All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Always Leftover

An ode to HBO's 'The Leftovers', and a sermon on Matthew 16:21-28

Matthew Zaradich
August 31, 2014 

O unfathomable God,

whose peace passes all understanding:
calm our anxieties,
strengthen our spirits,
teach us to persevere,
as we lose what must be lost.

Amen.

For those who don't know me, my name is Matthew Zaradich. Most people call me Matty. I've been a member here for some time, and I serve on the Vestry, as well as in a number of other capacities.

It's always an immense honor to preach from the pulpit of All Saints', where I've heard such words of truth that could bring tears to my eyes, and a quickening to my heart.

In pursuit of such a lofty goal, I'll begin my sermon by talking about a most hallowed institution: the television network, HBO.

In HBO's new drama 'The Leftovers,' adapted from Tom Perotta's novel of the same title, two percent of the world's population vanishes.

That's about 140,000,000 people.

Poof. Gone. Departed. Lost.

There is no explanation, no note left behind. There is no voice from above declaring those left behind as damned. All the leftovers on earth are left with is each other, and the agony of constantly asking themselves, "Why?"

It's an agony they are actively engaged in trying to forget.

The show's premise calls to mind rapture theology, the 19th century mode of religious thought developed by preacher John Nelson Darby. Based on esoteric readings of a few brief verses in the New Testament, Darby held that a period of tribulation will occur before the return of Jesus. This period will only come at the advent of the rapture— that is, the event in which the Hebrew God will mysteriously raise a select group to Heaven. Those left behind will face an intense seven years of trials, until the return of Jesus and his thousand-year reign on earth.

Rapture theology remains a popular theological view, especially in America, with many Christians looking toward books and films like Left Behind as probable versions for what lies ahead of humanity. According to a 2010 poll from Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans definitely or probably believe Jesus will return to earth by the year 2050. If we look to the popularity ofLeft Behind as an indicator, we find 63 million copies sold of a book that relies on the rapture as its centering plot, with seven volumes of the series hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

The Leftovers, which I've watched diligently this first season (each episode at least twice), has left me feeling haunted and anxious— I can't fathom losing so many people at one time.

But that's the dramatic trick at play on the viewer here. What's happening on screen isn't some event far off in the future.

We are experiencing the rapture every day. Every moment of our lives.

You see, we are constantly in loss.

Every day, we might lose something dear to us: a loved one dies, a relationship ends, we are fired or laid off. A plane crashes. A war begins. Children are murdered.

We're never delivered an immediate explanation, never given an answer that actually makes sense when we, understandably, ask "Why me?"

We are left bereft, questioning if we will ever feel normal again, whatever that means.

We're never in control of what may happen to us on any given day, and it's an amazing feat of the human psyche that we are somehow able to avoid thinking of this notion every waking moment of our lives.

In The Leftovers, we encounter a world where everyone is dealing with the same loss. This isn't apples and oranges— instead, everyone is dealing with the same raspberry God seems to be blowing at his creation. Encountering each other in this world, people are left seeing each other in new, vulnerable ways. Looking around, each person in the world sees the empty spaces once occupied by living souls.

The show isn't so much about the origin of the sudden departure, or even where the departed went. Rather, it's much more centered on the lives of those who are leftover.

In the Gospel today, I'm less concerned about Jesus than I am about Peter.

Poor Peter. I might as well say, "Poor Matty," for I would have had the same reaction.

This leader, this Jesus, this lover, this brother, this man, this savior, this hope, this everything: I've given everything over to him.

I need this to work out, because it's my final hope. My final hope of salvation. My final hope that this isn't all some cruel joke, this life. That this is worth something. That I mean something. That I am loved. That I exist. That I'm not dreaming.

But Jesus lays Peter flat— "Get behind me, Satan."

Such cruel words in such a tender moment.

And if you, like me, feel the sting when you hear Christ saying, "Get behind me, Satan," you're not alone.

Aren't you tired of being left behind?

Aren't you, too, tired of the struggle?

Why can't everything work out— just once?

Why can't this life be everything we ever dreamed it would be?

Why am I always leftover?

Christ tells us today, for the first time, what's coming. The world as we know it is about to end, and we will be left over.

Put yourself there.

It's a dark night, I imagine. The apostles are tired, and they've been traveling for a while. It's been an entirely new experience for them, these poor men of Palestine. They've given up the old ways of life— fishing, farming, laboring, tax collecting —to follow a man in what today might be considered a messianic cult.

They've seen miracles performed.

They've seen more of the lands around them than they ever had before.

They're popular.

This Jesus, this man from Nazareth, this amazing preacher, talks to them about God in wholly new ways. Makes them feel like they never have before. Gives them something they've rarely had before:

Hope.

Hope for a better world. One of justice. Where the poor are lifted and the mighty rich brought down.

But on this night...

On this night, Jesus seems to snatch that hope away.

"I'm going to die," he tells them.

"I'm going to be betrayed, captured, tortured, crucified, and murdered.

And once it's done, I won't be buried immediately.

Instead I'll hang on the cross.

All of this will happen.

Because it must happen."

"No," Peter cries. "No no no no, no more. Lord, we need you."

"Lord, I need you.

Lord, I can't suffer any more.

Lord, I can't lose anything else."

I'm right there with Peter. He's already feeling leftover

I don't need to believe in rapture to know that every day we're losing something. Every day we're leftover.

Every day we're left wondering, What's next?

We live in a world where Jesus will be crucified. We live in a world where it already happened.

We live in a world where it continues to happen every. Single. Day.

He was crucifiefd in Missouri, when Michael Brown lay bleeding to death in the street, in the hot sun for over four hours.

He was crucified in Palestine and Israel, as old men made decisions about the lives of women and children— and chose death each time.

He was crucified on the south side of Chicago when nine year-old Antonio Smith was shot, execution style, in his own backyard just last week.

All around us, all over the world, Jesus has been crucified.

Where was I when they crucified my Lord?

Well, I was on a run.

Well, I was on the couch.

Well, I was eatin' popcorn. Watchin' a movie.

My friends, I've tried to find the sunshine in the Gospel today. I don't think it's there.

And you know... I think that's OK.

Do I like what Jesus said? "Get behind me, Satan!"

No, not really. I wish instead he would have said "Sorry," to each one of the apostles. Sorry you have to endure more. Sorry you have to lose again. Sorry this has to happen.

But he said what needed to be said.

While everyone is looking for Jesus... I say give the man some room. Follow his advice today, because the people around you are slipping away. Every day your world is a little closer to ending.

Take up your own cross. Weep with those who weep, as Paul reminds us. Answer your call, and in the midst of all this damn heartache and suffering, cry out

HERE I AM.

I'm not here today to preach to you about how your life might be better tomorrow. I'm here today to remind you there might not be a tomorrow.

And for this reason:

-Hug those around you tighter.

-Love stronger.

-Act now.

Don't try to hold on, like Peter.

Instead, know it has to happen. Deal with the pain that is ahead.

Persevere, and make the Kingdom of God happen now.

Before it's too late... who knows what we might lose tomorrow.

Amen.

 

  1. This Week
  2. Service Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons

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.