All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Restoring a sense of humility in our day 

When Emily asked if I could preach today I did not realize that I had already begun preparing for this homily – until I read the Gospel for the day! For my birthday earlier this summer Peg gave me New York Times columnist, David Brooks’, latest book, The Road to Character, which zeros in on the lesson of today’s parable, humility, with its familiar aphorism: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

With its seeds in Greek, Roman, and oriental cultures as well as the Hebrew community where Jesus picked it up, this traditional virtue, humility, seems to have disappeared from the landscape of our lives today. It appears to have been replaced by ‘trust yourself’ and ‘you are special’ messages, ‘winning at all costs’ mentality, and now the selfie generation.

David Brooks tells about his sudden awareness of this shift. One day, while driving home he was listening to a program called Command Performance on NPR. The episode being broadcast was the day after VJ Day, August 15, 1945. The program featured Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Bette Davis and other celebrities. What struck David was that here in the midst of one of the greatest military victories in human history, the tone was subdued in this broadcast, no chest thumping, but more self-effacement and humility. Rise Stevens sang Ave Maria and the host, Bing Crosby, came on to say, “Today, though, our deep-down feeling is one of humility.” Sure there was confetti and kissing in Times Square. But there was a real mixture of joy and solemnity. David sat in his driveway listening to the end of the program, mesmerized.

When he went inside he turned on a football game. I quote: “A quarterback threw a short pass to a wide-receiver, who was tackled almost immediately for a two-yard gain. The defensive player did what all professional athletes do these days in moments of personal achievement. He did a self-puffing victory dance, as the camera lingered. It occurred to me,” David continues, “that I had just watched more self-celebration after a two-yard gain than I heard after the United States won World War II.”

What on earth has happened? David did some research and found a study in which psychologists asked 10,000 adolescents this question in the late 1940s and again in 1989: Do you consider yourself a very important person? In the early study 12% said yes. Forty years later, the answer of another 10,000 adolescents was yes, 80% of boys, and 77% of girls. Or take the subject of fame. A 1976 study showed fame ranking very low as a life’s ambition, 15 out of 16 items. By 2007 51% of young people reported that being famous was one of their top goals.

Then David looked at some Girl Scout handbooks and found an earlier copy which preached an ethic of self-sacrifice. A more recent copy tells girls to pay more attention to themselves: “Put yourself in the center stage of your thoughts to gain perspective on your own ways of feeling, thinking and acting.”

*

Now a confession: Humility is not my strong suit. My own ego has always been a challenge. My parent’s pride, especially in my academic achievements and scholarships, did not help. My place in the family, coming after a developmentally disabled older sister did not help, nor that I was the first son in a traditional German American home. All these things and a confident and loquacious personality conspired to challenge me.

I remember clearly latching on to a verse from the Psalms in my Sunday School days, which was of some help: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord….”

Years later after being elected to the General Conference of The United Methodist Church and being nominated for bishop in a delegation meeting, the old ambition demons were set loose. A near heart attack and open heart bypass surgery came to my aid that time. And some clear limits initiated by my dear wife! Humility is still not my strong suit.

*

In today’s parable Jesus was at the home of a leader of the Pharisees as other guests arrived for the dinner. He noticed how people acted, especially how they managed to place themselves at or near the head table. Here was a perfect teachable moment and Jesus did not hesitate. He immediately launched into a story about a wedding banquet and how to seat oneself at the tables, concluding with the well-known injunction : “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” It was a barely camouflaged analogy to what he was seeing among the guests.

That is not the end, however. Jesus then turns to the host and virtually instructs him that for his next dinner banquet he should not invite his friends, relatives and rich neighbors – some of the very people who are right there listening to Jesus – but rather invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. He tells the Pharisee host, if you do this you will be blessed. And that is still not enough. When a dinner guest blurts out, “Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God”, Jesus tells another parable, an even more elaborate story of a great dinner. You can read that after your lunch. Luke 14:verse 15 and following.

Jesus did not just talk about humility either. This attitude was central to who he was. He also ate with tax collectors and sinners. He talked with women of the streets. He touched lepers. He identified with the poor. Jesus’ humility culminates in the humiliation and suffering of the Crucifixion, as Paul testifies in his letter to the Philippians:

Have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name….

“He humbled himself.” How on earth do we humble ourselves in this selfie culture?

Let’s begin with some models of humility. One thinks of the desert monks, or Albert Schweitzer who humbled himself before the smallest creatures and critters on earth, or Mother Theresa, soon to be named a saint, who served among “the poorest of the poor,” or some of the greatest artists such as Michelangelo who always created an intentional flaw in each work of art to acknowledge their humility before the Creator God.

Or General George Marshall, at President Roosevelt’s side throughout the war, and then Secretary of State and author of the Marshall Plan. This account is in David’s book. As Marshall lay dying, age 79, messages came from all over the world, from General Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, Mao se-tung, Joseph Stalin, Marshall Tito. Visiting at his bedside were former President Harry Truman and even 84 year old Winston Churchill, from England. Marshall was a towering figure of the day. Take a listen to his funeral plans: “Bury me simply, like any ordinary officer of the U.S. Army who has served his country honorably. No fuss. No elaborate ceremonials. Keep the service short, confine the guest list to the family. And above all, do it quietly.”

My most memorable lesson in humility occurred when I entered a chartered airplane at O’Hare Airport for the flight to Atlanta and Dr. King’s funeral in April, 1968. The plane was overbooked and I was asked to leave. My traveling mate, Jim Barnes, Lay Leader at the church I was serving on Chicago’s south side, who already had a seat, stood up, and insisted to the stewardess that I, his pastor, be allowed to take his place, and with that he immediately left the airplane. I’ve never been so humbled as on that sad day.

Humility is truly a gift of grace. It is an ability to say, “I’ve screwed up” “I’ve sinned” “I need help.” It is self-awareness of our humanity, of our limitations, of our interdependence with others and with all creation. Humility is an attitude of openness, vulnerability, surrender, of outstretched arms ready both to receive and to give. Humility is recognition that each of us is a stumbler, to borrow a word from David Brooks, but as we grow, as we unite with God as companion, we stumble less. Humility helps remind us that we are not the center of the universe, we are not superior to anyone else. True humility allows no room for racist, sexist, homophobic or nationalistic attitudes or any other bigotry.

But today, sadly, humility is portrayed as weakness, and it is clearly ridiculed by certain candidates in the current election campaign. On the contrary, humility has within it a deep spiritual strength, an uncommon acceptance of life. I recall so vividly that day, 50 years ago August 5th, in Marquette Park on the South Side, when we were marching with Dr. King for fair housing and an open city. To be surrounded by hundreds of angry local residents lobbing missiles of hatred at us over the heads of a line of Chicago police officers, missiles in the form of jeers and bottles and bricks, this was a humbling experience. It was, in a sense, the way of the cross, to be totally non-violent, at least trying to be, accepting of the hostility, expressing love in the face of hate. Some of you might recall feeling a similar, if less intense, humility in the midst our diocesan-led Crosswalk against violence here in Chicago a few years ago. Are there persons here who were on that Crosswalk?

Humility is an attitude of openness to God. In the words of an old hymn, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior, hear my humble cry; while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.” Humbling ourselves asks God to accompany us in life’s journey, to embrace us, to share our joys and sorrows and angers. As the Apostle Peter writes to the elders, that’s you, Emily, and me: “Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.” And Paul, to all of us: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience….. And above all clothe yourselves with love.”

When we open our hearts humbly to ourselves, to others and to God we are preparing the way for a life of joy, reverence, interdependence, and true non-violence, the way of peace and Shalom. So, I dare you all, myself included, “wrap yourself in humility.” If this is a message you can affirm, join me in saying “Amen.”

Rev. Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago
August 28, 2016

 

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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.