All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Toward Wholeness

February 12, 2017 | Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Matthew 5:21-37
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

In some of his final words to the Israelites, whom he had been leading to the land of safety, security, and prosperity for many years, Moses said, “See, I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may truly and fully live, loving and holding fast to the Lord your God.

Choose life.

It seems obvious, and sometimes it is. But of the many actions and words—and even thoughts—we choose during a day, or an hour, or a moment, how do we know when we’re choosing life?

How do we know during those tiny moments—choosing what to read on the train or listen to on the drive whether to pick up the phone, or not what to say to a friend or colleague, or not say whether to show up to that thing on our calendar, or stay home --how do we know when such decisions will inch us toward full and true life?

Or rather, how might our choices make us more whole, rather than more broken?

In these days, we find ourselves in a post-truth world, in a culture that has prized convenience and the self for so long that it neither recognizes nor cares what is real.

But this is also nothing new—for certainly since Jesus’ time and Moses’ time and let’s also say Adam and Eve’s time, we have looked outside of ourselves to that thing, that person, that place, that job—or that apple—that will make us whole. That will make us at peace with ourselves. That will let us breathe. 

Should we dare to look inside, we do not always like what we find. We do not always like the truth that is in us. The truth that compels us forward and yet sits uncomfortably. So maybe we don’t look.

This morning we hear two sermons. (Well, three, if you count this one.) We hear a sermon from Moses and one from Jesus. Moses is toward the end of his sermon to the Israelites, his brothers and sisters and friends with whom he has been traveling for years. From where they stand today, they can see the Promised Land. Yet Moses knows that his days are numbered, and that he might not—and indeed he does not—make it to the Promised Land with them.

So Moses really is thinking about life and death. He’s thinking about what really matters. He’s thinking, “If this might be my last chance to talk with them, what do I want them to remember above all else?”

What does it mean to choose life? To Moses, it means first of all to love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). And from there come the decisions to act. Moses reminds his beloved brothers and sisters of the many actions they had chosen along their long journey together. Do you remember,  he says, when we chose to forgive the debts of the poor (15:1-11)? Do you remember when we pushed our government against too much wealth (16:18-20)? When we did everything we could to protect human dignity (19:1-7)? When we fell all over ourselves to care for the strangers and refugees among us (23:15-16)? Do you remember, he says, when we started to leave some of our own harvest behind in the field, in case someone would come along hungry and need a little food (24:19-22)?1

During these times, he said, we were close to God. During these times, my friends, our ancestors were close to God because they stood for what they believed. They resisted and they persisted. And we, like them, are close to God when we act out of wholeness rather than fear, out of integrity rather than scarcity.

Jesus, in contrast to Moses, is toward the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount—which we began to hear two weeks ago and will continue to hear for another few weeks. He is also at the beginning of his public ministry. People are just starting to follow him and listen to him, more people every day. In his jarring hyperboles that we should cut off our hand or tear out our eye, Jesus is recalling Moses’ sermon and taking it further. He is impressing upon us that not only are we to act out of wholeness, but that our internal world of our thoughts and our feelings really matters.

Of course we can’t control all of our thoughts and feelings. Things just come to mind and things just happen in our hearts. But to the extent that we can become aware of these things, then we have a choice. We can choose what would draw us toward full, true life, or what would draw us away from God.

To continue Jeanne’s message from last week, faith is the pursuit not only of joy and wonder, but it is also the pursuit of truth and candor. In this age of alternative facts, the most countercultural and most Christian thing we can do is be truthful to and within ourselves. How many alternative facts do we subsist on?

In this fractious world that spins further into chaos each day, the most countercultural and most Christian thing we can do is to act out of wholeness. If wholeness is not something you’d say describes you right now, as is the case for many of us, can you imagine it? Are there things you can do to get in touch with those parts of yourself that remind you of who you really are inside? Maybe it’s talking with a friend who’s known you since forever. Maybe it’s revisiting works of art or pieces of music that have spoken to you over and over again through the years.

The many choices before us in a day do not come with labels, “life” or “death”, but they are still many opportunities, large and small, to choose wholeness over fear, integrity over scarcity.

We do all of this not only in the name of self-help or self-improvement, although those are good and necessary, but in the name of God, who sees us in all of our complexity, our pain, our weakness, our grief, our confusion, and does not look away. God does not look away.

And so we pray: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse and guide the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you with our whole heart, mind, soul, strength, and worthily magnify your Holy Name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.2


1 Brett Younger in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume I, p. 341
2 Collect for Purity, adapted, Book of Common Prayer, p. 355


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Dear Friends,

It continues, more hurricanes of movie-like proportions, earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and wildfires, in addition to terrorist attacks and neo-Nazi marches. The New York Times interviewed theologians and religious studies professors at Harvard, Fordham, and UC Santa Barbara to get their take on whether or not the apocalypse is upon us. The most interesting quote came not from the academics but from science fiction writer John Scalzi, who said, "These aren't the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now."

Is it the end of the world as we know it? Perhaps. This is, I believe, the new normal. This is the weather and world that humanity is in the midst of creating.

So what then is the Christian response? What is our response as individuals and as a Christian community of faith? These are the questions and realities I invite us to consider seriously. Who are we? How do we talk to our children about our world? How are we called to be in the midst of these confounding realities? I'll be preaching tomorrow and will begin to grapple with these enormous questions. I hope you'll be there to join me in this journey of faith.

I'm delighted to be back home and extremely excited for this coming fall. Many thanks to Emily, Andrew, Colin, Lori, and Parker for all of their work in the past weeks while I have been away.

Here is a bit of what is on the schedule:

Church School starts this Sunday, and next Sunday we'll have our annual Backpack Blessing at the 9 and 11 o'clock worship services.

This year we have distributed plain black backpack "canvasses" to about fifty local students and artists. We'll be displaying their creations around our altar for both the Ravenswood ArtWalk and our Backpack Blessing. Come celebrate their work and learn more about our ministry of feeding people and supporting our local schools at a reception we'll be hosting on Saturday evening, September 16th, from 6-8pm.

paintedbackpack1Pictured here are some of the backpacks we'll be displaying. Choir member and local art teacher, Sarah Wain, has painted a marvelous creation reminiscent of pop artist Takashi Murakami, who was recently featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Pam Carter, a nationally recognized Scottish artist, has contributed a piece with scenes from the Isle of Skye on its front and side panels. I can hardly wait to see the other pieces done by local students.paintedbackpack2

We need more paper for our altar! Every year at our Backpack Blessing we remove the wooden altar and pulpit and replace them with paper we have collected, and then donate the paper to our local schools. Right now we have about 1000 pounds--thank you! We need another 1000 to meet our goal of collecting one ton. If you can, buy a box of paper and just have it shipped to the church at 4550 N Hermitage Ave, 60640.

Next week's guest preacher will be P.J. Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School. P.J. is a parishioner at St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Hyde Park. I'm very much looking forward to what he will offer us on Backpack Sunday.

After the Backpack Blessing and Church School start, things just get busier. Theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be with us the following weekend, September 23 and 24, for two in-depth days reflecting on race and anti-blackness.

On a lighter note, the annual Pet Blessing will be on October 1st! This year, we'll have dogs for adoption from the Anti-Cruelty Society and a coffee hour program by Dr. Steve Larson (8:00am parishioner and RCS volunteer) and veterinarian at West Loop Veterinary Care.

All of which is to say we have a LOT coming up. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you this Sunday. I am so blessed to be starting yet another program year here at All Saints'.

All my very best,

back2017Sunday, September 17

Mark your calendars for the annual Backpack Blessing on September 17. PJ Karafiol, principal of Lake View High School, will be the guest preacher, and educators will speak on a panel during the 10am coffee hour.

Once again we will be collecting ONE TON OF PAPER to distribute to our neighborhood public schools. And there is even more up our sleeves to make this the most incredible Backpack Blessing yet...

Want to help make it happen? You're invited to join the planning meetings this Wednesday, August 2, 6-9pm, and Wednesday, August 23, 7-9pm. Contact Emily for more information.

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 (

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. 

Gardening at 10am


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 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 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


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.