The end of the beginning?

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (7C), June 19, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

1 Kings 19:1-15a What are you doing here Elijah?
Psalm 42 Deep calls to deep.
Galatians 3:23-29 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female for all of you are one.
Luke 8:26-39 Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.

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.

It has been a hard and sad week around here.  We’ve mourned the tragic deaths in Orlando and Boston has buried Raekwon Brown, 17 year old high school junior who saved the life of a 67 year old woman before he was shot during a fire drill at school.  What do we say to our children – what do we say to ourselves about God in a week like this?  I’m reminded that just a few weeks ago after a Sunday service, a little boy, nearly five years old approached me with his dad, who said that his son had a question for me.  I knelt down to hear his question.  “Where is God?” he asked.  Borrowing the words of one of my rabbinic teachers, I said, “God is in the beginning…God is in the endings, and all around us.”  He squinted at me suspiciously.  “God is inside of you and all around you.  God is in your baby sister’s tiny hands and God is in your grandfather’s eyes.  God is in the cookies fresh from the oven and in the first day of a new season.  God is in the end of the day and in the last kiss goodnight. God is always near.” [1]
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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