All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Our God is an Awesome God

M. Jeanne Wirpsa

February 4, 2018
Isaiah 40:21-31

When I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade my mother had the brilliant idea to send us to Presbyterian Bible Camp. It was then – in a mildly humiliating way for the precocious child that I was -- that I learned that God had not given me the gift of being able to quote scripture from memory. (I think I came in last in that Olympic event.) Since that time I have resorted to providing summary versions of scripture passages or in re-telling with great aplomb the stories of the colorful, wise, and prophetic characters in the Bible. The exception to that rule comes in the form of a couple of key passages that I worked hard to commit to memory. I take them out of my chaplain toolkit when I meet a patient or family who “Stand on the Word” or for whom I believe that scripture would provide a powerful message of hope or comfort.

Such is the case with the last few verses of today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah. “Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall rise up as on eagle’s wings; they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Or something like that. . .

For patients undergoing months, sometimes years of medical treatment and for their caregivers who spend countless sleepless nights in the hospital you can imagine why the prophet’s words might find fertile soil in their weary souls and bodies.

Do the prophet’s words speak to us gathered here today? Do we “Stand upon God’s Word” and really believe what the prophet says – that God will sustain us when the road is long and we grow weary? Do we really believe that God exercises the kind of power described throughout our Isaiah passage today – the power to stretch out the heavens like a curtain, make the faint to run, and yes, even bring princes to naught and rulers of the earth to nothing?

Progressive Christians – I’d include All Saints’ as a community in that descriptor – struggle with the concept of God’s power. Theologically we can’t accept an all-powerful God who allows genocide, famine, mass shooting, or homelessness. We stop praying for miraculous healings like the ones depicted in Mark’s gospel when our beloved family member dies from cancer or the demons of our own psychiatric illness continue to haunt our minds. We rename God as Co-creator with human beings; we put the onus of responsibility back on us for building God’s reign of justice on earth; we prefer to worship the image of a God born as a baby in a manager who comes not as a mighty king but as a vulnerable human being like the rest of us.

Perhaps I’ve been listening to too much gospel music lately where the message of God the Mighty Deliverer causes me to raise my hands in joyous praise and affirmation. Or maybe I’m experiencing the effect of ministering to African American Missionary Baptists and Pentecostals who faithfully claim their complete and total healing “In Jesus’ Name.” Or maybe I’m just fed up with seeing the powers that be take away the rights of our immigrant brothers and sisters, put automatic weapons in the hands of those who lust for retribution, and gut our safety net until it’s hanging by a thread.

Whatever the cause, I’m ready to reclaim a God who has the power to do the impossible. I’m in need of a God who will bring down the mighty from their thrones and, in the words of Isaiah, “carry them off like stubble”. I’m longing to proclaim with my evangelical brothers and sisters that indeed “Our God is an Awesome God.”

Return with me for a moment to the book of Isaiah, the 40th chapter. It is written around the year 540 BCE when the Israelites find themselves in exile in Babylonia. Their homeland of Judea and temple in Jerusalem were destroyed as punishment for forsaking Yahweh and the commandments. They have dwelt in this foreign land long enough that the original exiles have died off and the next generation has grown up thinking of Babylonia as their home. The Israelites engage in commerce, practice their own religion rather than worship the astral deities of the Babylonians, and generally are doing ok. Solidly middle class, not horribly impoverished or marginalized or suffering.

According to the Biblical scholar Walter Brueggeman, they have grown comfortable, complacent. They have no need of a God of power and might, who parts the Red Sea, strikes dead the first born of Pharaoh, and sends manna in the desert to his chosen people. Or perhaps, they just lost faith in the power of Yahweh to save and deliver them – after all they had been carried away to captivity and Yahweh did not intervene.

But Yahweh has a plan. The long view, shall we call it. Just as Yahweh used the Babylonian armies to correct the waywardness of the Israelites, God is about to send a new instrument of justice, King Cyrus of Assyria, to crush the Babylonians and make possible the return of God’s people to the Promised Land. But the Israelites need to be reminded who their God is and what their God is capable of doing if they are to cooperate, trust and leave the familiar behind.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Isaiah appeals to memories buried deep within the history and souls of the Israelite people. Isaiah awakens the ears of his listeners by appealing to stories of creation they would have heard as children, stories of a God who is like none other, who called forth light, placed each star and planet in the sky, and breathed life into all creatures. Isaiah prophesies using forceful theological claims about a faithful God who shapes history to his will; fells the forests of Lebanon with his mighty ax; uses rulers and armies as pawns. Isaiah stokes the imagination of those whose vision has grown dim and narrow with expansive images of rising up from captivity on eagle’s wings.

Trust in God’s power. . and the long view. I think that is exactly what we need right now as we struggle to believe that God (with our help) can do the impossible task of removing egomaniacal and calloused rulers from their thrones and ushering in a kingdom of justice for all.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us of this truth. We may not see results right this instant, but God has not, does not, and will not fail us. God’s transformative power is at work even when we see little evidence on earth. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” God does not work on our time. God has the LONG VIEW. Those who embodied this truth historically were given the strength to pray, persist, and persevere in the struggle for freedom for hundreds of years. Communities of faith and resistance believed (and still trust) that God will overcome even when we are when ridiculed, imprisoned, and shot down in the streets of Memphis and Chicago.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Our God is an Awesome God. Unlike you and I mere mortals, God does not grow weary or faint. She WILL give strength to the weak, exhausted, and demoralized. If we rely upon our strength we have only finite resources. But those who wait upon the Lord – who maintain their faith in a God who is like none other – have access to infinite resources, to infinite energy, to infinite power, and to infinite hope. God will sustain and renew us as we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, offer sanctuary to the immigrant, confront racism and gun violence --and work for justice in our city, our nation, and our world.


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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.