All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

 

I’m in Love with the Shape of You

Song of Songs
July 9, 2017
Bonnie A. Perry

I propose to show that in the Song of Songs there is an incarnational grounding in our physicality, so that those hearing this sermon will read these words both for ways to enrich our relationship with the one we love and with the Holy of Holies.

True Confessions. My most favorite song these days, besides the Canticle of the Turning, is Ed Sheerhan’s, Shape of You.

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do

Though my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
Last night you were in my room
Now my bedsheets smell like you.
Everydaydiscoveringsomethingbrandnew
I’m in love with your Body
I’m in love with your body.
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

Listen, its’ my lover:
Here he comes now,
Leaping upon the mountains
Bounding over the hills.

My lover is like a gazelle
Or a young stag.
Here he stands now
Outside our wall,
Peering through the windows
Peeking through the lattice

My lover spoke and said to me,
Rise up my dearest,
my fairest and go.
Here the winter is past:
The rains have come and gone.
Blossoms have appeared in the land,
The season of singing has arrived.

A few verses later:

I belong to my lover
And he belongs to me…

Upon my bed, night after night,
I look for the one whom I love
With all my heart

I belong to my lover and he belongs to me
Song of Songs

Well then….its not that often I can conflate Holy Scripture with an erotic pop song.

The Song of Songs, the Song of Solomon, the Canticle of Canticles, has many names and only 8 short chapters, but there it is The Song of Songs nestled in our scripture between the wisdom of Ecclesiastes and the prophecy of Isaiah.

A book in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament which is, as theologian Stephanie Paulsell says, “Unusual among biblical books for what is includes and what it leaves out. What it includes is erotic poetry that leaves no body part uncelebrated, no fragrance or taste of the beloved undescribed. What it leaves out is any reference whatsoever to God.” (Lamentations and the Song of Songs: A Theological Commentary on the Bible p 172.)

Despite lacking an overt divine reference this book made it into the Hebrew and Christian Canon and was the most commented and preached upon piece of scripture in Medieval Christianity. (E. Ann Mattter, The voice of my Beloved: The of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity p 6.)

Bernard of Clairaux, the 12th century Cistercian writer, managed to pen 86 sermons on the Song of Songs. This fascination was not just limited to celibate Christian monks, medieval Rabbi Ezra ben Solomon taught that the Song of Songs belonged to God and God sang it every day.

Sixteenth century, mystic and carmalite, Teresa of Avila, also joined the Song of Songs party, she like Bernard, saw and heard in the verses a yearning that echoed her own search and longing for God. “Reading the Song is a consolation, because a soul in love with God experiences the kinds of ‘swoons, deaths, afflictions, delights, and joys that one reads of in the Song of Songs.” (p 175 Paulsell).

Here’s the interesting piece for those of us who have been shaped in a somewhat puritanical view of religion and spirituality, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, Rabbi Ezra, do not reject the erotic quality of scripture, instead as Paulsell says, “they recognize the erotic quality of life with God.”( P 175)

Any of us who has ever had a moment of spiritual clarity, a time of some type of mystical transcendence, long for it, much as we may long for the feeling of that first kiss of a relationship that matters, the blush and rush, the physicality of a connection that enables us to move beyond ourselves. The medieval mystics understood that incarnational connection is not merely a spiritual event.

Biblical theologian, Dianne Bergant goes a step farther by saying, “God is not found beyond human endeavor but at the very heart of it. (Song of Songs: The love Poetry of Scripture p 21). And then making the literal connection between mystical moments and our human relationships she says, “human love is a value in and of itself and a sign or symbol of divine love and that we love God precisely in the act of loving others.”

Any of us who has ventured into the world of relationships knows that though those early moments may overwhelm us with a sense of connectivity, inevitably there is the separating. The push and pull of coming together (like magnets do) and moving apart, our seeming inability to read the other person, to meet their needs, understand their desires, or our own inability to set our longings and wants aside to be there completely for that other person.

Or the vulnerable hurt of expressing our needs and longings and having the one to whom we have turned, miss our signals, misunderstand our words, or fail once again to read our minds. So there are those scars and scabs of not connecting.

I was sleeping

A sound! My love is knocking:
Open for me, my dove my perfect one.

The woman replies,
I’ve taken off my tunic
Why should I put it on again?
I have bathed my feet, why should I get them dirty?

Time goes by…

I went and opened for my love,
But my love had turned, gone away.

I nearly died when he turned away.
I looked for him
I called out to him but he didn’t answer me.

Song of Songs

Yet what the Song of Songs shows us is the ebb and flow of all relationships. The longing for and missing of the other and the willingness to seek out the beloved.

I looked for the one I loved whom I loved with all my heart.
I looked for him but could not find him.
I will rise now and
go through the city,
through the streets and the squares,
I will look for the one I love with all my heart.” (vv 3:1-2)

Even in scripture, connections are missed, lovers are lost.

But in scripture, these missed opportunities are not the final word.

Set me as a seal over your heart,
As a seal upon your arm,
For love is as strong as death,
Passionate love is unrelenting as the grave
Rushing waters can’t quench love rivers cannot wash it away.

In this poetry of love, we see the longing, hope, coming together, pulling apart, and coming together again—those connections we long for with each other and with our God.

There’s not much more you could hope for on a beautiful summers morning.

Copyright Bonnie A. Perry July 2017

 

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Dear Friends,    

This seems to be the year where I realize that the young people who were 8 and 10 years old 18 years ago, are now in their late twenties; time doing what time does. This week is particularly poignant for me as I spend the weekend watching Patrick Pressl, (the man whom many of you know of as our amazing Christmas Pageant Donkey) become a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. 
 
I won't be with you all on Sunday because I've flown to Quantico, VA to be with Patrick and his family to celebrate his wonderful achievement. My dad is a retired Lt. Col. in the Marines, so I find this milestone for Patrick to be particularly moving. It is such a gift to be with this faith community for this long and to see our children become faithful adults with purpose, pride, and an abiding sense of justice. 
 
This Sunday, Emily will be celebrating. Parishioner and retired pastor, the Rev. Martin Deppe, will be preaching and Colin and the choir will be creating compelling music. I'll be back Sunday night.
 
Many thanks to Parker Callahan and Emily Guffey and the very, many volunteers who enabled last week's All Saints' Cafe to be one of our best ever. The food was amazing and the dishwashing crew was stupendous. 
 
Advent evensong and reflections begin Wednesday, November 29th. I am looking forward to having the beauty of Holden Evening Prayer wash over me and to then spend some extended time studying and reflecting on W. H. Auden's poem, "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio." Please join me Nov 29, Dec 6 and Nov. 13. 
 
Enjoy the return of Fall. 
 
All my best,
Bonnie

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. 

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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

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.

 

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.

 

 


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.