All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

What's Your Answer? 

Sunday, August 27, 2017
Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Matty Zaradich

Jesus Christ, is it ever hard to be a Christian these days

I mean that only half jokingly.

It's unfortunately my truth, because I'm losing sight of how to most effectively respond as a Christian to what seems to be a world gone mad. I'm losing sight of how to respond as a Christian to racism—a deadly, rampant, insidious racism with love and peace.

I'm losing sight of how to respond as a Christian to transphobia—and to be clear, I mean an active hatred of transgender people—with compassion and understanding.
I'm losing sight of how I, as a Christian, can possibly look at someone like James Fields, the man that drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters and killed Heather Heyer, with anything but revulsion. And anger.

I'm losing sight of how best to respond to folks in my own family—my own siblings—who literally fight—physically, verbally, emotionally—over the election to this very day. I'm worried our relationships will never be the same. I'm worried there are pieces of those relationships that are broken beyond repair. And I'm worried that I'm complicit in all of it.
I'm losing sight of how to look myself in the mirror, knowing I don't have answers. Or solutions.

I'm losing sight of how "we, who are many, are one body in Christ," as Paul exhorts to the Romans—and us—today.

And later, in the gospel, when Jesus is asking the disciples—asking us all, even today—"Who do you say that I am?"

Well... Who is he to you?

What does the mission of Christ With Us mean to you?
What does God Made Human mean to you?

Is Jesus a revolution?
Is he love?
Is he redemption?
Is he all of the above?

What about for the rest of the body of Christ, as Paul tells us we ought to consider ourselves a part?
Are all 'Christians' giving the same answer?
The Christians marching with white supremacists—they’re giving the same answer as me?
The Christians denying LGBT people funeral services or marriage licenses—they gave the same answer?
The Christians who want to build a wall on the border with Mexico—the same answer?

Answers. They are rough to reconcile.

But it's an answer Christ is seeking from you. From me. From all of us. The Christ we choose to follow lives in that answer.

You know, I'm the sort of person who, while perfectly comfortable exploring the unanswerable questions of our existence, is often extremely uncomfortable with not having answers to issues of injustice. I like to take decisive action. I like to inspire others to do the same. I like to have a stance on an issue, and I like to encourage others to join me. I like to have answers for people, especially when they need answers.

On June 13, 2016, I had no answers.

Early that morning, I woke up to the horror—and I use that word deliberately—of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Late the night before, a madman bent on religious extremism that had easy access to guns, entered Pulse and went on a rampage, killing 49 people (mostly LGBT, mostly Latinx) and seriously injuring scores of others.

If you haven’t been to Pulse, I want to set the scene for you, so you have an idea of what it’s like. I hadn't ever been, until after the massacre occurred. I made pilgrimage to the venue while on a trip to Florida last year. And what I can tell you is how seemingly normal it is. We live in Chicago, and we're used to neighborhoods like Lakeview, where 20-foot tall rainbow pylons boldly claim an entire street (the longest in the world, actually) to be LGBT friendly—to be a safe place.

Pulse is on no such street. Pulse Nightclub is a small, black building, one-level. It is next to a Dunkin Donuts, and across the street from a gas station, an Einstein Bros. Bagels, and a bank. The street, Orange Street, is so nondescript that it could be Main Street anywhere else in the country. It’s an entirely ordinary place, an entirely ordinary street, in an entirely ordinary American city, far away from the tourists at the theme parks. Mickey Mouse doesn't live on that street.

It was painful to see the actual building. Surrounded by barrier fences, with a strong police presence remaining, memorials everywhere.

Can you imagine that night? Can you put yourself there?

There’s music playing—loud, Latin music. And you’re dancing with your friends. You’re dancing to forget the home you’ve been told to leave; the relationship that ended; the love deep in your heart that somehow you’ve managed to keep alive.

When all you want to do is run outside and throw your arms open and scream “MY HEART IS BROKEN!”, somehow you just keep on dancing.

And then it all ends. In a bloody massacre of 49 people.

“Keep Dancin’,” one painted square begs the viewer.

“Love Never Dies,” write Johnny and Joey on a poster.

Extinguished candles, long melted in the Florida sun, scattered everywhere. Cards, photos, banners, flags. Tokens left behind by the living who had no more words to express their grief.

When you now approach Pulse, its own pulse beats out to you. You can feel it, as you cross the street, taking in the wide memorial, flanked on either side by the American regularities of donuts and gas.

You can sense the pain that still lingers; you can hear the screams of the terrified; and you can still, somewhere in there, feel in your heart the love—like Johnny and Joey remind us—that will never die.

But that morning, that particular morning. I had nothing.

I scrambled to put together a vigil in Andersonville, Chicago's other LGBT friendly neighborhood. Folks from this very parish helped diligently to put it together with me, and to bring friends and family. By 7 p.m. that evening, nearly 1,000 people showed up. I was expecting maybe 50.

Looking for a space to be with other people. Looking for candles. Looking for answers.

And as I got up on the stage, as I got up and took the microphone, as I got up and looked in the faces of 1,000 people, I bumbled.

I bumbled.

I never bumble.

I ramble, but I don't bumble. This big mouth always has something to say.

But that night, that night that grew from that morning, left me nearly speechless. Because I had no answers. I had no solutions. I only had fear of a future ahead, and a very long tunnel seemed to stretch in front of my eyes. No light at the end.

My only hope was that somehow, SOMEHOW, these deaths—these 49 dead bodies on the ground of a gay dance club—might, just might, change things. Just might wake people up to the horrors that LGBT can and do come to face in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It's unfathomable to some that the massacre of 49 people could happen in a gay nightclub. But not to me, not really.

It's the next step in a country where the dignity of LGBT people is not respected in a majority of states. Where in over 30 of those states, LGBT people can be fired from their jobs, denied housing, and kicked out of public accommodations like restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and movie theaters.

In a country where Christian leaders—in church and in congress—rail against us, and call us abominable things. Where they instill, at a young age, in their followers that we are disordered, that we are perverted, and that we are making a conscious choice that brings us inevitably to fiery hell.

We, who are many, are one body in Christ?

Is it any wonder that, in a country where LGBT people don't have equal rights, where they are, therefore, viewed as second-class citizens—is it really any wonder that the extreme outcome of years and years of such oppression ends up in a massacre? In a man going to a specifically LGBT nightclub to kill LGBT people specifically?

Our opponents in this struggle for equality would reduce the argument to something as simple as cake. The now familiar model goes something like this: A Christian baker should not be compelled to support gay marriage by baking a cake. Gay people can get a cake somewhere else if they want.

The complexity of our struggle is so far beyond yeast, flour, and sugar, that this line of thinking is laughable.

It's about dignity. It's about equity. It's about equality.

It's about America, and all that it could—and should—be. How we've allowed this society of ours to be ruled by fear—fear of two men kissing in a bar, fear of two lesbians living in an apartment, fear of a transgender woman using a bathroom—how this rules this country, is beyond my comprehension.

But here we are.

Here we are on a Sunday morning, wondering how the vicious massacre of 49 people on the dance floor of a gay bar somehow—SOMEHOW—was not enough to make politicians and religious leaders change their minds about who we are and that we deserve at the very least a modicum of dignity.

My fears were confirmed. Their deaths were not enough.

When we LGBT people look our opponents in the face and ask, "Who do you say that I am?"

They respond with derision. With hatred. With bigotry. With laughter. With discrimination. With violence. With laws that exclude us. With church policies that deny us.


It’s almost as if, when Jesus asks them, "Who do you say that I am?," they respond with:
You are the punisher, Lord.
You are come to exclude.
You are the one of whom I am frightened.
You are the one of whom I am terrified.
You are the one I am afraid will punish me, so I will punish others.
You are the one I don't understand, so I will pretend I do.

I'm here to tell you: that's not the love of God. That's not who Jesus is. That's not why He came here, to this earth. That's not why God sacrificed his only Son so that we may live.

When Jesus asks me, "Who do you say that I am?," my response is:
You are the One who delivers me.
You are the One who renews me.
You are the One who loves me.
You are the One who has known me.
You are the One who inspires me to action.
You are the One who shows me a better world that is possible, and asks me to work for it.

Jesus is with you. Jesus is looking at you. And Jesus is asking you.

"Who do you say that I am?"

Since Jesus first spoke the words, the Church has continually faced this same question. This question is absolutely central to our identity as Christians, and it is the foundation upon which we build all our other beliefs.

It’s also a pop quiz of sorts, and Jesus expects that his disciples—that you—have been watching. And listening. He’s performed miracles. He’s set about teaching radical lessons. He’s challenging notions of who and what God can be and might be and should be.

Your answer is the best tool we have to combat what is in front of us. To make hope out of fear; to make action from silence. Please, don’t lose sight of Jesus. Answer him.
Who do you say that I am?

What is your answer?

Amen.

  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

     

    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    AUGUST 13 2013 11The memorial service for our friend and neighbor John Vanzo will be held at All Saints' this Saturday the 17th, at 11:00 am. There will be a visitation in the sanctuary prior to the service, beginning at 10:30am. All are welcome. 

    On Friday evening, the 16th, we will host a time of conversation and story telling for John's friends and family. All are invited from 7 to 9pm to share a drink, and hear and tell a favorite story of the very many sides of John.

    May John's soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

     

    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.