All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

What's Your Answer? 

Sunday, August 27, 2017
Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Matty Zaradich

Jesus Christ, is it ever hard to be a Christian these days

I mean that only half jokingly.

It's unfortunately my truth, because I'm losing sight of how to most effectively respond as a Christian to what seems to be a world gone mad. I'm losing sight of how to respond as a Christian to racism—a deadly, rampant, insidious racism with love and peace.

I'm losing sight of how to respond as a Christian to transphobia—and to be clear, I mean an active hatred of transgender people—with compassion and understanding.
I'm losing sight of how I, as a Christian, can possibly look at someone like James Fields, the man that drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters and killed Heather Heyer, with anything but revulsion. And anger.

I'm losing sight of how best to respond to folks in my own family—my own siblings—who literally fight—physically, verbally, emotionally—over the election to this very day. I'm worried our relationships will never be the same. I'm worried there are pieces of those relationships that are broken beyond repair. And I'm worried that I'm complicit in all of it.
I'm losing sight of how to look myself in the mirror, knowing I don't have answers. Or solutions.

I'm losing sight of how "we, who are many, are one body in Christ," as Paul exhorts to the Romans—and us—today.

And later, in the gospel, when Jesus is asking the disciples—asking us all, even today—"Who do you say that I am?"

Well... Who is he to you?

What does the mission of Christ With Us mean to you?
What does God Made Human mean to you?

Is Jesus a revolution?
Is he love?
Is he redemption?
Is he all of the above?

What about for the rest of the body of Christ, as Paul tells us we ought to consider ourselves a part?
Are all 'Christians' giving the same answer?
The Christians marching with white supremacists—they’re giving the same answer as me?
The Christians denying LGBT people funeral services or marriage licenses—they gave the same answer?
The Christians who want to build a wall on the border with Mexico—the same answer?

Answers. They are rough to reconcile.

But it's an answer Christ is seeking from you. From me. From all of us. The Christ we choose to follow lives in that answer.

You know, I'm the sort of person who, while perfectly comfortable exploring the unanswerable questions of our existence, is often extremely uncomfortable with not having answers to issues of injustice. I like to take decisive action. I like to inspire others to do the same. I like to have a stance on an issue, and I like to encourage others to join me. I like to have answers for people, especially when they need answers.

On June 13, 2016, I had no answers.

Early that morning, I woke up to the horror—and I use that word deliberately—of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Late the night before, a madman bent on religious extremism that had easy access to guns, entered Pulse and went on a rampage, killing 49 people (mostly LGBT, mostly Latinx) and seriously injuring scores of others.

If you haven’t been to Pulse, I want to set the scene for you, so you have an idea of what it’s like. I hadn't ever been, until after the massacre occurred. I made pilgrimage to the venue while on a trip to Florida last year. And what I can tell you is how seemingly normal it is. We live in Chicago, and we're used to neighborhoods like Lakeview, where 20-foot tall rainbow pylons boldly claim an entire street (the longest in the world, actually) to be LGBT friendly—to be a safe place.

Pulse is on no such street. Pulse Nightclub is a small, black building, one-level. It is next to a Dunkin Donuts, and across the street from a gas station, an Einstein Bros. Bagels, and a bank. The street, Orange Street, is so nondescript that it could be Main Street anywhere else in the country. It’s an entirely ordinary place, an entirely ordinary street, in an entirely ordinary American city, far away from the tourists at the theme parks. Mickey Mouse doesn't live on that street.

It was painful to see the actual building. Surrounded by barrier fences, with a strong police presence remaining, memorials everywhere.

Can you imagine that night? Can you put yourself there?

There’s music playing—loud, Latin music. And you’re dancing with your friends. You’re dancing to forget the home you’ve been told to leave; the relationship that ended; the love deep in your heart that somehow you’ve managed to keep alive.

When all you want to do is run outside and throw your arms open and scream “MY HEART IS BROKEN!”, somehow you just keep on dancing.

And then it all ends. In a bloody massacre of 49 people.

“Keep Dancin’,” one painted square begs the viewer.

“Love Never Dies,” write Johnny and Joey on a poster.

Extinguished candles, long melted in the Florida sun, scattered everywhere. Cards, photos, banners, flags. Tokens left behind by the living who had no more words to express their grief.

When you now approach Pulse, its own pulse beats out to you. You can feel it, as you cross the street, taking in the wide memorial, flanked on either side by the American regularities of donuts and gas.

You can sense the pain that still lingers; you can hear the screams of the terrified; and you can still, somewhere in there, feel in your heart the love—like Johnny and Joey remind us—that will never die.

But that morning, that particular morning. I had nothing.

I scrambled to put together a vigil in Andersonville, Chicago's other LGBT friendly neighborhood. Folks from this very parish helped diligently to put it together with me, and to bring friends and family. By 7 p.m. that evening, nearly 1,000 people showed up. I was expecting maybe 50.

Looking for a space to be with other people. Looking for candles. Looking for answers.

And as I got up on the stage, as I got up and took the microphone, as I got up and looked in the faces of 1,000 people, I bumbled.

I bumbled.

I never bumble.

I ramble, but I don't bumble. This big mouth always has something to say.

But that night, that night that grew from that morning, left me nearly speechless. Because I had no answers. I had no solutions. I only had fear of a future ahead, and a very long tunnel seemed to stretch in front of my eyes. No light at the end.

My only hope was that somehow, SOMEHOW, these deaths—these 49 dead bodies on the ground of a gay dance club—might, just might, change things. Just might wake people up to the horrors that LGBT can and do come to face in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It's unfathomable to some that the massacre of 49 people could happen in a gay nightclub. But not to me, not really.

It's the next step in a country where the dignity of LGBT people is not respected in a majority of states. Where in over 30 of those states, LGBT people can be fired from their jobs, denied housing, and kicked out of public accommodations like restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and movie theaters.

In a country where Christian leaders—in church and in congress—rail against us, and call us abominable things. Where they instill, at a young age, in their followers that we are disordered, that we are perverted, and that we are making a conscious choice that brings us inevitably to fiery hell.

We, who are many, are one body in Christ?

Is it any wonder that, in a country where LGBT people don't have equal rights, where they are, therefore, viewed as second-class citizens—is it really any wonder that the extreme outcome of years and years of such oppression ends up in a massacre? In a man going to a specifically LGBT nightclub to kill LGBT people specifically?

Our opponents in this struggle for equality would reduce the argument to something as simple as cake. The now familiar model goes something like this: A Christian baker should not be compelled to support gay marriage by baking a cake. Gay people can get a cake somewhere else if they want.

The complexity of our struggle is so far beyond yeast, flour, and sugar, that this line of thinking is laughable.

It's about dignity. It's about equity. It's about equality.

It's about America, and all that it could—and should—be. How we've allowed this society of ours to be ruled by fear—fear of two men kissing in a bar, fear of two lesbians living in an apartment, fear of a transgender woman using a bathroom—how this rules this country, is beyond my comprehension.

But here we are.

Here we are on a Sunday morning, wondering how the vicious massacre of 49 people on the dance floor of a gay bar somehow—SOMEHOW—was not enough to make politicians and religious leaders change their minds about who we are and that we deserve at the very least a modicum of dignity.

My fears were confirmed. Their deaths were not enough.

When we LGBT people look our opponents in the face and ask, "Who do you say that I am?"

They respond with derision. With hatred. With bigotry. With laughter. With discrimination. With violence. With laws that exclude us. With church policies that deny us.


It’s almost as if, when Jesus asks them, "Who do you say that I am?," they respond with:
You are the punisher, Lord.
You are come to exclude.
You are the one of whom I am frightened.
You are the one of whom I am terrified.
You are the one I am afraid will punish me, so I will punish others.
You are the one I don't understand, so I will pretend I do.

I'm here to tell you: that's not the love of God. That's not who Jesus is. That's not why He came here, to this earth. That's not why God sacrificed his only Son so that we may live.

When Jesus asks me, "Who do you say that I am?," my response is:
You are the One who delivers me.
You are the One who renews me.
You are the One who loves me.
You are the One who has known me.
You are the One who inspires me to action.
You are the One who shows me a better world that is possible, and asks me to work for it.

Jesus is with you. Jesus is looking at you. And Jesus is asking you.

"Who do you say that I am?"

Since Jesus first spoke the words, the Church has continually faced this same question. This question is absolutely central to our identity as Christians, and it is the foundation upon which we build all our other beliefs.

It’s also a pop quiz of sorts, and Jesus expects that his disciples—that you—have been watching. And listening. He’s performed miracles. He’s set about teaching radical lessons. He’s challenging notions of who and what God can be and might be and should be.

Your answer is the best tool we have to combat what is in front of us. To make hope out of fear; to make action from silence. Please, don’t lose sight of Jesus. Answer him.
Who do you say that I am?

What is your answer?

Amen.

  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,
Bonnie
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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

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 website@allsaintschicago.org 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 care@allsaintschicago.org. 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

Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

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.