All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Walking on (Rough) Waters

August 13, 2017
Colin Collette

 Psalm 85, Matthew 14:22-33 

On November 10, 1975, an ore carrier, the Edmund Fitzgerald, sank in Lake Superior during a November storm, taking the lives of all 29 crew members. Later that month, Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian singer and songwriter, wrote what is probably his most famous song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee,
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy

As I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, on the shore of the great Atlantic Ocean, our gospel story today has always captured my imagination. As a child, I remember standing on a cliff overlooking and watching the sea turn in a heartbeat from calm and inviting to furious and fearful. More than once I remember the stern tug on my coattails by my parents to come away lest I be swept into the deep, lost forever. Yet, for some reason, I have found myself time and time again, drawn to the deep, in fact I have never, and probably could never live far from the waters lure.

Some twenty-five years ago – when I was not more than a child I might add – when I moved to Chicago, I was living in Hyde Park and working on a Master of Divinity degree at Catholic Theological Union. When the going was rough – and, believe me, there were moments of rough going, either because I was being particularly challenged by studies or by feedback from my pastoral care cohort, or because I was simply homesick to the point of throwing it in – I can remember walking to Promontory Point near the 53rd Street beach and letting the spray from the waves of Lake Michigan wash over me and strengthen me.

In the Gospel today, we find the disciples in the deep! This story concludes a tumultuous chapter indeed. Chapter 14 of Matthew's gospel opens with Herod the Tetrarch hearing reports of the miracles being accredited to Jesus, wondering if this might not be John the Baptizer raised from the dead. And then there is the subsequent retelling of the beheading of the Baptist and his burial by his followers. In response to this, Jesus gets in a boat (boat number one) and goes to a remote place; the crowds hear of this and follow him on foot. There Jesus finds himself with the multitudes, and there we have the feeding of the thousands. This is an interesting and important setup for the story we are considering this morning.

The miracle that takes place, often referred to as the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, is very interesting. Jesus did not perform a magic trick that resulted in the bread and fish being multiplied to go from scraps to a scrumptious feast. Rather he prayed a prayer that would have been on the lips of every good Jew multiple times a day, a prayer that we will soon say around his table over bread and wine. Jesus blessed God: the miracle was in the sharing, the faith of the people, their action in a time of scarcity; their sharing was miraculous. Their sharing was that powerful, so powerful that it not only fed them, but was capable of feeding all of the known world. Hold this as we consider what happened in the boat.

In the translation we read from this morning, we hear that after the miracle of the sharing, Jesus "made" the disciples get in the boat and cross over to the other side. The Greek is a little more forceful. It suggests that Jesus commands or orders the disciples to get into the boat and leave him. Remember six chapters earlier in the gospel of Matthew, 8:23-27, Jesus is with the disciples when they are not able to handle the boat in a storm. As the storm progresses and they are in fear of death, they rouse the sleeping Jesus. (It is interesting that the author has him asleep in the midst of a "furious storm.") They prevail on him to save them, and what is his response? "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Yet knowing this, Jesus, makes them – no, commands them to – get into the boat without him and set off for the other side.

Then Jesus goes up the mountain and prays, and the author makes it clear that he is there alone. Often the mountain in Scripture is a place of encounter with the Holy. Recall our Gospel from last week. It was on the mountain that the Glory of God shone on the face of Jesus, and Emily reminded us that it was not Jesus alone that was recognized as the beloved, but you and you and you and you. Get the theme? As with the miracle of the sharing, and Emily's reminder from last week, we are called to be the beloved ones – it is our faith that has the power to be miraculous. I don't think the disciples clued into this, especially as we will see as the story progresses.

When suppertime came, the old cook come on deck, Sayin', "Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya."
At 7pm a main hatchway caved in; he said, "Fellas, it's been good to know ya."

Here is where things get really interesting, as if you were not on the edge of your pews already! Nearing the end of the night, in the fourth watch, between 3am and 6am, the disciples find themselves in a terrible storm. Then . . . Jesus appears walking on the water. First of all, it has been asked, why did he wait so long? Until the 4th watch. Did he not know they were in peril? Was he giving them the opportunity to practice the miraculous faith they had just witnessed in the miracle of the sharing? Had he desperately hoped that they had learned their lesson from the last time they were together in the boat in a storm? Several authors suggest that Jesus waits in order to increase the proportion of the miracle. As with the death of his dear beloved Lazarus, had he gone when he first received the news that Lazarus was ill, the healing of his friend would have been quite incredible, but not nearly as powerful as raising him from the dead. This to me, however, portrays Jesus as some self-serving, grandstanding, snake oil salesman. Still we are left wondering, "Why did he wait?"

We hear in the story that, in the midst of the fear of the storm, their fear level is elevated by a mysterious figure coming to them, walking on the water. They fear it is a ghost and cry out, but Jesus calls out to them, "Take heart, it is I." One commentator suggests that the intended, predominantly Jewish audience would have heard that and immediately recalled God's response to Moses when, again on the mountain, Moses asks for God's name. "I am" is the response. Peter then, with his usual bravado, calls out, "Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."

Matthew Skinner, in an article for the Huffington Post as part of the "On Scripture" series, suggests that some say Peter should have kept his "piehole shut." They accuse him of putting Jesus to the test. "If, it is you, prove your power!" Reason would say that Peter had no chance against the wind and the raging storm. The faithful response would have been to stay in the boat and trust Jesus to save. Others, Skinner points out, disagree. Some would say the story commends Peter for stepping out and walking with his Lord, even in the face of great danger. "It is the nature of faith – humble active faith – to be willing to throw oneself into a disorderly world and expect to encounter Jesus there." (Skinner, On Faith)

Skinner continues, "Isn't this what history's most faithful people have demonstrated? Not all of them were great believers, but they knew that if God might be encountered anywhere, ........God will be found in places where the regular delineations and predictable endings don't apply as before. Sometimes incredibly turbulent places are also 'thin places,' where God breaks through. These heroes of faith find and illuminate God in settings where 'the way things are' are reconfigured: where the poor receive support, the sick find comfort, and the oppressed enjoy dignity and freedom."

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind'er

Yesterday morning, as I was reviewing and refining this homily, William, my spouse, walked in and asked if I had heard what was going on at the University of Virginia. Silenced, saddened, and stunned, I read of the violence and hatred, the largest gathering of hate in the country for decades – Unite the Right; "We will not be replaced!"; the inaction of the police to stop it, as hundreds engaged in open conflict; the refusal of our leadership to name the sin of white supremacy; the storm of hatred and violence that was all a prelude to planned rally for Saturday by the Alt Right. A local newspaper described the torch-lit vitriolic procession as "fire and fury." Now, if we think that the storm is just raging in the waters of Virginia, and not lapping over the walls of our boat, right here, right now, I fear we are mistaken. Who will step out into the tumult to discover God and to bring peace? Who will leave the boat and enter that thin place where God breaks through? If not me, who? If not us, who? If not now, when? Did we not just hear, so beautifully sung by our cantor, "I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for you speak peace to your faithful people. Steadfast love and faithfulness have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other; faithfulness shall spring up from the earth."

A few weeks ago at the College for Congregational Development, Bonnie said to our learning cohort, "If we are not going into rough waters, it is not worth going." Are we ready, like Peter and Bonnie, to step out into the rough waters? Because, as Peter discovered, Jesus is there where the boundaries are being redrawn, extending life-giving stability when the chaos gets the upper hand.
If not me, who?
If not us, who?
If not now, when?



  1. This Week
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Weekly Message for December 10

Weekly Message for December 10

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow morning, Saturday the 9th, from around 10am to 2pm, I’m looking for people who might want to assist me in doing some Christmas decorating for the outside of our church building. Ahn Gallagher has graciously agreed to hang some lights in our bell tower, now I’m looking for assistance is getting lights in our oak tree out front. I’ll be able to put on my climbing saddle and rig a belay and climb the tree, but it will be much easier and way more fun if I have assistance. Right now our beautifully restored building looks GREAT in the day and kind of dark at night. I hope to fix that tomorrow. Dress warm and come join the fun!
Two Wednesdays from now, on December 20th, our evening prayer will be extended to include more silence for reflection, more music for our souls, and an opportunity for anointing. Christmas can be a very difficult time, particularly if we are in the midst of a transition or have lost someone we love. We hope to create a time and some space to acknowledge those difficult feelings and offer some solace and consolation. I invite you to take an hour to care for yourself with some prayer and music.
This Sunday I’ll be preaching, Emily will be celebrating, the children will be rehearsing our presidentially-recognized Christmas Pageant, #HamiltonmeetsJesus, and Colin and our choir will be creating seasonal music that will lift our spirits.
I look forward to seeing all of you!
All the best,
Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

kellybdWe 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. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

midnightFall Reading List Selected

The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. 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:

  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
  • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
  • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
  • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

Bags for RCS

Bags for RCS

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!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 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!


Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

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.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

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.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

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 and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

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 You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.


Donate to The 1883 Project

Donate to The 1883 Project

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

1883 Construction web 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

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.
Fixing This Old Church

Fixing This Old Church

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


Information about pastoral care.



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.