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.

 

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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,
    Bonnie

     

    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, 
    Bonnie
    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,

    Bonnie

     

    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

    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.