Demanding and Exhilarating

Lent 4A, March 26, 2017; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

1 Samuel 16:1-13 But the LORD looks on the heart.
Ephesians 5:8-14 Live as children of light.
John 9:1-13, 28-38 So that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of [the One] who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

O God of our vision, 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.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Nine years ago, on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday, aka Mothering Sunday), I began my service to Emmanuel Church as your priest with these readings from the lectionary. I brought a basket of red pencils with me that first morning for Steve Babcock, our trusty head usher, to hand out with the bulletins. His eyebrows went up just a little bit when I handed him the basket, but he was a great sport about the odd request. (It was the first of many.) I had collected the red pencils from art supplies from my prison ministry program, raided my kids’ colored pencil sets, and I probably bought two boxes or so. I’m so happy to report that nine years later, that I would need more than twice the number of pencils that we used in 2008 and I did not have the time on my hands to collect the additional pencils needed this week!
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Who loved us first.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19C, September 11, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not make a full end.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,
Luke 15:1-10 There is joy in heaven…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

O God Who loved us first, 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.

Our first scripture lesson this morning from Jeremiah, sounds to me like it could be a description of life in the 21st century, even though it was written more than 26 centuries ago. The prophet Jeremiah is decrying the sins of those in leadership, the social injustice, the spiritual corruption, the war making that has devastated the land. Just before our passage begins, the priests and prophets have complained to God that God promised all would be well and it’s not. The Holy One delivers a scorching response: your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you – disaster follows disaster. In the verses that are omitted from our lectionary, God cries out in agony (actually it’s the word for childbirth labor pains). God cries out in labor pains that the leadership has broken Her heart with their flags and trumpets that lead people into war. Then God laments with a broken heart about the foolishness of people, skilled in doing evil, not knowing how to do good, making war instead of peace. It sounds like it could be a description of our life doesn’t it? – especially on this somber 15th anniversary. 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

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