All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Whatever happens, thanks!

Text: I Thessalonians 5:16-18a


"Come thou long-expected Jesus..." Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Many years ago a little girl ran into the living room one bright morning and exclaimed, "Daddy, don't you just love the world!" Daddy was proud of this precious little four-year-old, and still is! God would have us be so thankful for life.

These last few weeks we at All Saints have been in a mood of remembering with gratitude the saints in our lives, elevating many of their names above us in this sacred space. In a few days we will celebrate our national day of Thanksgiving. Allow me then to pursue this theme of thankfulness this morning.

I want to preface my homily with a personal word of gratitude to this congregation and to our Rector, Bonnie, and to Emily, who have provided a spiritual home for my wife, Peg, and me for lo these past 18 years! That has been a tremendous gift and blessing. Thank you!

My text is from I Thessalonians 5:16-18: New RSV: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." I like the NEB version: "Be always joyful; pray continually; give thanks, whatever happens!" Dag Hammarskjold flavored it this way: "For all that has been – thanks".

It seems impossible to contemplate giving thanks for all that has been, and whatever happens. Yet, if God is our creator, preserver, lover, parent, author of life, liberator, then thankfulness is a logical response. A sense of thanksgiving is a fundamental and continuous feeling for a human being in touch with life. It is not a one-day-a-year celebration. It is a total attitude and stance toward life!

Hebrew worship as found in the Psalms resonates with "thankfulness and praise." Psalm 136 begins by repeating three times: "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever" and for good measure it concludes with the same phrase! Our Deppe family grace was lifted already some generations ago from this Psalm, "We thank the Lord for he is good; his mercy endureth forever." And my generation added, "And help us remember the needs of others." So, we began every evening meal, "We thank the Lord." That is a stance.

Martin Luther, whom we have just celebrated for hammering open the Reformation 500 years ago as he posted the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church (He didn't actually do that but it makes a good story.) on All Saints Eve, 1517, also speaks to the centrality of thankfulness in the life of a Christian. In my translation, "We cannot do God a greater or better favor or show a more genuine worship than to thank the Almighty." Again, "Thankfulness belongs to a Christian heart, which shows itself not only to God but to all persons/humanity."

'Whatever happens, thanks,' was certainly the attitude of the Pilgrims, those early immigrants to our shores. They were undocumented by the way! You may recall they lost half of their numbers that first winter of 1620. Every other person, women, children, men alike, died of disease, cold, starvation.

In spite of this calamity they gathered together the next November, 1621, to celebrate the arrival of a vessel with needed provisions and the gathering of the first harvest, including "a great store of wild turkies". It was reported that "many of the Indians joined us, and among them their greatest king, Massasoyt, with some 90 persons, with whom for three days we feasted and entertained." Yes, 'whatever happens, thanks!' The follow-up to that story is shameful as we have come to know and acknowledge.

Many years later, 1863, in the midst of a devastating civil war, President Abraham Lincoln called all citizens to "observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Let me quote from his Proclamation: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity (his reference is, before the war); we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserve(s) us......we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God who made us." Lincoln seems to say: "We are to proud to give thanks."

On a softer note I am reminded of a story told by a colleague of mine years ago. Rev. Ross Calame taught his two young girls to always say, "Thank you, Jesus," for even the simple things, for a glass of milk, for someone holding a door open, or helping them put on a winter coat!

One day Ross was walking home. As he approached their apartment house, one of the girls saw him and turned her tricycle around and drove toward him as fast as she could go. Just before reaching her Dad she fell off the bike and skinned both knees! As she stood up and was about to burst into tears, she quickly regained control and declared, "Thank you, Jesus!"

But, let's face it – how can we possibly give thanks, whatever happens!
How can any woman who has held the secret of a deep wound of sexual abuse for many years, feel thankful? Or the traumatized resident of Aleppo, Syria, amidst a shattered city, broken families and lost loved ones? Or the citizens of Puerto Rica, over 50% of whom are still without power eight weeks after Hurricane Maria? Or someone facing the loss of health care as Congress bickers? Or so many undocumented people facing deportation and separation from family? Or our native Americans who continue to live a segregated life in this bounteous land?
How can they give thanks?

And yet, and yet. On Tuesday, here in Chicago a middle aged African American, Arthur Brown, walked out of Cook County jail after 29 years behind bars, when a judge tossed out his murder conviction in a case over which he was beaten into signing a false confession. And what did he say upon his release?

"I don't have time to be bitter because I'm thinking about my family. I just want to be around my family and enjoy a good meal. Hopefully sleep in a real bed." As he was greeted by relatives and his attorneys with tears and hugs, all he did was express gratitude!

He's not bitter? Please do not ask me how I would feel after losing 29 years of my life to an extreme injustice. Not bitter? No! Arthur Brown is just thankful to be alive, to be back home. That is a stance to life. He carries the peace of God in his soul.

This man's remarkable gratitude poses such a contrast to what the world reveals. There is so much plenty, so much material comfort, so much wealth, so much excess, so much entitlement, so much greed all around us. Why bother saying "thank you." A hand-written thank-you letter for a Christmas or birthday gift is almost unheard of. These gifts are simply expected. Even personal e-mail messages go unanswered. That's a particular beef of mine. So, far from giving thanks in all circumstances, many persons do not express thanks at all.

Now, ingratitude did not just start yesterday either. I'm not calling for us to go to some "good old days." Recall the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus. How many of these 10 lepers thanked Jesus, anyone? Yes, One. "Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan." One of those people. Then Jesus asked, "were not 10 made clean?" But the other 9, where are they?" Indeed.

For all that has been, thanks. Whatever happens, thanks. I think we are all tested to maintain a stance of thankfulness, in one way or another, like the little girl on the tricycle. In big and little things. Speaking of the latter, I remember being hungry as a young boy, particularly when the family was travelling by car. We did not use restaurants in those late Depression days. I did not know the inside of a restaurant. But when I complained, Dad would say, "it is good to be hungry once in a while; you'll appreciate your food when we get home." He was so right.

I am sure you can pick out times, large and small, where you were tested to maintain a sense of thankfulness. Give that some thought in a quiet moment during this Thanksgiving week.

"Whatever happens, thanks." "For all that has been, thanks." I will never forget an experience during my student year abroad in Germany. On a trip to Berlin in the spring of 1958 several of us Fulbright students took the S Bahn, elevated train, into East Berlin one Sunday morning. (this was before the Wall went up - three years later in 1961) We went directly to the Marienkirche, Church of St. Mary, where presiding Bishop Otto Dibelius was to preach.

The church was packed; Communist plain-clothesmen were standing in their crumpled trench-coats along the walls; the 80 year old prelate, who had fought Hitler and now the Communists, began to preach. I did not understand every word in German, but again and again I heard the word Dankbarkeit, thankfulness.

The Bishop told his flock, from my translated notes: "in spite of the world's powers we are ultimately under God's will, so let us give thanks and praise! Whoever lives in God's will and does God's will can expect a happy and blessed life." He contrasted the evil of the hour with God's will - faith and faithlessness. "Atheism in East or in the West is confronted by our faith rooted in eternity." And then this final word: "Dankbarkeit must be the spirit in our homes, at work, in our lives. If we live under God's will we will abide forever and ever!"

Here in the midst of then East Germany, in the presence of not so secret police, in the midst of oppression and danger, Bishop Dibelius called for thankfulness! Later my colleagues and I took Communion from the Bishop's own hands. I was deeply touched for this humble man and for the gift he brought into my life that day.

Yes, give thanks, whatever happens.

Paul goes on to say to the Thessalonians immediately after "give thanks in all circumstances" - "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." And as the old warrior Bishop told his flock, "if we live in God's will and do God's will we can expect a happy and blessed life," to which there is but one response - to give thanks. Thankfulness is a life stance, an eschatological stance for the approaching Day of God.

Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Rev. Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church
Chicago, Illinois
November 19, 2017


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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.