All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Limping but not alone

October 20, 2013

Gail Goldsmith

I’m thinking of Sunday School posters
I’m thinking of platitudes like “Everything happens for a reason”
I’m thinking of rainbows and doves and sunsets
I’m thinking of all these when I think of all the ways God hasn’t spoken to me
Every time a seminary classmate says God speaks to them when they are drinking hot tea in the stillness of an early morning, I get a little jealous–it sounds nice
When I try to meditate, i fall asleep or make a very detailed to-do list
I feel the Spirit moving by hospital beds
I feel the Spirit moving in reconciliation, in human connection
hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with my family back in Virginia, feeling the strain in my muscles
on long road trips, driving alone
When I’m up all night puzzling out one of my problems like a detective without a case

So I understand Jacob,
Jacob who doesn’t sit
and wait patiently for insight and blessings to be bestowed upon him

His blessing isn’t delivered by a ray of light peeking through the clouds
his blessing is only given to him after it is demanded by him

Jacob is the wheeler-dealer of the Hebrew patriarchs
Jacob would cheat at cards if you could play poker for blessings
he is blessed even before he cheats his way into Esau’s blessing
he is of a chosen people that talk with God
that walk in worship with God
he has so many reasons to be content

Elsewhere in his story we see this patriarch
this man blessed by God
struggling against his brother Esau
against his father-in-law
as he seeks to marry Rachel
as he is tricked into marrying Leah
as he again seeks to marry Rachel

Jacob lived and died in a competitive culture

And here, in this story, he must contend with what he has done to live within it
how he fits into the covenant God made with his grandfather Abraham
how he tricked his father Isaac by impersonating Esau to receive the blessing for the first-born son

In this story, he is headed towards his brother Esau
unsure of how Esau will welcome him

and so

Jacob sends away the results of all his scheming across the river ahead of him
Wives, children, household, livestock
sent ahead towards Esau and his men
vulnerable to attack
open to friendly greeting
Jacob doesn’t know which

He is isolated, interacting only with one who is first described as ‘man’
it becomes apparent quickly that he is more than man, perhaps even God
the text says they wrestle
traditional rabbinic interpretation says this man is an angelic agent of Esau
some interpretations say he wrestles with the angel
some say he wrestles with himself
Whichever way you read it you can see God in the struggle through Jacob’s transformation at the end

My classmates at the Divinity School love to wrestle with a text
to-wrestle-with-the-text is a phrase used to emphasize that
OK to be uncomfortable
OK to be unsure
OK to be uncertain
But the lesson stopped there
What happens after wrestling?

Jacob hasn’t wrestled his way up a mountain
Jacob hasn’t wrestled his way to a gold medal
Wrestling strains muscles, leaves bruises
The man with whom Jacob wrestles strikes his hip out of place
And here the whole wrestle-with-Scripture-like-jacob-wrestled-with-the-angel analogy becomes a bit trickier.
What are we left with?

We see an encounter that does not fit our expectations of interaction with God
This is not a word from God in a restful moment
Jacob, now renamed Israel, doesn’t leave the River Jabbok feeling like he has emerged from a spiritual spa

he wrestles, all night
a metaphor familiar to those of us prone to insomnia
whether for
a drive to repair mistakes and reconcile relationships
it is a very specific experience to be up all night
and a familiar one to me

While Israel is recovering from the wrestling match, his limp demands of him that he trust God
He can’t trick his way to healing
He can’t negotiate wholeness
The limp is raw material for his renewal
He must settle in to an awareness of what God has done and will do
He must learn a new way to walk with God, aware of his brokenness, trusting God to heal him and continue to transform him

Transformation can wound us too
Anyone in recovery, maintaining sobriety or in physical therapy knows
It hurts
It’s another kind of strain
Change ripples out from us to our contexts
to our family and friends
We might be held accountable to our transformation
By god
By others
It means change in habits, practices,and problem-solving
Transformation is a process
And a struggle too

I offer up my brokenness
The stretch marks on my heart
the weariness of mourning
worldly habits that are poor leverage against God
All this that I offer up
For God to grasp and rename me, transforming me

The story of Jacob validates what we already know
What it doesn’t hurt to remind us of
God doesn’t just speak to us in moments of peace
through doves, sunsets, and rainbows
The Spirit speaks to us
speaks to us when we are surprised us by grace or shocked by suffering
God also speaks to us when we are
Wrestling with ourselves
in order to transform us
to show us new ways of being
aware of holiness and wounds in our being
to send us off into the new day
limping but not alone


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Weekly Message for January 14

Weekly Message for January 14

Dear Friends,    

I hope you can join Susan and me for dinner this Saturday, January 13, at our home (4550 N. Hermitage Ave) from 6 to 9pm. We’ll have awesome food, created by Joe and David Wernette-Harden, lots of wonderful beverages, and free childcare if that will be helpful! This annual January dinner is a great time to hear about the vestry’s plans for the upcoming year, meet new people, and have a tasty dinner at my home. Please do come!
Sunday, January 28th we’ll have our Annual Meeting at 10:00 am. At the meeting we’ll have brunch (again lots of beverages) and our annual slide show. We’ll elect vestry members and diocesan representatives, review our budget for 2018, and honor several wonderful volunteers. On that Sunday, we’ll only have an 8:00 and 9:00 worship service. There will be NO 11:00 service.  
Emily is preaching this Sunday, I’ll be celebrating and our choir and Colin will be creating some great music. Stay warm, hold your loved ones near, and reach out to everyone in need.
All my best,
Please let me know if you are interested in serving on our vestry (governing council) or being a representative of this congregation at or Diocesan Convention in November.
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 

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.



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