All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Companion God

I guess, if there is one thing we all want in life it is companionship. If we had all the money in the world and all the time in the world but not one person, spouse, child, pet, or friend to share the things money can buy and time can provide, then those millions and those hours would be meaningless. We are social creatures. In the first pages of Genesis, God says, “it is not good that the human should be alone.” And what happens? A helpmate is created, and so, husband and wife, the first family.

We recognize that same bonding today, in a new way, state by state, Michigan being the latest! We celebrate weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, graduations, confirmations, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving. These are all social events that bond our relationships.

We seek interaction from infancy. In an old sermon on our text (Psalm 23) I observed how amazed I was when our first grandchild, Robin, 11 months old at the time, was so into people. Cautious with a new face, he quickly warmed up and engaged you with a smile, a pointed finger, or copied a patty cake. He lite up when Mommy entered the room after being away.

That same boy, now 25 years old, is adored by his younger siblings, has become a great hugger, and is happily engaged to be married. Just last week he drove in from Topeka, Kansas, to attend his sister’s senior recital at Chicago Arts (Chi Arts) High School, followed by a fun-filled family dinner.

Companionship is not limited to us humans. Our new dog, Oliver, just a year old, wants social interaction beginning as soon as the bedroom door opens in the morning. He wants to cuddle, lick, play; I have to remind him I am not a dog! Out on the sidewalk he urges me with a pull to cross the street and greet the dog or just a person walking by! Ollie has become a dear companion very quickly. He lay at my feet as I prepared these words.

Our Hebrew forbears understood their God to be a companion too. From the earliest days as a people, they experienced a divine power, but also a companion leading them out of Egypt. They felt God’s influence but also God’s presence alongside of them. They understood God to be transcendent, that which they could not see or touch, who answered Moses with a burning bush and the awesome words, I AM WHO I AM. But they understood God also as intervener and guide in their lives and history. God was both “wholly other” and a trusting shepherd, both mystery and companion.

As we continue our journey through Lent, we are not alone. This is the message of a group of psalms called songs of trust.

Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd;
Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Psalm 91: You who live in the shelter of the Most High;
Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills.

These psalms offer a profound sense of trust and reliance upon a companion God. Each one talks of a personal relationship, an I-Thou interaction between Creature and Creator.

This companion God was on my mother’s lips as she lay dying from a brain tumor. She was home, in her own bed with the aid of family and hospice when I arrived that last morning. It was March, 1987. My sister Cathy had on Mom’s tape of Mahalia Jackson singing spirituals, low volume. Then, Mom just started reciting Scripture. And what did she quote but the companion psalms! To my amazement, with all that damage in her head, she uttered most of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.” Then words from Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” And of course, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the King James Version of course! My mother felt the accompanying presence of God to her last breath.

Martin Luther called the Psalms “die kleine Bibel”, the little Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and martyr, wrote from his prison cell on May 15, 1943, “I am reading the Psalms daily, as I have done for years. I know them and love them more than any other book in the Bible.” And a little later in that letter he declares, “I don’t think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly.” That’s a concept worth pursuing some time…

And here at All Saints, while we read the 10 Commandments throughout Lent, we sing or read a psalm every Sunday throughout the entire year! In its wisdom the Church has placed the Psalms at the center of our worship because they address us in the depths of our needs. The Psalms have enabled Christians and Jews to live life, to face life, to cope with life, even with this miserable winter!

Let us turn now to the 23rd Psalm. The profound simplicity and matchless beauty of this gem has touched the hearts of countless people through centuries. Confirmation classes learn it by heart. Adults are sustained by it in the perplexities of life. It is a peaceful benediction on the lips of the dying.

This psalm offers a double image: shepherd and host. The shepherd is protector of the sheep, but also host to travelers who find safety in the shepherd’s tent from dangers and enemies of the desert. Among the Bedouin people in the Near East today this strong sense of hospitality still prevails. The shepherd is guide to the flock and a friendly host. In the eyes of the psalmist, the Lord God is such a shepherd and host.

From our high speed travel along the interstates today it is almost impossible to see sheep. But this Biblical image is so vivid, so much a part of our Christian narrative, that we cannot escape connections to the lost sheep or to Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We are humbled to see the almighty transcendent Creator God as a down-to-earth Shepherd, Guide, Savior, and Companion.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Nothing more is needed! That is hard to image in a commercialized world where we are constantly reminded of what we need, when a one-hour TV show gives us 14 ads telling us our desires! I am personally tired of Viagra ads. When I change the channel I get the very same ad on that channel! And just after you buy the latest high tech gizmo, you discover it is already outdistanced by a newer model with even more apps that you “must have.” Dare we admit that we don’t need more activities, more pills, more gadgets, more Facebook interactions, and more excitements of all kinds.

No, if God is our shepherd we can be content with our blessings; appreciative of our lives; secure in the palm of God’s hand; secure in lying down in green pastures and walking along a still brook and feeling renewed, restored in soul and being; supported in choosing the right path among the cross currents of daily choices and in doing justly in all relationships with self, lovers, neighbors and systems. Now that is a companion you cannot and would not unfriend!

To be sure there are threats to our lives: walking on icy sidewalks, driving our cars while skirting pot holes and avoiding texting drivers. Gun violence. Cancer. Escalating arguments. And a whole array of temptations. In the words of the psalm: “Walking through the darkest valleys.” But even there, especially there, God is with us. “I fear no evil; for though art with me.” Evil is present but with God as guide I don’t need to be frightened. Now that is a companion.

“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Many years ago I attended the memorial service for retired Methodist Bishop Paul Washburn. One of the things he most treasured about the office of Bishop was the shepherd’s staff that came with it. He proudly carried that staff in Ordination services. He understood himself as shepherd. The carpenter who made Paul’s first staff carried it in the funeral processional and placed it at the foot of the casket. I did not always agree with Bishop Paul, but I respected his office. He certainly received comfort from that staff.

Then we shift to the image of Host. “Thou preparest a table.” Once a traveler is received into a shepherd’s tent that guest is guaranteed immunity from the enemy, from any outside threat. This concept was revived in the 1980s sanctuary movement which sought to safeguard undocumented persons who had fled for their lives from Central America. Many of these same persons now fear deportation from the land where they live, raise children and pay taxes.

When we offer sanctuary we do it in the name of our Shepherd God in whose tent we find a gracious welcome, a hearty meal, and a protecting Host. Then the Host anoints the head of the traveler till the cup overflows.

Now a reversal takes place. No longer does an enemy or a demon or a temptation pursue me; it is goodness and mercy that chase me and follow me all the days of my life. Suddenly the tent becomes God’s temple: “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Now that is a companion whom we can trust!

Over the years, sitting with elderly people facing the sunset of life, I would ask, shall we read some Scripture? No passage has been chosen more that the 23rd Psalm. And usually people repeat the words by heart as they hear it read.

We may feel profoundly alone or sad, despairing or angry or confused, but our companion God is walking beside us, hand in hand. We may experience defeat, heartache, separation, hurt, illness, disappointment, or health, happiness, joy, reward. In all these situations and conditions God is present, God cares and intercedes and accompanies us through these dark valleys and bright mountain pastures.

One of my long time colleagues and seminary classmates, Fred Morris, served for several years as a missionary in Recife, Brazil, the diocese of the renowned Bishop Dom Helder Camara. Brazil was ruled by a brutal dictatorship determined to stop Dom Helder from meddling in politics, which for this priest was simply supporting God’s “preferential option for the poor,” in the words of the then liberation theology. Because Dom Helder was so popular, the regime chose to go after his colleagues. Fred was arrested, thrown into prison and tortured. Months later the US Ambassador finally secured Fred’s release and I invited Fred to come and preach for me at First Methodist Church, Evanston. Fred came and in his sermon confessed publicly that it was only repeating the words of Psalm 23 over and over and over again during torture that allowed him to endure the ordeal. That psalm and that God was his companion in the valley of the shadow.

In sum, when you feel the need for solace, quiet, guidance, and support turn to the God who is our companion and shepherd throughout life’s journey. This God is with us. This God loves us. This God will not unfriend us. Amen.

Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago
March 30, 2014

 

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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,

Bonnie

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 (mebcat@gmail.com)

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 website@allsaintschicago.org 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 care@allsaintschicago.org. 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

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.