All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Limping but not alone

October 20, 2013

Gail Goldsmith

I’m thinking of Sunday School posters
I’m thinking of platitudes like “Everything happens for a reason”
I’m thinking of rainbows and doves and sunsets
I’m thinking of all these when I think of all the ways God hasn’t spoken to me
Every time a seminary classmate says God speaks to them when they are drinking hot tea in the stillness of an early morning, I get a little jealous–it sounds nice
When I try to meditate, i fall asleep or make a very detailed to-do list
I feel the Spirit moving by hospital beds
I feel the Spirit moving in reconciliation, in human connection
hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with my family back in Virginia, feeling the strain in my muscles
on long road trips, driving alone
When I’m up all night puzzling out one of my problems like a detective without a case

So I understand Jacob,
Jacob who doesn’t sit
and wait patiently for insight and blessings to be bestowed upon him

His blessing isn’t delivered by a ray of light peeking through the clouds
his blessing is only given to him after it is demanded by him

Jacob is the wheeler-dealer of the Hebrew patriarchs
Jacob would cheat at cards if you could play poker for blessings
he is blessed even before he cheats his way into Esau’s blessing
he is of a chosen people that talk with God
that walk in worship with God
he has so many reasons to be content

Elsewhere in his story we see this patriarch
this man blessed by God
struggling against his brother Esau
against his father-in-law
as he seeks to marry Rachel
as he is tricked into marrying Leah
as he again seeks to marry Rachel

Jacob lived and died in a competitive culture

And here, in this story, he must contend with what he has done to live within it
how he fits into the covenant God made with his grandfather Abraham
how he tricked his father Isaac by impersonating Esau to receive the blessing for the first-born son

In this story, he is headed towards his brother Esau
unsure of how Esau will welcome him

and so

Jacob sends away the results of all his scheming across the river ahead of him
Wives, children, household, livestock
sent ahead towards Esau and his men
vulnerable to attack
open to friendly greeting
Jacob doesn’t know which

He is isolated, interacting only with one who is first described as ‘man’
it becomes apparent quickly that he is more than man, perhaps even God
the text says they wrestle
traditional rabbinic interpretation says this man is an angelic agent of Esau
some interpretations say he wrestles with the angel
some say he wrestles with himself
Whichever way you read it you can see God in the struggle through Jacob’s transformation at the end

My classmates at the Divinity School love to wrestle with a text
to-wrestle-with-the-text is a phrase used to emphasize that
OK to be uncomfortable
OK to be unsure
OK to be uncertain
But the lesson stopped there
What happens after wrestling?

Jacob hasn’t wrestled his way up a mountain
Jacob hasn’t wrestled his way to a gold medal
Wrestling strains muscles, leaves bruises
The man with whom Jacob wrestles strikes his hip out of place
And here the whole wrestle-with-Scripture-like-jacob-wrestled-with-the-angel analogy becomes a bit trickier.
What are we left with?

We see an encounter that does not fit our expectations of interaction with God
This is not a word from God in a restful moment
Jacob, now renamed Israel, doesn’t leave the River Jabbok feeling like he has emerged from a spiritual spa

he wrestles, all night
a metaphor familiar to those of us prone to insomnia
whether for
a drive to repair mistakes and reconcile relationships
it is a very specific experience to be up all night
and a familiar one to me

While Israel is recovering from the wrestling match, his limp demands of him that he trust God
He can’t trick his way to healing
He can’t negotiate wholeness
The limp is raw material for his renewal
He must settle in to an awareness of what God has done and will do
He must learn a new way to walk with God, aware of his brokenness, trusting God to heal him and continue to transform him

Transformation can wound us too
Anyone in recovery, maintaining sobriety or in physical therapy knows
It hurts
It’s another kind of strain
Change ripples out from us to our contexts
to our family and friends
We might be held accountable to our transformation
By god
By others
It means change in habits, practices,and problem-solving
Transformation is a process
And a struggle too

I offer up my brokenness
The stretch marks on my heart
the weariness of mourning
worldly habits that are poor leverage against God
All this that I offer up
For God to grasp and rename me, transforming me

The story of Jacob validates what we already know
What it doesn’t hurt to remind us of
God doesn’t just speak to us in moments of peace
through doves, sunsets, and rainbows
The Spirit speaks to us
speaks to us when we are surprised us by grace or shocked by suffering
God also speaks to us when we are
Wrestling with ourselves
in order to transform us
to show us new ways of being
aware of holiness and wounds in our being
to send us off into the new day
limping but not alone


  1. This Week
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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.