All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Shapeshifter

Gail Goldsmith
March 9, 2014

I know a shapeshifter.

A shape. SHIFTER.

I've seen this boy shapeshift from one body to the next three times--it is never easy for him and the transformation is always dramatic.

His first body was a child's, with no clear purpose other than to grow. The boy's first shapeshift was from the body of a child to that of a wrestler--coiled muscles and fluctuating weight. This body only lasted as long as a wrestling season, and so with grueling workouts and diets so harsh he wouldn't even partake in birthday cake, the boy shapeshifted into a distance runner, a ganglier body, neck sticking forward as he stretched to cross the finish line.

His next shapeshift, well, that was the real trick.

He went from eating six eggs for breakfast and lean meat to everything in sight, chased by a protein shake, and mediated by hours at the gym. The shapeshifter tripled in size, his neck disappeared into muscle, and he took his place on the offensive line of the football team.

Really, I am not so unathletic to not understand that different sports are supported by different dietary needs, different energies and different muscles, but I was not so unobservant an older sister that I didn't see the calorie-counting, the binge-eating, the resulting mood fluctuations--the obsession. The fracture in the occasion of family dinners--he would make something else, he would stare at the foods he wouldn't eat.

It is exceedingly privileged to be able to manage, calculate, and strategize about food choices, but it isn't just food we crave--affirmation, affection, results, achievement, entertainment and maybe escape. All of these loop a person into a weird conversation with themselves about appetites---what to suppress, what to indulge, what to deny.

Surveys show that the number one thing American Christians give up for Lent is food--using Lent to manage our appetites, kinda like a second chance at New Year's resolution. It probably is not food that will tempt us to disregard the encouraging voice of the Spirit, but rather our own appetite for control. Our idolatry of busy-ness--like we should get a prize for being over-extended, stressed, and sleepless. Or the idea that if we just work hard enough, all our problems will disappear.

Since we already offer up these appetites, drives, and coping mechanisms to God for Lent, we could try to offer up our sense of control? THAT might be the real devilry.
Because stories of temptation that use the symbol of devil are not just folk tales of the Ancient Near East. News coverage of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death described his addiction in terms of demons and devils. Public deaths become magnets for public commentary, but those of us who are families or in relationship, and community with people dealing with addictions may have seen how the struggle becomes less against the demons and devils of appetite to the tempters and adversaries who say "Don't overthink it", "stop being so cautious," "you've got this under control--you can control what everybody else is calling an addiction." The tempters and adversaries are within our very selves and offer us the illusion of control over appetites and drives.

The devil is not offering major sins and extraordinary powers to Jesus. The devil is offering the chance to act as God rather than the Son of Man, the chance to work around the desperate hunger of fasting, get results, and exercise control.
All alone In the stark desert, preparing for his public ministry among crowds and in cities, Jesus resists the temptation as he seeks the wisdom of the Spirit.
The tempter says "If you just do this--everything will be easier."

BUT

Jesus remains in a state of holy patience by listening to the voice of the Spirit rather than human urges to hunger and safety. It would be a huge relief if the only obstacle in my search for God's mercy and work in the world was a box of Oreos. I'd be quite happy if that were the only obstacle between myself and the spirit was sugar and frosting because that would not take 40 days to fix.

But holy patience in a results-oriented culture, holy patience among people who idolize busy-ness?

That's. my. real. struggle.

This Lent, I'm seeking holy patience and to spend more time still, to let the Spirit's imagination inspire me and trying to discern what it is that really distracts me. We're lucky to have this time--you and I are offered the rich opportunity of Lent to let God shift our focus past our appetites and attempts at control. To look clearly at our world's hopes and hardships, to look for the guidance of the Holy Spirit both in the desert and in the city, to prepare for Good Friday's sorrow and pain and then Easter's joy.

So we cut out distractions, bad habits, and we add spiritual practices---prayer, reading, worship, reflection, to give all this a try and hope that maybe we can get a little holy patience in our lives too. It might take a whole liturgical season to interrogate how we manage our appetites, our sense of control along with our seeking of the Holy Spirit's voice. 40 days every liturgical year to enter and cultivate a spiritual state of wilderness and desert and to encounter this spiritual state every day beside our life in the city.

40 days to shapeshift. To open ourselves to be shaped by the Spirit. To shift the shape of our desires by letting the Spirit call us, lead us, and sustain us.

What shape will Lent leave us in?

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.