All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

threadThreads of Hope

December 4, 2016
Isaiah 11:1-10Romans 15:4-13
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

As I’ve been reading this passage from Isaiah this week, I keep thinking, “Is this for real?” “Is this seriously true?” And the timing! I mean, come on, Isaiah!

These words about a new leader who would be defined by wisdom and understanding and a knowledge and fear of God, who would not govern at the whim of his senses and any distractions, but above all, no matter what, take care of the most vulnerable among us? Come on, Isaiah!

An image of the wolf and the lamb coexisting and not hurting each other, when racial tensions run rampant in ways that I have not seen before? Rub it in, Isaiah.

A child playing near the snake’s hole, when easy access to guns threatens all of our safety, especially our children? Come on, Isaiah.

The calf and the lion dwelling together, when Native peoples and allies have freezing water pelted at them in cannons while protecting as basic a human need as clean water?! Rub it in, Isaiah.

Is this scripture seriously out of date?

Well, actually, Isaiah lived and worked in tremendous political turmoil. He lived in and near Jerusalem in the eighth century BC, and at that time the Assyrians occupied a large empire to the east and north, and they wanted Jerusalem and the surrounding land of Judah, too. They were also after other small nations on their way toward Judah: Samaria, Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom. These small nations formed a coalition against their common foe, and wanted Judah to join them. But the king of Judah, named Ahaz, decided not to, probably thinking that the Assyrians would never make it that far.

But as the Assyrians conquered Samaria and Ephraim and the Northern Kingdom, King Ahaz became terrified for his country, and he threw a most unexpected Hail Mary. He asked the Assyrian king to spare Judah, for the sake of protecting Jerusalem, and leveraging the fact that he had never joined the coalition against Assyria.

The prophet Isaiah, who had the ear of King Ahaz, was furious at this move and deeply grieved, for he sensed that it would lead to even more violence. It would be the end of Jerusalem—the end of the house of David, the end of the world as they knew it. The family tree of Jesse, David’s father, would be cut down to a stump.

And it is in this context that Isaiah stares bravely into his grief and says, “By the grace of God, this ain’t over yet. A new branch will grow, mysteriously and surprisingly, on that old stump. A child will be born in the house of David and his rule will bring peace unlike anything anyone had ever seen.” With this, his listeners were able, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”.1

Hope. They must at first have laughed numbly at Isaiah for suggesting such preposterous folly. They clearly were doomed to be taken over by the Assyrians like greedy wolves and vicious lions. But hope, in the words of liberation theologian Rubem Alves, is “the suspicion that…the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the present, and that miraculously and surprisingly, life is readying the creative event that will open the way to freedom and resurrection”.2

Hope, Isaiah says, is what we do—even when the facts and our rightful fears tell us otherwise.

Hope is not an empty word, to which we resort when we’re out of words. It is not for a Hallmark card. Hope is scrappy; hope is brave.

In Hebrew the word “hope”, tiqvah, originally meant rope or cord, suggesting that hope is the tension of a rope being pulled beyond what it thinks it can hold, a rope being pulled between bad and worse. To hope, sometimes, is literally to hang by a thread.

But the good news is that with your thread, and your thread, and your thread, and mine, we can weave ourselves together, stronger than ever before.

As we call out the injustice and falsehood all around us—as we act—we become sacraments of hope, outward and visible signs of the hope that is in us.

Another preacher once said, “Every human act, every Christian act, is an act of hope. But that means you must be men and women of the present, you must live this moment—really live it, not just endure it—because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ”.3

We may bemoan, in the words of Madeleine L’Engle that grace our bulletin, that this really “is no time for a child to be born, with the earth betrayed by war and hate”4 but the 8th century Jerusalem under threat of destruction by Assyria was also no time for a child to be born, and neither was it eight centuries later under occupation by Rome when Emperor Augustus decreed that all people be registered in their hometowns and a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.5

My friends, today may we believe that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant us to live in harmony with one another….and may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.”6



1 “I Have a Dream” Address, delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963:
2 From Passion of Christ, Passion of the World by Leonardo Boff. Quoted in An Advent Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, p. 84.
3 Walter J. Burghardt, Sir, We Would Like to See Jesus, 1982. Quoted in An Advent Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, p. 81.
4 “The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973”, in The Ordering of Love: New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle, 2005, p. 155.
5 From Luke 2:1-4
6 Romans 15:4-5, 13




  1. This Week
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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.