All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
4 September 2016 • The 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18, Year C
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Luke 14:25-33

Imagine that you’ve just heard of this guy. Let’s call him Yeshua (which is Hebrew for Jesus, and I am talking about Jesus, but let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve never heard anything about him before!) So anyway, you’re just starting to hear about this guy named Yeshua. You heard a radio spot about him. You saw an article in the paper, something about Yeshua speaking in New York, and Boston, and LA. A friend mentioned him the other day, too: “Have you ever heard of this guy, Yeshua? He’s kind of…interesting.” And then, you were just on Facebook and saw that a friend invited you to an event: “Yeshua in Chicago”. This guy, Yeshua, it turns out, will be in Lincoln Square, starting at Giddings Plaza and then heading down to Welles Park.

You mark on the Facebook event: “Interested”. You just might go.

Saturday, the day of the event, comes. Now, you could be going to the gym or to the beach (it’s a gorgeous day just like today) or having brunch or just hanging out at home, but you have this nagging curiosity about this guy, Yeshua. So you head over to Giddings Plaza, along with your family, and your coffee squarely in hand. You see a crowd in the plaza near the fountain. And just at about the time you get there, the crowd starts to move. They’re heading south on Lincoln toward Wilson, following this guy Yeshua.

As you’re getting close to Wilson you see Starbucks and you’re like, “Ah! Good, I’ll grab a second cup”, when the crowd stops, because the man has stopped, and turns around to face the crowd, saying:

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Or what president, going out to wage war against another country, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able to oppose the one who comes against him? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions!” (Luke 14:25-33, adapted)

And then he turns and keeps walking ahead.

So what do you do?

Do you get out of there, taking your family with you? (Admittedly, you see many others making this decision.) Like “Heyyy, this is not what I was expecting.”

Or do you drop your coffee cup and your bag and walk away from your family to follow him? He said, “Give up your possessions!”

Or, do you linger behind Yeshua—your family, too, if they want—to hear a little more. You’re compelled, quite beyond yourself. You cannot put your finger on why, but something in his startling words sounded true.

At the beginning of the 2010 film The Way, sixty-something California opthalmologist Thomas Avery is driving his forty-year-old son Daniel to the airport. Both men are grieving and readjusting after the death of Thomas’ wife, Daniel’s mother. Daniel has decided that he is going to travel the world. And so this day, he’s traveling to Europe on a one-way ticket, to see what he can see. To find himself.

In the car, Daniel says, “You should come, too, Dad! A father-son trip.”

At this point in the film, we have seen Thomas working in his ophthalmology office and playing charity golf with colleagues. He doesn’t look happy but he looks comfortable.

Thomas, played by Martin Sheen, replies to his son, “I don’t want to go. My life here might not seem like much, but it is the life I choose.”

Daniel responds, “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.”

Later, when Thomas receives the devastating call that his son has been killed, he rushes from California to France to identify the body. Daniel has lost his life in an accident at his outset on the Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometer trek from southern France westward through northern Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela, the cathedral of which is reputed to hold the remains of St. James—Sant-Iago—the apostle of Jesus.

At first, Thomas plans simply to bring his son’s body home to California. But then, when he learns what the Camino is, learns that for over a thousand years, pilgrims have made the trek from various starting points within Europe to the northwest coast of Spain, and that his son was doing it, too—he decides to have his son’s remains cremated, packs them in his son’s backpack, and with all of his son’s gear, sets out on the path.

The French police captain who has helped Thomas there says, “Mr. Avery, you are not prepared to make the trek. You have not trained. And with no disrespect, you are more than sixty years old.”

Thomas says simply, “I’m walking.”

Why is he, why was Daniel, why are the other pilgrims compelled to do this? What do they seek? One of Thomas’ fellow walkers, “Jack from Ireland”, is curious about this, too, and asks every other pilgrim he meets why they’re walking the Camino. And at the end of the Camino, if a pilgrim wants a compostela or certificate of completion, he or she must state their reasons for walking.

Was it for a religious reason? A personal reason, an emotional reason, a health reason? Invariably, they have trouble articulating why exactly they do it. But I notice that what they have in common is that they feel compelled from deep within them, a place deeper than words.

I think this compulsion—this curiosity, this call—characterizes for many of us what it feels like to follow Jesus. Which is why today’s Gospel passage about calculating the cost of discipleship ahead of time sounds, to me, so strange.

You know, in some ways, this Gospel passage is like the Congregational Assessment Tool, a survey that many of us took several months ago about our experiences and values here at All Saints’—at least that infamous Spiritual Vitality Index! Imagine survey questions like: Do you give up your family? Do you give up your stuff? Did you calculate ahead of time or do you at least realize now what you’re getting into, following Jesus?


Then you’re not a disciple!

These sound to me like the kinds of survey questions we did have: Do you think about God all the time? Do make all of your daily decisions based on your awareness of God in your life? Do you pray every day at least once?

No? Maybe? Kind of? Not sure? These aren’t quite the words you would have chosen?

Then you don’t have “spiritual vitality”! Or at least you have less spiritual vitality than 98% of people in other churches.

I am facetious not because I think there is any lack of spiritual vitality in this place—quite the opposite!—but because the wording of the survey’s questions, like the words Jesus chooses today, sound off-putting, almost foreign in its assumptions. It can be hard to find ourselves in today’s Gospel.

The truth is that there is a cost to following Jesus, though most of us do not or cannot calculate it in advance, nor do many of us choose to follow Jesus because of the cost it exacts.

Another truth is that Jesus does not ask of the crowd or of us any more than is asked of himself. Think about it: As this crowd follows him, he knows—but they don’t—that he is heading all the way to Jerusalem, where he knows (and again, they don’t) that it is there he will make the ultimate sacrifice. Is he giving up his possessions? Is he giving up his family? Is he giving up his very self, his own life? Will he even carry a cross (a reference that we get now, but the crowd at the time could not have)? Most literally, yes.

But he knows that as painful as these costs may be, it is they that help open the way to new, unimagined life. Like a pilgrim on the Camino trekking miles and miles and miles with only a backpack, we should consider what we might give up. Perhaps the costs are more subtle: “our need to acquire,” as theologian Emilie Townes suggests, or “our yearning for success, our petty jealousies, our denigrating stereotypes of others, our prejudices and hatreds”, and God knows what else (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4, p. 46). Moreover, what I think is not immediately obvious from today’s Gospel passage is that the process of following Jesus is just that: a process. A journey.

Echoing Daniel Avery, we may not choose our life or have it figured out ahead of time, but we live it. We live into encounters with God: the mystery of Communion, the mystery of serving food to friends and strangers (who, as human beings, are beautiful mysteries themselves), the various claims God has put on our lives, the calls that God has placed in our hearts that we cannot explain—but we are compelled. Each of these encounters and mysteries gives us the grace and the strength to take one step, and then another. 

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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.