone references in our scripture readings today in Acts and in 1 Peter were on my mind this past Friday as I sat in my study trying to think while stone masons sawed boulders making a stone wall surrounding my next door neighbor’s back yard. The sound of cutting stone is a crying out that reminds me of Jesus’ response to people who tell him to silence his followers. Remember? He says that if they were quiet, the stones themselves would cry out. Deadly stones and living stones, stumbling blocks and building blocks, crushing weights, and substantial foundations – hard and heavy either way.
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Go!

Lent 2A, March 12, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 12:1-4a Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
John 3:1-17 How can these things be?

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.

This is one of those Sundays when I have a harder time giving thanks and praise to God in response to the scripture readings when I first hear them, because it’s hard for me to hear them read without thinking about the damage humans do to one another using these passages as weapons.  The recent and dramatic rise of hateful words and actions against Jews and Muslims (or people mistaken for Muslims) is fueled by arrogance and ignorance of “Christian” teachings. The fighting happens within Christianity as well, between Catholics and protestants, between different kinds of protestants, and within our own Anglican traditions. Perhaps you have a similar experience of knowing these lessons from a standpoint of in and out, us and them, ours and not yours.  Perhaps you’ve heard these lessons as being about tests about who measures up because of what they think or don’t think.  If not, just wait for today’s cantata! All this makes many flee religious practice, and for good reason. 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

Pass the peace! (with audio)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 21B, September 27, 2015; The Rev Pamela L. Werntz

Esther 7:1-6,9-10; 9:20-22 Days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.
James 5:13-20 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise…
Mark 9:38-50 Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

O God of our redemption, 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 morning we have just heard a part of the great story of Queen Esther, beautiful, brave, patient and smart, who used her position and her gifts, and risked her own life on behalf of her people. Esther’s name appears more times than any other woman in the Bible, and she speaks more than any named women except for Judith. She is the ideal against which Herodius, in the Christian testament of the Bible, was compared and was found to have utterly missed the mark, when a king, intoxicated by wine and the beauty of a woman, offered to do anything she wanted. Queen Herodius coached her daughter to ask for murder. Queen Esther asked that all of her people be saved from scheduled massacre. The Feast of Purim, which celebrates Queen Esther’s courage, compassion and creativity, is observed by Jews each year at the end of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) with celebrations that include presents for people who are poor, and gifts of food for all. 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

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

As a Gentile and a Tax Collector

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 18A, September 7, 2014; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Exodus 12:1-14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.
Romans 13:8-14 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 18:15-20 Let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

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.

Those of you who have heard me preach more than once or twice might know that I often complain about lectionary reading combination – the scheduled selections of the Hebrew Bible, Second Testament, and Gospel readings. Today I love them. Today, the reading from Exodus in the Torah, the piece of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the Gospel passage from Matthew all speak to each other so beautifully, at least to my ears. I especially love the way the first two readings can help us realize what the Gospel reading is all about, not in a way that props up the Gospel, but in a way that illuminates the path for us. 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