All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Seeing and Freeing

Victoria Garvey
August 21,  2016
14 Pentecost C /Proper 16
Isa 58.9-14; Ps 103.1-8; Heb 12.18-29; Lk 13.10-17

I hated Sundays when I was a kiddo. My father had very firm ideas about Sundays, which he happily passed on to and enforced with my brother and me. No playing or games that were loud. No roughhousing. No going to the movies. As far as my brother and I were concerned it was a no to anything-remotely-fun-day and we hated it. Church in the morning and quiet the rest of the day. Sunday was the pits at our house.

I think, in retrospect, that my father was acting out of his Roman Catholic upbringing on the one hand, and a skewed sense of Sabbath in the American cultural consciousness of his day on the other. Of course, it might also have been that he was so exhausted and bent out of shape by the incessant cares and noise and our irrepressible carryings-on of the other six days of the week that he craved a day of rest and calm and quiet on the seventh.

The biblical reasons for Sabbath were emphatically not about a series of nos, but about yeses, about possibilities and promises; it was about resting into and with the God who had been doing the enormous work of creating a universe and who had invited us into that work and into that rest.

The leader of the synagogue in today's gospel was not, by any account, a bad person. Like Jesus, he was a faithful Jew doing his best to live his life in concert with the ancient covenant and in partnership with the God who had offered that covenant. Both Jesus and the unnamed leader are keeping the Sabbath; they just differ on what keeping it means.

This gospel is above all about noticing, about seeing, about beholding, and then acting as if whatever or whomever has been noticed matters. The leader is so focused on being observant that he's fallen into the trap of believing that if he follows all the rules all the time, he's being faithful. Conversely, playing fast and loose with the rules gets you major grief. Jesus remembers his ancient catechism better. He knows that God created the universe including the concept of time and timing, which of course includes Sabbath, for the sake of people. He's noticed that the ancient precepts direct that the needs of people count, even over the Sabbath and Temple codes, that noticing people, genuinely seeing people and their needs is Rule #1 even, and perhaps especially, on the Sabbath.

So he's in the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his wont, and he notices a woman. Even the text gets this. Although it's not reflected in the English translation we just heard, the Greek says "Behold, a woman!" Or in a more modern sense, "Look! A woman!" And Jesus beholds, and sees a woman in need.

Again the translation is a little misleading; it tells us that she was "bent over". Now I think we've all seen or known people with varying forms of scoliosis, but mild forms of stooping are not what's being described here. The Greek is very specific. It tells us that she's bent double or bent together like this. [Think gymnasts at the Olympics who are agile enough to bend double. Imagine being in that position for more than ten minutes with no hope of ever standing up.] So for eighteen years, her view of the world, of people, of reality, was skewed, slant. Her view was restricted to her own feet and a few inches of ground around them. She could see others' shoes, but she wasn't able to look anyone in the eye, not able to see another human face except by peering awkwardly upward and sideways. And still, here she is faithfully in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Notice, she doesn't ask for anything. Not for healing. Not for forgiveness. Not even to be noticed.

But he notices. How does he do that? The unnamed woman in the synagogue was bent in on herself, bent double, so she was half the height of anyone around her. She's over there, in the women's section. He's presumably with the men—yet he sees her. How many others in that synagogue do? Or do they see through her? Or avoid seeing her? Is she a cause for embarrassment? For shame?

For eighteen years she's been bent double. For eighteen years she's presumably been coming week after week among them. Perhaps they're blind to her and her needs because she's such a persistent presence. Perhaps they think she's somehow brought this on herself. Perhaps they think what she has is catching. We don't know. We only know that on this day, he notices.

One day, several years ago, my nephew, then three years old, was at a mall with my parents. They'd just bought him a pair of shoes and the sales person had given him two balloons when they left the shop. As they walked up the long hall of the mall, they began to hear a distant commotion. Screaming and screeching, deafening decibels of it. The kind of disturbed and disturbing screaming that only a toddler in deep distress makes. Not the "I-just-fell-down-and-somebody-better-pay-attention-right-now" scream, but the "I'm-having-a-terrible-awful-truly-unredeemable-kind-of-day-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-myself-except-scream" kind of scream.

The parents of the little girl in distress were distressed themselves but doing what they could to calm her. It wasn't working. Others, mainly adults, did what people often do: averted their eyes, pretended not to notice, disapproval etched deeply and clearly on their faces.

So the awful screaming went on...and on...and on. Until my nephew stopped, disengaged his hands from his grandparents, walked up to the wailing child and crouched in front of her so he could look up into her face. "Little girl," he said, "little girl, don't cry." And then he handed her both his balloons, took my parents' hands again, and walked away.

Jesus sees the woman and notes her unspoken need. And calls her, not by name, but by gender. "Woman," he says. I wonder if, given her posture, she even knew at first that he was calling her; she couldn't have seen him and she's only one woman among several in that synagogue. I wonder if he didn't crouch down in order to be able to look up at her face to face; that would be like him.

And then he tells her, as if the deed were a fait accompli, not that she's been healed, but that she's been loosed, that she's been freed from what had bound her. Which means not that he's about to do some magic trick or forbidden work on the Sabbath but that the God of the Sabbath has already done the loosing and Jesus' own subsequent laying on of hands is a blessing, a punctuation of the freeing that God has already done.

And then he gives her a name that is both title and ennobler, a name which has actually been hers since birth, but one that, given her infirmity, I'll bet she hasn't heard these eighteen years. "Daughter of Abraham" he calls her. Child of the covenant, member of the family in a long line stretching back to the promises first given to Abram and Sarai, all the way back to Genesis 12. Freed this day from a body that had constrained her every move, freed like her ancestors who themselves had been freed from another sort of constraint in the land of Egypt twelve or thirteen hundred years earlier. "Daughter of Abraham" he names her, and with those words, he not only restores her dignity but reclaims for her a place, good standing in her own town and clan.

It is no wonder that she then unbends, stands up straight and sticks the landing, praising God, modeling by her doing what a Sabbath's for. More than a bent spine was healed that morning.

Many of us come most weeks to a place like this and most often we come on the Christian equivalent of a Sabbath. And in many if not all our lives, there are constraints, often very constrictive ones that are not as obvious as the one binding our woman in the gospel of the day. Things like relationships gone to hell, or houses in default, or jobs lost or, well, you know the drill.

Here's the thing. This little story reminds us that we've got a God who takes notice of us. A God who stoops down to meet us whenever, however we may be—whether we're bent by the rules we've let bind us needlessly, or by the cares that weigh us down, or by some sense of unworthiness we've been taught that can crush us, or by the self-preoccupation that has us whining to others.

Our God bends down, embraces us, and calls us by a name that recalls us to ourselves, freeing us time after time, no matter how many times we let others tie us into knots, no matter how many times we bind ourselves needlessly.

God calls to each of us, "Daughter of Abraham," "Son of Abraham. You are free." And will keep on saying it and meaning it until we begin to believe it, and then, like that God in whose image we are made, we go and do likewise for somebody else.


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Weekly Message for December 10

Weekly Message for December 10

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow morning, Saturday the 9th, from around 10am to 2pm, I’m looking for people who might want to assist me in doing some Christmas decorating for the outside of our church building. Ahn Gallagher has graciously agreed to hang some lights in our bell tower, now I’m looking for assistance is getting lights in our oak tree out front. I’ll be able to put on my climbing saddle and rig a belay and climb the tree, but it will be much easier and way more fun if I have assistance. Right now our beautifully restored building looks GREAT in the day and kind of dark at night. I hope to fix that tomorrow. Dress warm and come join the fun!
Two Wednesdays from now, on December 20th, our evening prayer will be extended to include more silence for reflection, more music for our souls, and an opportunity for anointing. Christmas can be a very difficult time, particularly if we are in the midst of a transition or have lost someone we love. We hope to create a time and some space to acknowledge those difficult feelings and offer some solace and consolation. I invite you to take an hour to care for yourself with some prayer and music.
This Sunday I’ll be preaching, Emily will be celebrating, the children will be rehearsing our presidentially-recognized Christmas Pageant, #HamiltonmeetsJesus, and Colin and our choir will be creating seasonal music that will lift our spirits.
I look forward to seeing all of you!
All the best,
Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

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. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

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 (

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!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 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!


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.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

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.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

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 and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

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 You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.


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 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

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.
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


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.