Even Bolder Witnesses

Feast of All Saints’, November 6, 2016; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 As for me…my spirit was troubled within me.
Ephesians 1:11-23 So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
Luke 6:20-36 Love your enemies.

Merciful and generous God, 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 we are observing All Saints’ Day in the Church – and we are sacramentally full to the brim with baptisms and Holy Eucharist. Liturgically, our cup is overflowing. Our Eucharistic Prayer will include the names of those in our parish who have died since All Saints’ Day in 2015. After the beautiful Durufle requiem, and before the final blessing, we will pray for our nation, marking the beginning of our election vigil.
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Go lead!

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, 25B, October 24, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Now my eyes see you.
Hebrews 7:23-28 Prevented by death from continuing in office!
Mark 10:46-52 What do you want me to do for you?

O God of our wildest dreams, 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.

Dan Hazen had a vision of how he wanted his completed life acknowledged at Emmanuel Church and it did not include a sermon being preached about him. (I’ll honor his wish.) But I want to share one of the things Dan frequently mentioned in the seven short years that I knew him. It was that he didn’t like worship services that tied things up in a neat bow. So instead of eulogizing him from this pulpit, I’ll do my best to offer a sermon that is long on questions and short on answers, one that doesn’t even try to make sense of the incongruities and ambiguities! Continue reading

Come closer! (with audio)

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, 24B, October 18, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Isaiah 53:4-12 It was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
[Job 38:1-7, 34-41 Who.]
Hebrews 5:1-10 He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Mark 10:35-45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.

O suffering God, 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 Rabbi-in-Residence, Howard Berman, is fond of asking me whenever he preaches at one of our services, “Why do I always get the hard texts?” I say, I wonder the very same thing! Why do I always get the hard texts?” (I think the answer might be that they’re almost all hard.) When it comes to the Isaiah reading, I’ll admit that I did it to myself when I agreed to take a week away from our reading of the story of Job in the interest of Ryan Turner’s request for the lovely Distler motet.
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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

Squinting

The First Sunday of Advent, 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 beginning of a new church year. Thanksgiving to God was our last act of the year that is now past. Baptism is going to be our first act of the year to come. I love baptisms! Hadley and Piper Stuart have come to us to receive the sacrament of baptism, an official welcome to the family called Christian, in the branch called Episcopalian, and in doing that, Hadley and Piper are giving us all a reason to renew our own baptismal promises. What a blessing! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Advent. Continue reading

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

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