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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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



  1. This Week
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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
    All the best, 
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage


    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,



    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    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!

    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.

    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 

    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.