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?"

Amen.

 

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Dear Friends,    

This seems to be the year where I realize that the young people who were 8 and 10 years old 18 years ago, are now in their late twenties; time doing what time does. This week is particularly poignant for me as I spend the weekend watching Patrick Pressl, (the man whom many of you know of as our amazing Christmas Pageant Donkey) become a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. 
 
I won't be with you all on Sunday because I've flown to Quantico, VA to be with Patrick and his family to celebrate his wonderful achievement. My dad is a retired Lt. Col. in the Marines, so I find this milestone for Patrick to be particularly moving. It is such a gift to be with this faith community for this long and to see our children become faithful adults with purpose, pride, and an abiding sense of justice. 
 
This Sunday, Emily will be celebrating. Parishioner and retired pastor, the Rev. Martin Deppe, will be preaching and Colin and the choir will be creating compelling music. I'll be back Sunday night.
 
Many thanks to Parker Callahan and Emily Guffey and the very, many volunteers who enabled last week's All Saints' Cafe to be one of our best ever. The food was amazing and the dishwashing crew was stupendous. 
 
Advent evensong and reflections begin Wednesday, November 29th. I am looking forward to having the beauty of Holden Evening Prayer wash over me and to then spend some extended time studying and reflecting on W. H. Auden's poem, "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio." Please join me Nov 29, Dec 6 and Nov. 13. 
 
Enjoy the return of Fall. 
 
All my best,
Bonnie

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. 

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)

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.

 

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.

 

 


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.