All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Whatever happens, thanks!

Text: I Thessalonians 5:16-18a


"Come thou long-expected Jesus..." Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Many years ago a little girl ran into the living room one bright morning and exclaimed, "Daddy, don't you just love the world!" Daddy was proud of this precious little four-year-old, and still is! God would have us be so thankful for life.

These last few weeks we at All Saints have been in a mood of remembering with gratitude the saints in our lives, elevating many of their names above us in this sacred space. In a few days we will celebrate our national day of Thanksgiving. Allow me then to pursue this theme of thankfulness this morning.

I want to preface my homily with a personal word of gratitude to this congregation and to our Rector, Bonnie, and to Emily, who have provided a spiritual home for my wife, Peg, and me for lo these past 18 years! That has been a tremendous gift and blessing. Thank you!

My text is from I Thessalonians 5:16-18: New RSV: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." I like the NEB version: "Be always joyful; pray continually; give thanks, whatever happens!" Dag Hammarskjold flavored it this way: "For all that has been – thanks".

It seems impossible to contemplate giving thanks for all that has been, and whatever happens. Yet, if God is our creator, preserver, lover, parent, author of life, liberator, then thankfulness is a logical response. A sense of thanksgiving is a fundamental and continuous feeling for a human being in touch with life. It is not a one-day-a-year celebration. It is a total attitude and stance toward life!

Hebrew worship as found in the Psalms resonates with "thankfulness and praise." Psalm 136 begins by repeating three times: "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever" and for good measure it concludes with the same phrase! Our Deppe family grace was lifted already some generations ago from this Psalm, "We thank the Lord for he is good; his mercy endureth forever." And my generation added, "And help us remember the needs of others." So, we began every evening meal, "We thank the Lord." That is a stance.

Martin Luther, whom we have just celebrated for hammering open the Reformation 500 years ago as he posted the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church (He didn't actually do that but it makes a good story.) on All Saints Eve, 1517, also speaks to the centrality of thankfulness in the life of a Christian. In my translation, "We cannot do God a greater or better favor or show a more genuine worship than to thank the Almighty." Again, "Thankfulness belongs to a Christian heart, which shows itself not only to God but to all persons/humanity."

'Whatever happens, thanks,' was certainly the attitude of the Pilgrims, those early immigrants to our shores. They were undocumented by the way! You may recall they lost half of their numbers that first winter of 1620. Every other person, women, children, men alike, died of disease, cold, starvation.

In spite of this calamity they gathered together the next November, 1621, to celebrate the arrival of a vessel with needed provisions and the gathering of the first harvest, including "a great store of wild turkies". It was reported that "many of the Indians joined us, and among them their greatest king, Massasoyt, with some 90 persons, with whom for three days we feasted and entertained." Yes, 'whatever happens, thanks!' The follow-up to that story is shameful as we have come to know and acknowledge.

Many years later, 1863, in the midst of a devastating civil war, President Abraham Lincoln called all citizens to "observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Let me quote from his Proclamation: "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity (his reference is, before the war); we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserve(s) us......we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God who made us." Lincoln seems to say: "We are to proud to give thanks."

On a softer note I am reminded of a story told by a colleague of mine years ago. Rev. Ross Calame taught his two young girls to always say, "Thank you, Jesus," for even the simple things, for a glass of milk, for someone holding a door open, or helping them put on a winter coat!

One day Ross was walking home. As he approached their apartment house, one of the girls saw him and turned her tricycle around and drove toward him as fast as she could go. Just before reaching her Dad she fell off the bike and skinned both knees! As she stood up and was about to burst into tears, she quickly regained control and declared, "Thank you, Jesus!"

But, let's face it – how can we possibly give thanks, whatever happens!
How can any woman who has held the secret of a deep wound of sexual abuse for many years, feel thankful? Or the traumatized resident of Aleppo, Syria, amidst a shattered city, broken families and lost loved ones? Or the citizens of Puerto Rica, over 50% of whom are still without power eight weeks after Hurricane Maria? Or someone facing the loss of health care as Congress bickers? Or so many undocumented people facing deportation and separation from family? Or our native Americans who continue to live a segregated life in this bounteous land?
How can they give thanks?

And yet, and yet. On Tuesday, here in Chicago a middle aged African American, Arthur Brown, walked out of Cook County jail after 29 years behind bars, when a judge tossed out his murder conviction in a case over which he was beaten into signing a false confession. And what did he say upon his release?

"I don't have time to be bitter because I'm thinking about my family. I just want to be around my family and enjoy a good meal. Hopefully sleep in a real bed." As he was greeted by relatives and his attorneys with tears and hugs, all he did was express gratitude!

He's not bitter? Please do not ask me how I would feel after losing 29 years of my life to an extreme injustice. Not bitter? No! Arthur Brown is just thankful to be alive, to be back home. That is a stance to life. He carries the peace of God in his soul.

This man's remarkable gratitude poses such a contrast to what the world reveals. There is so much plenty, so much material comfort, so much wealth, so much excess, so much entitlement, so much greed all around us. Why bother saying "thank you." A hand-written thank-you letter for a Christmas or birthday gift is almost unheard of. These gifts are simply expected. Even personal e-mail messages go unanswered. That's a particular beef of mine. So, far from giving thanks in all circumstances, many persons do not express thanks at all.

Now, ingratitude did not just start yesterday either. I'm not calling for us to go to some "good old days." Recall the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus. How many of these 10 lepers thanked Jesus, anyone? Yes, One. "Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan." One of those people. Then Jesus asked, "were not 10 made clean?" But the other 9, where are they?" Indeed.

For all that has been, thanks. Whatever happens, thanks. I think we are all tested to maintain a stance of thankfulness, in one way or another, like the little girl on the tricycle. In big and little things. Speaking of the latter, I remember being hungry as a young boy, particularly when the family was travelling by car. We did not use restaurants in those late Depression days. I did not know the inside of a restaurant. But when I complained, Dad would say, "it is good to be hungry once in a while; you'll appreciate your food when we get home." He was so right.

I am sure you can pick out times, large and small, where you were tested to maintain a sense of thankfulness. Give that some thought in a quiet moment during this Thanksgiving week.

"Whatever happens, thanks." "For all that has been, thanks." I will never forget an experience during my student year abroad in Germany. On a trip to Berlin in the spring of 1958 several of us Fulbright students took the S Bahn, elevated train, into East Berlin one Sunday morning. (this was before the Wall went up - three years later in 1961) We went directly to the Marienkirche, Church of St. Mary, where presiding Bishop Otto Dibelius was to preach.

The church was packed; Communist plain-clothesmen were standing in their crumpled trench-coats along the walls; the 80 year old prelate, who had fought Hitler and now the Communists, began to preach. I did not understand every word in German, but again and again I heard the word Dankbarkeit, thankfulness.

The Bishop told his flock, from my translated notes: "in spite of the world's powers we are ultimately under God's will, so let us give thanks and praise! Whoever lives in God's will and does God's will can expect a happy and blessed life." He contrasted the evil of the hour with God's will - faith and faithlessness. "Atheism in East or in the West is confronted by our faith rooted in eternity." And then this final word: "Dankbarkeit must be the spirit in our homes, at work, in our lives. If we live under God's will we will abide forever and ever!"

Here in the midst of then East Germany, in the presence of not so secret police, in the midst of oppression and danger, Bishop Dibelius called for thankfulness! Later my colleagues and I took Communion from the Bishop's own hands. I was deeply touched for this humble man and for the gift he brought into my life that day.

Yes, give thanks, whatever happens.

Paul goes on to say to the Thessalonians immediately after "give thanks in all circumstances" - "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." And as the old warrior Bishop told his flock, "if we live in God's will and do God's will we can expect a happy and blessed life," to which there is but one response - to give thanks. Thankfulness is a life stance, an eschatological stance for the approaching Day of God.

Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Rev. Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church
Chicago, Illinois
November 19, 2017


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Weekly Message for December 17

Weekly Message for December 17

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow is our long awaited and much anticipated #HamiltonMeetsJesus Christmas pageant. As I write this note, I remember Fonzi and the writers’ of that beloved 70s TV show, Happy Days, and conclude that this year’s pageant may truly have "jumped the shark." That said, our young people have spent an inordinate amount of time working on this year’s production. Tomorrow you will see that the camel and sheep legislators are busy amending the celestial republic’s founding documents, the shepherds are trying to figure out their new tax bills, the innkeeper offers Joseph some sage advice, “Smile more, talk less,” Mary is adjusting to a new donkey, the archangels have an opening rap that really puts some flesh on the notion of the virgin birth, and King Herod is quite sure that the immigrant Wise Men will be back. All of which is to say, it’s pretty much business as usual for the All Saints’ Christmas Pageant which will be premiering at the 9 and 11 o’clock worship services. 

In the midst of the Hamilton hoopla one truth I hope to offer to all of us is that God, in the infant Jesus, came into this world to show each of us the unending power of love. While Alexander Hamilton and the founding parents of our republic took a step toward liberty and justice, I invite you to remember and hold dear that the real revolution, the true up-ending of our world, comes not through government policy, but through our ability to live our lives in such a way that the love of God is made real in all we do. Please let that revolution begin.

To avoid donkeys, camels, and chaos, attend the 8:00 service and then return for the absolutely amazing Advent and Christmas Lessons and Carols that our choir will be offering at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. To end a long day at 5:30 we’ll all journey to the back room of O’Shaughnessy’s Pub for Beer and Caroling! At noon—we’ll be serving a light lunch and transforming our sanctuary from Advent austerity to Christmas greenery. Please come and join in any or all the activities that may feed your soul in this season of expectation and birth. 

All my very best to you on this my MOST FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year,


Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

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. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

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 (

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!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 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!


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.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

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.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

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.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

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.


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 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

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.
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


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.