All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Go and tell John what you hear and see

December 11, 2016
Matthew 11:2-11
The Rev. Martin Deppe

For a long time Cub fan, after an interminable Advent of waiting, the question for the last several months has been: Is this the year? Is this the end of our waiting? Is this the team? Yes, indeed!

But, back to the world of hum drum reality and the Advent question before us this morning. John the Baptist is in prison, having upset Herod Antipas the tetrarch, son of Herod the Great who had tried to eliminate the Holy Child in Bethlehem years earlier, and failed. Now his son, Herod Antipas, has been confronted face to face by this locust-eating prophet, accusing him of adultery and no doubt other serious sins of his regime.

The pay-back is that John is now behind bars and his ministry along the Jordan has been halted. John is concerned that the call to repentance be continued, that the people be warned that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. John has already baptized one Jesus of Nazareth, and has heard through the grape vine that this Nazarene is proclaiming a similar message, so he decides to check this out.

From his prison cell, John sneaks a message to Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" This is a key Advent question. It is addressed in the world of darkness, in the world before Christ, a world in despair, poverty, hopelessness and fear, a world waiting for something good. Evil is has run amok. Decency is flogged. Truth is turned inside out. Anything and everything is normal.

In the words of the poet, W. H. Auden, penned in 1944:

Darkness and snow descend on all personality...
The prophet's lantern is out and gone the boundary stone...
The evil and armed draw near;
The weather smells of their hate
And the houses smell of our fear...
As the evil and armed draw near.
A fugal chorus intones:
Great is Caesar: He has conquered Seven Kingdoms.
The seventh is the Kingdom of Popular Soul...
When he says, You are happy, we laugh;...
When he says, It is true, everyone believes it;
When he says, It is false, no one believes it;
When he says, This is good, this is loved;
When he says, That is bad, that is hated.
Great is Caesar: God must be with Him."
The narrator continues:
These are stirring times for the editors of newspapers:
History is in the making; Mankind is on the march.
The longest aqueduct in the world is already
Under construction;1

And into this world, then or now, the question is posed: "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we wait for another?"

For us today, we need to address this question of "Are you the one?" to -

The powers that be, city, state and the president-elect team. Can City Hall make our streets safe? Will the State of Illinois pay its bills? Will the new team in DC serve the general welfare of all the people?

We need to ask 'are you the one' of Facebook and Twitter, where news is passed on instantly, whether it is verifiable or rumor, whether true or fake. How does this relate to the Scriptural promise that the truth will make us free?

We might even ask 'are you the one' of self-driving cars?

We should ask 'are you the one' of Santa Claus, and the fun side of the holy days?

We should ask 'are you the one' of the entire package of weeks-long consumer-driven Christmas extravaganza?

We need to ask 'are you the one' of ourselves. In this selfie obsessed time dare we presume that we can redeem ourselves?

To each and every one of these scenarios the answer is Not a chance! No way! Negative! The answer comes to us here today from Jesus himself, in his message sent back to the prison:

"Go and tell John, what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them."

Our Lord is saying, 'in the midst of these deeds you will observe the one who has come. In the midst of healed bodies, liberating good news and resurrected lives, there you will find me. ......

It might be on the street, in a boardroom, bedroom, brothel, factory, an office, a homeless shelter, any place of pain, distress or brokenness. Whenever and wherever these deeds of mercy are performed, and especially for the poor, they have been done to me.' That is Christ's total identification, his incarnation and penetration of our messy world. "The Word became flesh and lived among us."

How does that translate into our situation today? How do we express a "radical esteem for the Incarnation," in the words of William Stringfellow, that John Baptist-like Episcopalian layman, lawyer, and colleague of mine back in the 1960s and 70s? Bill Stringfellow wrote,

"A Christian is not distinguished by his (or her) political views, or moral decisions, or habitual conduct, or personal piety, or least of all by his churchly activities. A Christian is distinguished by his radical esteem for the Incarnation."2

For the God who gives mercy to those who fear him, who scatters the proud in the fantasies of their hearts, who brings down the powerful and lifts the lowly, who fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty-handed. How do we engage, how do we esteem this Incarnate God, this one who has pitched a tent among us?

Would Christ not be standing beside the 5 year old Muslim boy in Charlotte, NC, who has been allegedly bullied and harassed by his classmates and teacher since classes began in September at his Elementary School? The boy has been routinely singled out and required to carry a heavy backpack, throughout the day causing major back pain, and the teacher has called him "bad Muslim boy" on multiple occasions.

Then on Nov. 16th, after the election incidentally, the teacher reportedly grabbed the boy by the neck and began choking him, before another teacher separated them and consoled the boy who was crying and extremely shaken." School officials are investigating and the boy has not returned to the school since the choking incident.

Would Christ not be standing beside that boy? If Christ is standing there, if we esteem the Incarnation, should we not also be standing with that boy and all boys and girls and all adults as well who face discrimination, and slurs and even deportation?

Would Christ not be standing with the Danny Davis family and all the other families in Chicago who have and are losing children to unending gun violence. Did we not stand there in our "Crosswalk" a few years ago? Christ is surely in the midst of this daily horror in our town.

Would Christ not be standing with the Standing Rock protesters, Native Americans and supporters who are defending in the Kingian spirit of non-violence their sacred land and their source of fresh life-giving water in North Dakota, against attack dogs, and water cannon and other weapons of the powers that be?

La Donna Brave Bull Allard has said, this pipeline "erases our footprint in the world, it erases us as a people." Clearly, this helps explain why the Standing Rock event has become the largest gathering of indigenous nations in modern American history. Is this not part of the moral arc of history bending toward justice? Ought we not consider standing with them in prayer, in solidarity, and even in presence?

Would Christ not be standing with the frightened and targeted owners of a small pizzeria in Washington, DC which is the object of fake news accusing it of harboring a child porn ring led by one of the presidential candidates, and leading to shots fired by a believing conspiratorialist! Ought we not stand up to fake news wherever we see it on behalf of verifiable facts and unassailable truths.

And especially now, when the winning presidential candidate told complete lies 74% of the time and the voters said we do not care. In the words of the Poet, "When he (Caesar) says, "It is true, everyone believes it."

Let us remember that a contemporary prophet, standing on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, cried out, and I paraphrase, that "However difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, truth crushed to earth will rise again, because no lie can live forever. You shall reap what you sow." Are we prepared to speak truth, live the truth and defend the truth that alone sets us free?

Finally, Jesus of Nazareth was an infant refugee in Egypt. Would not Christ today accompany refugees as they flee relentless bombing, hunger, landmines, persecution, rape and even execution? Will we stand with Christ welcoming them to our own shores?

Go and tell John what you hear and see. Indeed, we are seeing and hearing numerous situations that need us, that cry out for us who hold a "radical esteem for the Incarnation," to stand with our Christ against any evil, and attempt to overcome such evil with good.

The Advent question, are you the one, is answered by the one who comes into our midst, who stands beside us, who beckons us to follow him into the center of our darkened world and to join Him in lighting the way, resisting evil, announcing good news, and living with a spirit of faith, hope and love for all people. Go and tell John. Amen.

 


1 Wystan Hugh Auden, “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (1944)”
2 William Stringfellow, “A Private and Public Faith”

 

 

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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.