All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Fragments of Necessity

January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

In Germany in 1937, a few years into the Nazi regime, a pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. The premise is that "cheap grace" says, "I've been saved, so it doesn't matter what I do." "I'm a Christian, so I can do whatever I want." It is lazy, it is self-centered, and it is false.

But "costly grace", Bonhoeffer says—real grace, the grace that saves our lives—bids us "stay woke" to the pain around us and within us. It is unflinching. And it is humble, because it reminds us always of our common humanity, our sister- and brotherhood as children of God. Where there is no peace, it says, "fight for it." Where there is no justice, it says, "fight like hell for it!"

I've been thinking a lot about Bonhoeffer this week. He's been speaking to me, maybe speaking to all of us. The book, The Cost of Discipleship, is as a whole a reflection on the Sermon on the Mount, the very beginning of which we just heard in Matthew. What especially stood out to me this week was his reflection on the beatitude, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Bonhoeffer writes, "By 'mourning', Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity. He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards. Such [people] mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate, and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,' they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power, and of the future, but the disciples meditate on...the coming of the kingdom...And so the disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guests and disturbers of the peace."1

Would that we all were—would that we all realized we are—"unwelcome guests". And what a high calling indeed, don't you think, to be strangers together, and disturbers of the peace. Can't you hear Jesus saying today, "Blessed are the unwanted, the banned, the forbidden, for they will be welcomed with open arms."

Bonhoeffer also points out that Martin Luther, his hero, translated the Greek word for "mourning" as "sorrow-bearing", with "the emphasis...on the bearing of sorrow. The disciples, he says, "do not shake off sorrow as though it is no concern of their own, but willingly bear it. And in this way they show how close are the bonds which bind them to the rest of humanity. At the same time, they do not go out of their way to look for suffering or...[adopt] an attitude of contempt and disdain. They simply bear the suffering which comes their way as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake."

Here is where I feel Bonhoeffer is really preaching to us, today: "Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross. They stand as bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the Crucified: they stand as strangers in the world in the power of him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified him. This is their comfort, or better still, this One is their comfort."2

Indeed, the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...for God chose what is "foolish" in the world to shame the "wise"; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus...as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in God."3

Bonhoeffer could have boasted. He involved himself heavily in the resistance to Hitler. Even when he was in prison, he continued to teach and write and pray with his fellow inmates. Ultimately, he was executed by special officers at the Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, just a few days before it was liberated by the Allies. Today he is still remembered as a teacher and author and martyr of the church, whose writings continue to give life.

So it is interesting to me that one of his biographers noted that Bonhoeffer often asked himself about the deeper meaning of his life, which seemed to him so disconnected and confused. A few months before his death, when coming events case their shadows before, he wrote in prison: 'It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments that are only good to be thrown away, and others that are important for centuries to come because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment...we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, rejoice in it."4

So how might we rejoice and be glad, as Jesus asks of us today. How, when this week—this month—gives us so many reasons to mourn. How, in the face of all of this, can any one of us make a difference? It seems like any one of us can't even hold a candle to it all.

I wonder if to the extent that we are hungry and thirsty for justice, to the extent that we are pure and humble in heart, to the extent that we show mercy and seek peace, we might be "fragments of necessity". Fragments, yes. But necessary, yes.

I see it in you. I see it in you every day.
I see it in you who rushed over the morning after the election to donate feminine hygiene products to our pantry, because you thought that women, especially the most vulnerable among us, might need a little extra help in these days.
I see it in you who, while grieving a loved one's death, decided to cook some of their own favorite recipes for hundreds of our neighbors and volunteers.
I see it in you who went to the protest at O'Hare last night and last weekend.
I see it in you who are giving of yourselves financially and personally to this place and other places that are seeking to do good.
In you who know that the time to care for the unwelcome—by which I mean every one of us—is right now.
In you who know that time to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God is right now.

 


1 The Cost of Discipleship, translated from the German Nachfolge first published in 1937 by Chr. Kaiser München, R. H. Fuller. Copyright 1959 by SCM Press Ltd. Touchstone Edition, 1995, page 108.

2 Cost, 108-109

3 1 Corinthians 1:18, 27-31

4 Cost, 32-33

 

 

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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.