All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Take the Candlesticks too

October 22, 2017
Matthew 22:15-22
Bonnie A. Perry

I propose to show that made in God's image, we are God's, all we are is God's—how then do we care for what is God's?

May the God who creates us....

In a time long ago, in a place far away, there was another musical. It too was grand and sweeping and championed the rights of the poor and the outcast. When Lin-Manuel Miranda was 9 years old I was sitting in center seats, not far from the stage watching a sometime parishioner perform in Les Miserables on Broadway. What I remember from that play, that I saw, O so very long ago, was the opening scene. The main character, Jean Valjean, had just been released from prison after 19 years. His crime, for which he was imprisoned, was stealing a loaf a bread to feed his sister's family. A free man now, but without any means of surviving, the local bishop takes him in, gives him a lovely meal and a place to sleep. Jean Valjean is touched by his kindness but cannot imagine how he will ever survive, without stealing. So, in the dark of night he steals the bishop's silverware, almost the only thing of value in the whole house.

In the play, as I recall the bishop after discovering the theft, runs after Jean ValJean, finds him and hands him a pair of beautiful candlesticks, saying, "My friend you forgot these," then a little bit later, "Never forget that I bought your soul for God."

In Victor Hugo's book, of the same title the maid discovers that the silverware is missing. She deduces that it must have been stolen by the man who the bishop graciously let stay the night. She is aghast at the guest's treachery. The bishop asks her why she is so very upset. She says, "He has stolen our silver."

The bishop pauses for a moment and then says very gently, "In the first place, was that silver ever ours?...I have for a longtime detained that silver wrongfully. It belonged to the poor. Who was that man? A poor man evidently."

Just then there is a knock at the door, gendarmes have arrived with Jean Valjean and the silver.
The bishop receives them all graciously,

"Ah here you are, he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean, "I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs, why did you not carry them away with the forks and the spoons?"

Jean ValJean is in shock, the gendarmes equally surprised, the house maid is furious, at Jean Valjean's treachery and the bishop's seeming stupidity.

The bishop sends the gendarmes away, pulls Jean Valjean close and says, "Never forget that you have promised to use this money in becoming and honest man."

Jean Valjean remembers making no such promise, is speechless, the bishop continues, "My brother you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you: I withdraw it from [evil] thoughts and the spirit of perdition and I give it to God."

That changes everything for Jean ValJean. What we do with our things, with our possessions, with our money, changes our lives and the lives of everyone with whom we come in contact.


They come to trick him, the Herodians and the Pharisees, they come to trap Jesus, representatives from two groups who could not stand each other, yet their fear and loathing of Jesus was enough to unite them, if just for awhile.

They come, the Herodians who essentially supported the Roman occupation of Palestine, because the Romans had appointed Herod as their titular head. The Pharisees on the other hand, were devout followers of the Jewish law and deeply resented the Roman occupation.

They come to Jesus in the temple in an attempt to trap him. Posing a quintessential "gotcha" question. "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"

If Jesus says "no" to paying taxes, then the Herodians can have him arrested for sedition and treason, he is clearly beginning to lead a rebellion.

If Jesus says, "Yes" to paying taxes then the completely overwhelmed peasants whose lives are being made miserable because of the inordinately high taxes, will see that Jesus doesn't really understand their plight and he will lose favor with them.

Either way the Herodians and Pharisees win and Jesus is discredited. Gotcha.

The problem, of course, with this story is that most of us know it.

Any of us who grew up going to church, have heard this story over and over and over again. This might even be one of those odd occasions when we can quote Jesus' reply. "Render unto Cesar, what is Cesars, and unto God what is God's."

We know the answer, we've heard it tons of times before, so we may miss how utterly awesome it is and where it might land in our lives, not being either Herodians, Pharisees or oppressed first century Jews living under an occupying power.

Jesus asks for a coin, that would be used to pay the tax. His questioners, just happen to have one, although it is something of blasphemous artifact. The image on it is of Cesar and the inscription implies that Cesar is divine. What are they doing with it in the temple?

Jesus holds the coin, lifts it up, and asks them whose image is on it.
They reply—Cesar's---well then he says—it must be his if his picture is on it. May as well give him what is his.

Done. Question asked. Question answered. Jesus doesn't have to say anymore. But he goes on—and this part—this part is for us. This part is for all who are yet to come.

Give to God what is God's.

What is God's?

The early Christian writer Tertullian in the late second, early third century pointed out that we made in God's image and likeness, thus God's image is on each of us. So therefore we are God's.

We, you, me, all of us are God's. All we have is God's.

Silverware, candlesticks, all of it's God's, what we do with it—that in large part determines who we are and how we are in this world.

I invite you, all of us sometime today, or this week, go on-line—look at your accounts and see where your money is going. Look at your schedule—see where your time is going.

Then think about whether what you do with your money and your time—are those actions bringing you closer to all that is good and Holy?

Look at your time and your money---how you spend it, where you put it—is it bringing anyone else closer to God?

The Bishop said, "I gave you the candlesticks, why did you not carry them away with the forks and spoons?"



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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
    All the best, 
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage


    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,



    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    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!

    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.

    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 

    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.