All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

The Stuff of God

Alex DeMarco
August 7, 2016
Isaiah 1:1,10-20

I can imagine some of you might be wondering who I am and what I'm doing here. So I'll just take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Alex DeMarco. I've been a parishioner here since last December. I'm usually a 9:00er, but occasionally I'll come to 11am. My wife Jenna and I moved to Chicago last summer from Princeton, New Jersey, after I graduated from the M.Div program at Princeton Seminary. Last month I was facilitating the Pub Theology discussions we were having at O'Shaughnessy's, which was a lot of fun. And I'm very excited to be with you all, having the opportunity to preach this morning.

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Today I would like to talk about how we locate God. Where is God? That's our driving question.

It's an important question to ask, I think, because a lot of us (and I count myself in this group too) have a tendency to divide up our lives into two categories. We have our spiritual, or religious, life—where we deal with God, Jesus, mystery, transcendence, ultimate meaning, and all that fun ethereal sort of stuff. And then we have our worldly life—where we deal with more day-to-day things: like Netflix, political conventions, friends, family, neighbors, work, and play— the more concrete, tangible things.

For most of us, it's very natural to operate with this implicit distinction—between our spiritual, or religious, life on the one hand, and our worldly life on the other. I think we operate this way because we haven't quite figured out how to locate God.

And so we're asking this morning: where is God?

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We'll be taking some clues from the prophet Isaiah, and from Jesus himself—and I think we're going to find that we encounter God a lot more than we realize. And that perhaps there isn't such a clean distinction after all, between our spiritual life and our worldly life.

That was certainly the case for the people of Judah and Jerusalem in our reading from Isaiah. God was livid with these folks. God had had it with their formal worship—with their sacrifice and their Sabbath, because outside of that time, in their "worldly life" (so to speak) they served only themselves.

"Everyone loves a bribe," it says, "and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow's cause does not come before them."1 What the people didn't realize (or at least didn't acknowledge) was that their God had a claim on all of life.

This was not a God who could be served in the temple and just ignored in the wider world. God was there in the world too—and expected to be served in the world, too.

And where is God specifically? The almighty God and Creator of the universe is with the oppressed, the orphans, and the widows—with the humblest and most vulnerable members of the community. And by turning their back on these people, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem had effectively turned their backs on God as well. For Isaiah, there is no such thing as a clean distinction between spiritual or religious life, and life in the world.

And that brings us to Jesus.

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In John's gospel it says that the One through whom all things came into being became flesh and lived among us.2 That means that, somehow, in a particular, unassuming individual, born to a poor Jewish family in the first century, heaven and earth have, mysteriously but definitively, been brought together. This is what theologians call the incarnation.

The one writer who's probably had more influence on me than any other, both spiritually and intellectually, is the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer insisted that, "Whoever looks at Jesus Christ sees in fact God and the world in one. From then on they can no longer see God without the world, or the world without God."3 This is why Jesus tells his disciples that when they feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and clothe the naked, they are in fact feeding, welcoming, and clothing him.4

Practically speaking, the incarnation means that there are no merely worldly occurrences. God and the world have been brought together, so that there is now a divine dimension and significance to our every interaction and relationship.

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So, in answer to our question, where is God? On one level, we have to say that God is here! We don't serve some kind of remote, other-worldly deity. We encounter God right here in our worldly life.

As Bonhoeffer says: In Christ, we can no longer see God without the world, or the world without God.

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But this alone isn't enough. We need to consider the crucifixion as well. If the incarnation tells is that God is present in the world, the crucifixion tells us that God is present in a special way in and with the persecuted, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. If we want to locate God, this is where we have to look.

We have to look at the car with the broken taillight on the side of the road in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

We have to look at the desecrated night club in Orlando, the blood-stained promenade in Nice, and video footage of a police chase on the south side of Chicago. That's where we find the crucified God.

And yet, the God who has become one with the world, and who identifies with the suffering, is also the God of resurrection. And therein lies our hope—our hope that for ourselves, and for the world we inhabit, despite how things might sometimes appear, death will not have the last word.

---

Now, with all this in mind—Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection—I want to talk a little bit about the results of our Congregational Assessment Survey. This might sound like an odd shift, but bear with me.

We scored so well in so many areas. Our scores in Morale, Readiness for Ministry, Governance, Conflict Management, Educational Engagement, and Hospitality were all off the charts!

But when it came to Spiritual Vitality, our score was abysmal! We were in the 2nd percentile!

This Spiritual Vitality index is designed to measure the extent to which we feel that our faith is central to our lives, and the extent to which we feel the presence of God in our lives. We love our church, we're committed to and enthusiastic about its ministries, but we often don't feel that we're connecting with God.

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I find this kind of ironic, frankly, because from what I've seen, this is a church full of folks who are very much connected to God. This church is full of folks who feed God every Tuesday night right here in this sanctuary and over in our parish hall, and who line up in the hot sun, year after year, to welcome God at the Chicago Pride Parade.

Perhaps it just hasn't sunk in for us yet.

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We encounter God all the time, because we serve a God who shows up in the world, an incarnate God, who has embraced creaturely being, human being, in all its ambiguity, frailty, connectedness, and dependence—embraced it as God's very own being.

Which means that there is now no such thing as a merely worldly occurrence, a merely human interaction. In Christ, the breaking up of our lives into spiritual and worldly is completely undermined.

The individuals and occurrences we encounter in the world, in all their beauty and brokenness, in all their pain and their potential—they are now the stuff of God.

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It takes the eyes of faith to see this, but it's important that we do learn to see it.

When we learn to see that the stuff of the world is the stuff of God, that God is here with us, present to us in suffering, and in the suffering of our broken world, promising resurrection, we'll not only begin to feel a stronger sense of connection to God, we also will be given the strength to persevere for the long haul—to continue the fight against the systems of oppression, and the forces of inequality and injustice that are too big for us to take on alone.

We will be relentless in our struggle, because when we can no longer see the world without God, we can no longer see the world without hope.

Amen.

 


1 NRSV, Isaiah 1:23

2 John 1:3, 14
3 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, DBWE, vol. 6 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortres Press, 2009), 82.
4 Matthew 25:40

 

 

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Dear Friends,

I’m delighted that tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the many gifts of our young people. Liam Koehler, senior at Northside College Prep and long time member of the All Saints’ Youth Group, will be our guest preacher. In his sermon Liam compares his high school career to the stoning of St. Stephen, the first deacon of the church. As you might imagine this could go many ways. Liam, however, has a touching take that I know will resonate with many of us. In addition to Liam, many of our young people will be assisting with our services at 9 and 11 o’clock, so I invite you to come and celebrate their very many gifts and talents.
 
We’ll also be remembering and offering thanks for all of our moms and all those people in our lives who have mothered us.
 
My return from Maine was delayed a bit this week, as I had to fly to Baltimore instead of Chicago. My spouse Susan was visiting her mom and spending some time at our tiny house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when she fractured her ankle. So I flew to Baltimore to drive Susan, her broken ankle, and our two dogs back home. Susan will be having surgery to fix her ankle on Tuesday morning. I am grateful for our health insurance and even more incensed at certain of our elected officials who consider comprehensive health care to be a privilege rather than a basic human right and necessity.
 
In spite of surgeries and political turmoil, I am reminded as I prayed my way around our neighborhood, taking our dog Izzy on her early morning walk, what a beautiful morning it is. I invite you, in the midst of the upheavals, joys and disappointments of our lives to relish the beauty and love we do see and find and experience with each other.
 
All my best,
Bonnie
 
P. S. - Many thanks to Helen Poot, Jen Simokaitis, and all of you who helped create another wonderful “Reality Fair” for the 7th and 8th graders of Ravenswood School.
¡Veinte de Mayo! May 20th at 6:30pm
 
fiesta
¡Hola amigos!
 
This year's Mexican Fiesta will be extra special, with music by Mariachi Herencia de México. Of course you don't want to miss Colin Collette's Margaritas or Steve Pike and his crew's great fajitas, rice and beans either. Our auction includes Mexican handicrafts and clothing, art and stays in Guanajuato, Mexico and two blocks from the beach in Union Pier, MI.
 
Tickets at the door are $35 adults/$10 children
Sunday, June 4 at the 9 and 11am Services
 
If you would like to have your child baptized at All Saints' on Pentecost, June 4, please plan to attend a preparation session on Saturday May 20 from 9-10:30am. 
 
To RSVP to a session, contact Andrew in the office. Note: Babies and children - including siblings of little ones being baptized - are entirely welcome at the pre-baptismal sessions!
Sunday, May 21 3:30 - 7:30pm
 
All Saints' will host a community dinner for Middle Eastern refugees on May 21, sponsored by families in Oak Park. We need volunteers to help set-up, prepare food, lead kids' activities, serve, and clean up. Any time you can volunteer to welcome our guests will be great! 

To volunteer, please CLICK HERE or contact Laura Youngberg at Laura.Youngberg@iraqimutualaid.org

 

Tuesday, May 30, 5:00-6:00pm 
 
RCS' 5th Tuesday Family Nights are a chance for parents and children to volunteer together. On Tuesday, May 30, children ages 4 and up accompanied by their parents are invited to meet in the parish hall at 5:00pm to decorate cookies for that evening's dinner. At 5:30pm, we'll head to the nursery for a snack and children's story about social justice. At 6:00pm, childcare will be available so that parents can serve the 6:30pm dinner. Kids 10 and up may serve the dinner, too.
Please RSVP to Emily by Sunday, May 28.

 

 

Sunday, June 4, 5:00-7:00pm
 
The Cafe is a bi-annual event that transforms our kitchen and parish hall into a gourmet restaurant complete with a menu, servers, bussers, and musicians.
 
Volunteer sign up is now open! Cafe jobs include servers, bussers, runners, dishwashers, hosts, and more! Please specify in the comment section if you're an adult or if you're under 18.

 

Saturday, June 10, 11:00am at St. James Cathedral 
 
If you have taken an Inquirers Class or equivalent and would like to make an adult profession of faith by being confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church by our bishop, Jeffrey Lee, please contact Bonnie or Emily. A diocesan-wide liturgy of confirmation and reception will be held at St. James Cathedral on Saturday, June 10, at 11:00am.

 

Individual Actions Towards Racial Equality

Volunteer Opportunities, Events, and Recommendations

(re)imagining: Racial Justice Summit Sponsored by YWCA Evanston/North Shore:


Thursday, April 6 from 6 - 8 pm
Friday, April 7 from 9 am - 4 pm
 
Unitarian Church of Evanston
1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL
 
Goal: "To bring people of all ages and demographics together to deepen their understanding of their own racial identities, develop skills to work for change, formulate action plans and engage with others."

For Information and Registration, click here

"The Scottsboro Boys" at Porchlight Theater through March 12th
 
A musical production that is getting rave reviews, "nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and presented in the style of the notorious "minstrel show", this true-life story of nine African American teenagers accused and put on trial in Memphis for a crime they did not commit is one America's most notorious episodes of injustice; inaugurating a wave of social changes leading up to the modern Civil Rights Movement."

For information and ticket prices, click here

Suggested reading, non-fiction: 
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, January, 2017

This book has been described as "...a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted."

 
Recommended as a "companion piece to the film rather than a stand-alone book." One reviewer recommended "seeing the film first, and then using the book for meditation and revisiting afterward."

Volunteer opportunity: GROWING HOME "We have a vision of a world of healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well." Since 2002, Growing Home has trained and employed and, most importantly, given a second chance to people with employment barriers. You may be familiar with their Wood Street farm in Englewood. Their farms are the first and only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farms in Chicago, and because they strive to also feed their community well, all their produce is grown, harvested, cleaned, and sold within a 20-mile radius. Read more at http://growinghomeinc.org

Volunteer opportunity: Non-profit Reading In Motion has successfully refined its mission over its 30+ years to help give kindergarten and first grade students foundational reading skills they need to start on a path for lifetime learning. They partner with public school teachers and have been extremely successful in making a difference in children's lives. Click here for more info.

 

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!

 

Jeff Lee
Dear Polly and All Saint's Kids,
 
I am writing to you from a meeting of the board of Episcopal Relief & Development in Bogota, Columbia. We are meeting here to visit some of our partner ministries with people in need. I have seen the amazing results of this year's bake sale (in fact, I'm looking at photos of some of the cakes - wow!), and you have reminded me that we don't have to travel to Columbia or South Sudan to make a huge impact for the good of God's people.
 
I am so proud and grateful for you and the work you do. You guys are heroes. Our friends in South Sudan will be blessed by your effort.
 
In Christ,
 
Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago

Sundays at 10am

The phrase Imago Dei means the Image of God. Specifically, the image of God as it is found in humanity. The image of God in us - it is what makes us spiritual people - valued as whole and complete. What does it mean to creatively live as whole people? How do we live in relationship with others - respecting and sharing one another's security and one another's discomfort?

Join us on Sunday mornings between services as we figure out together how to help one another take practical responsibility for living in this world - especially as racial and spiritual beings.

True - our time will be uncomfortable because it will mean talking about race, violence, personal helplessness, and personal failure. Also true - this will be comforting and supportive because it will mean getting to be honest, practicing together, and caring for one another.

Every week we will ask one another "What have you done in these past 7 days with who you are and within your sphere of influence when it comes to the realities of race?" the answers will be different for each person and it won't be a competition. We will be lifting up the everyday choices we make and don't make. Sometimes we will like what happens and sometimes we won't.

And - we will be doing it together.

The Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants served by the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society were deeply moved by the notes of welcome from All Saints. We shared them at our community lunch on Thursday, and now they will hang in our conference room to remind people of your warm welcome in the days to come. Thanks!

Peace,
Laura Youngberg

breadbakersSignup online to bake for a month

Calling all bakers! If you love the smell of fresh-baked bread filling your kitchen, please consider signing up to bake communion bread for our services. This involves a one-month commitment that you'll share with another baker, and you can do all your baking at once and add to the reserves in our freezer.

Signing up is easy, just click here for our page on Signup Genius and reserve your favorite month.

Contact Jennifer Simokaitis, or Anne Ellis if you have any questions.

Yard Signs Available 

Grow Community has created yard signs for anyone who would like to display support for our local public high schools. Signs and sign holders are available in the Reading Room.

 
 

 

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.