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,

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.