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

 

 

  1. This Week
  2. Services Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons
Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    

 

How much longer will the killing continue? 
 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
     
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
     
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
     
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
     
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
     
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
     
    All my best,
    Bonnie

     

    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
     
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
     
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
     
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
     
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
     
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
     
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
     
    All the best, 
    Bonnie
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

     

    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,

    Bonnie

     

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    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!

    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.

    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 

    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

    Email info@allsaintschicago.org 

    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.