All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

The Other is a Gift

Bonnie A. Perry
Genesis 18:1-15

Last I preached, you may recall it was just a few days after 49 people were murdered in the Pulse Night club massacre. That morning I compared what was happening in our country to a tornado with multiple vortices, a tornado of hatred, violence, terror, xenophobia, and religious superiority, coupled with an inept congress and the American public's passive acceptance of the National Rifle Association's apparent belief that the second amendment can continue to slaughter the first.

Not much time went by and then Alton Sterling was killed, then Philando Castile was killed. Then Dallas Police officers: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa were killed, and then Nice. 84 people killed, 200 people wounded, 26 of whom are still in critical condition after having been run over by a truck, driven by a man with a history of violence, a possibility of mental illness and a recent embrace of radical Islam.

The world now appears to be a tornado, wrapped in a hurricane, all taking place during an earthquake.

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Some might say that political scientist Samuel P Huntington, anticipated the international portion of this earthquake in his 1993 Foreign Affairs essay, The Coming Clash of Civilizations. In this piece Huntington anticipates a clash between Western civilization and Islamic civilization. He predicts in 1993 a "re-islamization" of the Middle East and an inevitable clash of viewpoints, saying,
"Different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man [sic]; the citizen and the state; parents and children; liberty and authority; and equality and hierarchy. These differences are the product of centuries and they will not soon disappear.

Is it a clash between radical Islam and Western values that explain the killings in Nice, Paris, Orlando and San Bernardino? If this then is the case, is there then hope? Where then is God? God of compassion, mercy, and love?

Or are we doomed to be hapless victims on the periphery and in the center of this cultural crossfire? Enter the patriarch Abraham, some 5000 years ago sitting at the entrance of his tent, hiding from the heat of the day, when 3 travellers appear.

Seriously, the world is spinning out of control, foundations are faltering beneath our feet and now its time for a bible story of strangers visiting, welcomes extended, cakes baked, water proffered and absurd promises made.

Abraham, from a place we now call Iraq, hearing God's call and living in a place we now call Israel, offering water, cakes to strangers how happen by from God knows where.

Strangers who say, in nine months time when they return your wife Sarah (who is in her 90s) shall have a son. This absurd prediction, layered atop previous promises of Abraham having descendants as numerous as the stars is, as it can only be, it is laughable. Sarah, overhearing the strangers' words, Sarah who has left her family, friends, and homeland, Sarah who has put up with her husband wanting to follow this call, Sarah does what she can. She laughs. She, as she mixes and kneads the flour and water into dough, laughs and laughs. "I have grown old, my husband too. Now I shall have pleasure? Oh indeed, I will bear a son."

The visitor hearing the baker of his bread, cackle in the corner, said to Abraham: "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?"

This then, friends, is the question of our lives. "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?"

Can the impossible become possible? Can the unlikely become probable? Can our world change? The killings stop? The terror end?

The stranger angels, the messengers of God, ask us down through the ages what they asked Abraham as Sarah laughed, "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?"

Or are we as Parker Palmer once said, functional atheists, mouthing the words but believing little to nothing will actually change for us?

Can there not be something more? "My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God. My God, my rock and my salvation, my craig and my stronghold to keep me safe.

Weeping may linger at night, but joy, Joy comes in the morning.

As Biblical Theologian, Walter Brueggemann says, "Abraham and Sarah are models of disbelief. They have become accustomed to their barrenness. For them hopelessness is normal. So when faced with a strangers' prediction that in less than a year she will bear a son, all they can do is laugh at the absurdity of the promise. Brueggemann says, the promise of God outdistances their ability to believe it (p 159 Genesis Commentary).

Yet it is what happens. For God does not promise in vain and God does not leave us to perish.

Abraham and Sarah needed to leave their home, relinquish the world they had known and travel to a distant land, encountering unfamiliar customs and people. But God's promise was fulfilled.

For us too—God has promised from the beginning to time to be with us always. God's promise and presence has not ended. Though we find ourselves journeying through this valley of the shadow of death, God is with us still.

In his book, The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggeman, points out that University of Chicago scholar Martha Nussbaum has written a book that answers and in many ways refutes Huntington's thesis on an inevitable clash of civilizations. While studying the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India, she found not a clash of civilizations, but rather a clash of two different types of people. She writes, "The real clash of civilizations' is not 'out there' between admirable Westerners and Muslim zealots. It is here, within each person as we oscillate uneasily between self-protective aggression and the ability to live in the world with others. (Pp 144-145 The Practice of Prophetic Imagination).

He continues, "the world everywhere is being reshaped, from homogeneous, white male dominated, straight society to something that is people by others who do not fit into those neat categories."

Our role as people of faith, people who can hear God's promise of something more, "is to process this clash within and to legitimate the gift of the other as a gift from God." (Brueggemann p 145).

The other, is not other, the other, each and every one of us is made in God's image and likeness. Holy are we, Holy are they. What can we do? Be people of faith and immerse ourselves, push ourselves, to go beyond ourselves.

The other is a gift from our God. As it was to Abraham as it is now. A promise given.
Amen.

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Dear Friends,

Emily, Colin, vestry member Joe Wernette-Harnden, and I have all just finished a week of intense training at the College for Congregational Development. It was a real honor for me to do my second round of training at "the college" with colleagues from All Saints'.

What has become ever clearer for me, doing this training as a group, is that we have the people in place for All Saints' to take our next big step in our community and world. I'm not even sure what that step may be. What I do know, although we are not perfect, we are a faith community called to take significant actions to alter the condition of our world, even as we feed ourselves and our neighbors, body and soul. With our gifts, resources, leadership, and faith we have no other choice but to take part in and initiate movements of change and meaning. Our vestry (governing body) has been exploring these questions for the past several months, they'll be working on them even more in the month of August. I hope that we'll have some thoughts to guide a congregation-wide conversation in the fall. I'm thinking that congregational conversation may happen on Sunday, October 22. It's all very much in flux and formation now-but I wanted to let you know a bit of what I've been thinking about and what our vestry has been contemplating.

Tomorrow our former seminarian, current youth group leader, and Bishop Anderson house Chaplain, Paul Goodenough will be our preacher tomorrow. I've had a preview of his sermon and I found it wonderfully challenging and intriguing. Emily will be celebrating and Colin and some of our choir members will be creating wonderful music.

I'll be away tomorrow and for pretty much the remainder of the summer. I'll be doing some paddling trips in Canada and Scotland and spending some significant time in Virginia with my dad and siblings.

Please know how very much I enjoy being a priest at All Saints!

All the best,
Bonnie

We 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. 

revelationsMonday nights at 7:30, Beginning July 10

Bible study is back! If the current U.S. presidency and administration is causing you to wonder if we're living in "apocalyptic times," then studying the Book of Revelation is perfect for this summer's Bible study! The Monday nights for this, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. (6 to 7:15 p.m. for dinner beforehand at O'Shaughnessy's), are July 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Your "tour guide" on this journey will be parishioner Jerome Wilczynski. Jerome holds a Master's degree in Systematic Theology and New Testament from Catholic Theological Union, and a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He is Associate Professor/Core Faculty in the department of Counselor Education and Supervision at Argosy University, Chicago. The point of our study will be to de-mystify this all too often misunderstood text from Scripture. The main commentary Jerome will use to assist us in unearthing the rich symbolism of this book will be Wilfrid Harrington's Revelation from the Sacra Pagina series, in case you want to buy it—but don't feel you have to.

 

Summer Lineup Selected
 
The All Saints Book Club met on May 11th and decided on a lineup of books for the next year. The book club is open to anyone who enjoys reading. 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:
  • July 13 -  "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson
  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe
  • For additional information, contact Mike Burke (mebcat@gmail.com)

     

    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.

     

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    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.