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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Dear Friends,

It continues, more hurricanes of movie-like proportions, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and wildfires, in addition to terrorist attacks and neo-Nazi marches. The New York Times interviewed theologians and religious studies professors at Harvard, Fordham, and UC Santa Barbara to get their take on whether or not the apocalypse is upon us. The most interesting quote came not from the academics but from science fiction writer John Scalzi, who said, "These aren't the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now."

Is it the end of the world as we know it? Perhaps. This is, I believe, the new normal. This is the weather and world that humanity is in the midst of creating.

So what then is the Christian response? What is our response as individuals and as a Christian community of faith? These are the questions and realities I invite us to consider seriously. Who are we? How do we talk to our children about our world? How are we called to be in the midst of these confounding realities? I'll be preaching tomorrow and will begin to grapple with these enormous questions. I hope you'll be there to join me in this journey of faith.

I'm delighted to be back home and extremely excited for this coming fall. Many thanks to Emily, Andrew, Colin, Lori, and Parker for all of their work in the past weeks while I have been away.

Here is a bit of what is on the schedule:

Church School starts this Sunday, and next Sunday we'll have our annual Backpack Blessing at the 9 and 11 o'clock worship services.

This year we have distributed plain black backpack "canvasses" to about fifty local students and artists. We'll be displaying their creations around our altar for both the Ravenswood ArtWalk and our Backpack Blessing. Come celebrate their work and learn more about our ministry of feeding people and supporting our local schools at a reception we'll be hosting on Saturday evening, September 16th, from 6-8pm.

paintedbackpack1Pictured here are some of the backpacks we'll be displaying. Choir member and local art teacher, Sarah Wain, has painted a marvelous creation reminiscent of pop artist Takashi Murakami, who was recently featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Pam Carter, a nationally recognized Scottish artist, has contributed a piece with scenes from the Isle of Skye on its front and side panels. I can hardly wait to see the other pieces done by local students.paintedbackpack2

We need more paper for our altar! Every year at our Backpack Blessing we remove the wooden altar and pulpit and replace them with paper we have collected, and then donate the paper to our local schools. Right now we have about 1000 pounds--thank you! We need another 1000 to meet our goal of collecting one ton. If you can, buy a box of paper and just have it shipped to the church at 4550 N Hermitage Ave, 60640.

Next week's guest preacher will be P.J. Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School. P.J. is a parishioner at St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Hyde Park. I'm very much looking forward to what he will offer us on Backpack Sunday.

After the Backpack Blessing and Church School start, things just get busier. Theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be with us the following weekend, September 23 and 24, for two in-depth days reflecting on race and anti-blackness.

On a lighter note, the annual Pet Blessing will be on October 1st! This year, we'll have dogs for adoption from the Anti-Cruelty Society and a coffee hour program by Dr. Steve Larson (8:00am parishioner and RCS volunteer) and veterinarian at West Loop Veterinary Care.

All of which is to say we have a LOT coming up. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you this Sunday. I am so blessed to be starting yet another program year here at All Saints'.

All my very best,
Bonnie

back2017Sunday, September 17

Mark your calendars for the annual Backpack Blessing on September 17. PJ Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School, will be the guest preacher, and educators will speak on a panel during the 10am coffee hour.

Once again we will be collecting ONE TON OF PAPER to distribute to our neighborhood public schools. And there is even more up our sleeves to make this the most incredible Backpack Blessing yet...

Want to help make it happen? You're invited to join the planning meetings this Wednesday, August 2, 6-9pm, and Wednesday, August 23, 7-9pm. Contact Emily for more information.

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)

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. 

Gardening at 10am

churchschool2010

For the rest of June and July - although Sunday school classes do not meet at 10 during the summer - Atrium I will continue to be open during the 9 o'clock service until the end of July. Atrium I children who attend the 11 o'clock service will be welcome in the nursery during the service.

At 10 o'clock children are encouraged to come help water, weed and harvest vegetables from the garden we're planting to support the Ravenswood Community Services kitchen and food pantry

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.

 

tinaParishioner, Tina Tchen, accepts Bishop Maryann Budde's invitation to preach at the National Cathedral Sunday, May 8. Click here to see the video.

 

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.