All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

 

I’m in Love with the Shape of You

Song of Songs
July 9, 2017
Bonnie A. Perry

I propose to show that in the Song of Songs there is an incarnational grounding in our physicality, so that those hearing this sermon will read these words both for ways to enrich our relationship with the one we love and with the Holy of Holies.

True Confessions. My most favorite song these days, besides the Canticle of the Turning, is Ed Sheerhan’s, Shape of You.

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do

Though my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
Last night you were in my room
Now my bedsheets smell like you.
Everydaydiscoveringsomethingbrandnew
I’m in love with your Body
I’m in love with your body.
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

Listen, its’ my lover:
Here he comes now,
Leaping upon the mountains
Bounding over the hills.

My lover is like a gazelle
Or a young stag.
Here he stands now
Outside our wall,
Peering through the windows
Peeking through the lattice

My lover spoke and said to me,
Rise up my dearest,
my fairest and go.
Here the winter is past:
The rains have come and gone.
Blossoms have appeared in the land,
The season of singing has arrived.

A few verses later:

I belong to my lover
And he belongs to me…

Upon my bed, night after night,
I look for the one whom I love
With all my heart

I belong to my lover and he belongs to me
Song of Songs

Well then….its not that often I can conflate Holy Scripture with an erotic pop song.

The Song of Songs, the Song of Solomon, the Canticle of Canticles, has many names and only 8 short chapters, but there it is The Song of Songs nestled in our scripture between the wisdom of Ecclesiastes and the prophecy of Isaiah.

A book in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament which is, as theologian Stephanie Paulsell says, “Unusual among biblical books for what is includes and what it leaves out. What it includes is erotic poetry that leaves no body part uncelebrated, no fragrance or taste of the beloved undescribed. What it leaves out is any reference whatsoever to God.” (Lamentations and the Song of Songs: A Theological Commentary on the Bible p 172.)

Despite lacking an overt divine reference this book made it into the Hebrew and Christian Canon and was the most commented and preached upon piece of scripture in Medieval Christianity. (E. Ann Mattter, The voice of my Beloved: The of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity p 6.)

Bernard of Clairaux, the 12th century Cistercian writer, managed to pen 86 sermons on the Song of Songs. This fascination was not just limited to celibate Christian monks, medieval Rabbi Ezra ben Solomon taught that the Song of Songs belonged to God and God sang it every day.

Sixteenth century, mystic and carmalite, Teresa of Avila, also joined the Song of Songs party, she like Bernard, saw and heard in the verses a yearning that echoed her own search and longing for God. “Reading the Song is a consolation, because a soul in love with God experiences the kinds of ‘swoons, deaths, afflictions, delights, and joys that one reads of in the Song of Songs.” (p 175 Paulsell).

Here’s the interesting piece for those of us who have been shaped in a somewhat puritanical view of religion and spirituality, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, Rabbi Ezra, do not reject the erotic quality of scripture, instead as Paulsell says, “they recognize the erotic quality of life with God.”( P 175)

Any of us who has ever had a moment of spiritual clarity, a time of some type of mystical transcendence, long for it, much as we may long for the feeling of that first kiss of a relationship that matters, the blush and rush, the physicality of a connection that enables us to move beyond ourselves. The medieval mystics understood that incarnational connection is not merely a spiritual event.

Biblical theologian, Dianne Bergant goes a step farther by saying, “God is not found beyond human endeavor but at the very heart of it. (Song of Songs: The love Poetry of Scripture p 21). And then making the literal connection between mystical moments and our human relationships she says, “human love is a value in and of itself and a sign or symbol of divine love and that we love God precisely in the act of loving others.”

Any of us who has ventured into the world of relationships knows that though those early moments may overwhelm us with a sense of connectivity, inevitably there is the separating. The push and pull of coming together (like magnets do) and moving apart, our seeming inability to read the other person, to meet their needs, understand their desires, or our own inability to set our longings and wants aside to be there completely for that other person.

Or the vulnerable hurt of expressing our needs and longings and having the one to whom we have turned, miss our signals, misunderstand our words, or fail once again to read our minds. So there are those scars and scabs of not connecting.

I was sleeping

A sound! My love is knocking:
Open for me, my dove my perfect one.

The woman replies,
I’ve taken off my tunic
Why should I put it on again?
I have bathed my feet, why should I get them dirty?

Time goes by…

I went and opened for my love,
But my love had turned, gone away.

I nearly died when he turned away.
I looked for him
I called out to him but he didn’t answer me.

Song of Songs

Yet what the Song of Songs shows us is the ebb and flow of all relationships. The longing for and missing of the other and the willingness to seek out the beloved.

I looked for the one I loved whom I loved with all my heart.
I looked for him but could not find him.
I will rise now and
go through the city,
through the streets and the squares,
I will look for the one I love with all my heart.” (vv 3:1-2)

Even in scripture, connections are missed, lovers are lost.

But in scripture, these missed opportunities are not the final word.

Set me as a seal over your heart,
As a seal upon your arm,
For love is as strong as death,
Passionate love is unrelenting as the grave
Rushing waters can’t quench love rivers cannot wash it away.

In this poetry of love, we see the longing, hope, coming together, pulling apart, and coming together again—those connections we long for with each other and with our God.

There’s not much more you could hope for on a beautiful summers morning.

Copyright Bonnie A. Perry July 2017

 

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Dear Friends,

Emily, Colin, vestry member Joe Wernette-Harnden, and I have all just finished a week of intense training at the College for Congregational Development. It was a real honor for me to do my second round of training at "the college" with colleagues from All Saints'.

What has become ever clearer for me, doing this training as a group, is that we have the people in place for All Saints' to take our next big step in our community and world. I'm not even sure what that step may be. What I do know, although we are not perfect, we are a faith community called to take significant actions to alter the condition of our world, even as we feed ourselves and our neighbors, body and soul. With our gifts, resources, leadership, and faith we have no other choice but to take part in and initiate movements of change and meaning. Our vestry (governing body) has been exploring these questions for the past several months, they'll be working on them even more in the month of August. I hope that we'll have some thoughts to guide a congregation-wide conversation in the fall. I'm thinking that congregational conversation may happen on Sunday, October 22. It's all very much in flux and formation now-but I wanted to let you know a bit of what I've been thinking about and what our vestry has been contemplating.

Tomorrow our former seminarian, current youth group leader, and Bishop Anderson house Chaplain, Paul Goodenough will be our preacher tomorrow. I've had a preview of his sermon and I found it wonderfully challenging and intriguing. Emily will be celebrating and Colin and some of our choir members will be creating wonderful music.

I'll be away tomorrow and for pretty much the remainder of the summer. I'll be doing some paddling trips in Canada and Scotland and spending some significant time in Virginia with my dad and siblings.

Please know how very much I enjoy being a priest at All Saints!

All the best,
Bonnie

We are very excited that the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be spending a weekend with us this fall, September 23 and 24. Kelly was formerly the Canon Theologian at our National Cathedral. In the fall she will become the first Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, now located at Union Theological Seminary. We've invited Kelly to spend the weekend with us so that we might again return to our work on confronting racism. Kelly is an amazing preacher and theologian and we are beyond honored that she is making time in her incredibly busy schedule to be with us. Look for more details in the next few weeks on the spirituality and theology that we will be exploring together. 

In the event that you find yourself looking for some interesting summer reading, here are some books she has suggested we investigate: HomecomingThe Color of Law, and one by Kelly called Stand Your Ground. She also suggested that watching 13th on Netflix would be helpful.
 
Racism is an issue that we are called to confront and challenge and end. It is not something that will just die a gentle death. Our hope is that with our time with Kelly and one another, we may again return to this important work. 

revelationsMonday nights at 7:30, Beginning July 10

Bible study is back! If the current U.S. presidency and administration is causing you to wonder if we're living in "apocalyptic times," then studying the Book of Revelation is perfect for this summer's Bible study! The Monday nights for this, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. (6 to 7:15 p.m. for dinner beforehand at O'Shaughnessy's), are July 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Your "tour guide" on this journey will be parishioner Jerome Wilczynski. Jerome holds a Master's degree in Systematic Theology and New Testament from Catholic Theological Union, and a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He is Associate Professor/Core Faculty in the department of Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Chicago. The point of our study will be to de-mystify this all too often misunderstood text from Scripture. The main commentary Jerome will use to assist us in unearthing the rich symbolism of this book will be Wilfrid Harrington's Revelation from the Sacra Pagina series, in case you want to buy it—but don't feel you have to.

 

Summer Lineup Selected
 
The All Saints Book Club met on May 11th and decided on a lineup of books for the next year. The book club is open to anyone who enjoys reading. The meetings start at 7:30 PM usually at the home of a member. The locations and further details are on our Facebook page
 
Here is the schedule for the next several months:
  • July 13 -  "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe
  • For additional information, contact Mike Burke (mebcat@gmail.com)

     

    Gardening at 10am
     
    churchschool2010
    For the rest of June and July - although Sunday school classes do not meet at 10 during the summer - Atrium I will continue to be open during the 9 o'clock service until the end of July. Atrium I children who attend the 11 o'clock service will be welcome in the nursery during the service.
     
    At 10 o'clock children are encouraged to come help water, weed and harvest vegetables from the garden we're planting to support the Ravenswood Community Services kitchen and food pantry

    We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
     
    We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

     Sundays at 2pm

    breakersbibleWe are very excited to announce that every Sunday at 2:00 pm, All Saints' offers something new at the Breakers - An Evening Prayer Service! Our first event was Sunday, December 4th, and went marvelously well - we had 13 attendees! Folks are very pleased that there's a Protestant service being offered in addition to the current choices (which are Catholic and Moody Bible.) The Prayer Service itself is printed in large print and in bulletin style with scripture taken each week from the Common Lectionary.

    The weekly service starts at 2:00 pm, upstairs on the second floor Meditation Room, and lasts about 15 minutes. Please contact Paul Mallatt if you have questions, or comments at 773-860-4649. When you can, stop by the Breakers (5333 N Sheridan Rd) where the parking is free (for 2 hours), the coffee is hot, and the folks are friendly!

     

    Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

     

    RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.
     
    If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

     

    helloDo you feel called to create an open, welcoming, hospitable environment at All Saints? Do you like meeting and connecting with people? Join the new Hospitality Ministry! Members of the Hospitality Ministry will help the clergy and vestry create a welcoming culture by greeting new members, engaging new faces at coffee hour, and helping connect new members of All Saints with our various programs.

    Interested? Contact Diane Doran or Michelle Mayes. Include "Hospitality Ministry" in the subject line.

    Our new Associate Rector, Emily Williams Guffey, is enjoying getting to know everyone in our congregation. Help her put names and faces together by adding yourself to our online directory!

    If you are a member of All Saints' and haven't already registered for the directory, please contact our resident web guru Jim Crandall at website@allsaintschicago.org and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

    Join the All Saints' Care Ministry! 

    casseroleThe Care Ministry at All Saints' is a quiet one, simply providing meals after a new baby arrives, after surgery, during an illness. Because when life gets complicated, dinner is often the last thing on our minds--but sometimes a meal and visit from a friend is exactly what we need!

    If you can provide a meal, give someone a ride, or run an errand once in awhile, please email care@allsaintschicago.org. You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.

     

    tinaParishioner, Tina Tchen, accepts Bishop Maryann Budde's invitation to preach at the National Cathedral Sunday, May 8. Click here to see the video.

     

    Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

    1883 Construction web 

    This week’s stories of the bell tower: The beams and posts in the bell tower are being filled with epoxy and fungicide to prevent future insect damage and to restore their strength and integrity. Here are some photos of the work currently taking place. Everywhere you see white is where the post or beam is being rebuilt, restored and protected.
     
    The blue hue in the photo is from the tarp surrounding the bell tower enabling Ron Young and his crew to continue working in the dropping temperatures.
     
     

    Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.


    Sunday Service Times

    8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
    9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
    10:00 am Children's Church School
    10:00 am Coffee Hour
    11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir

     

    Contact Us

    4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

    Phone (773) 561-0111

    Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

    Information about pastoral care.

     

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    Bonnie on Huffington Post

    Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

    Pain. Change. Hope.

    November 15, 2015

    What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

    October 4, 2015

    Wake Up Calls

    September 6, 2015

    Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

    December 24, 2014

    The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

    November 30, 2014

    Pulpit Swap

    The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

    Going Home—Changed

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

    When Prayers Go Unanswered

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.