All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Genesis 22: 1-14

Seriously: This is Holy writ?

June 30, 2014
Bonnie A. Perry


Good Morning.

"God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!"
Abraham answered, "I'm here."
God said, "Take your son, you only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him up as an entirely burned there on one of the mountains that I will show you..."

Seriously, this is Holy Writ?

We had a choice as to which scripture lessons we could read this morning and at first I asked Andrew throw out this one out and instead to use the other option from the prophet Jeremiah. Then, after listening to Beau preach last week so beautifully on Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael, I was inspired and impulsively decided that we should wrestle with this wretched piece of scripture. I thought it would be good for us.

I was wrong.

And incidentally, so was Abraham. And, depending on how far we trace it, so was God.

Let's start with Abraham. IF, IF—God did pose this question to Abraham, this task, this test of killing your son to show you love me I will join with one or two of the "midrashes" written on this text and say, Abraham flunked this test. "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and make of him a sacrifice...." The answer, the proper answer, the only answer is, "No." "No, I will not."

In my world, Abraham says, "No. No, I will not."

Not because I do not fear you, not because I am not faithful, not because I am afraid that the stars will continue to shine, but have nothing to do with my non-existent descendants. No Abraham says no because, adults do not threaten children, adults do not harm children, adults do not use children to make a point and people---people do not (should not) kill other people.

"Will you do this for me?" No I will not do it for you, or for anyone. Period." If that is the test, then that is the answer.

In the book, After the Midrash, the authors write, "A God who asks man [sic] what this text appears to ask is not the true God, but one whom man [sic] fashions in his [sic] own image. Man often believes that God wants him to sacrifice his children to an imagined who all too frequently is prepared to immolate his offspring to satisfy his own concept of duty and who will restrain his compassion before his own sense of righteousness."

From my perspective our country's apparent elevation of the Second Amendment over the lives of our children strikes me as this mistaken theology writ large.

Faithful people, moral people, people with a pulse are not called to sacrifice children for principles. Ever. The answer is, "No."

Given my reading of this text, you might ask, "Is there anything in the text to back this up, or am I just cherry-picking the bits and pieces I want and laying aside the rest?"

Let's look at the text. Up to this point in the story God and Abraham have been having regular conversations. God asks Abraham to leave his homeland. God tells Abraham he will be blessed. When God wants to destroy a city for their extreme lack of hospitality, Abraham bargains and argues with God. Saying such things as, "Will you destroy the city if there are 40 faithful people?"
"What about 30? Will you destroy the city even if there are 30 faithful people?"
"What about 20?" And so on.
Back and forth with God, bargaining and pushing back for strangers.

But then--- after this test, after Abraham mutely does what he believes God is asking, Abraham who has spent a fair amount of time chatting up the Lord, after Abraham silently acquiesces to sacrificing his son—after the Angel of the Lord stops him from doing an unspeakable deed, never again in scripture does God speak to Abraham.

Sarah—his wife—in the text the very next chapter after this insane event in Moriah—Sarah dies. Midrash says, she dies of a broken heart. She cannot believe that Abraham would even think of doing such a thing.

And Isaac, his son, the one whom he loves, no recorded conversation between Abraham and Isaac ever takes place. In fact we never see them together again. In fact, Isaac becomes the most passive of all the patriarchs. He doesn't go and find his own wife, Abraham sends a servant to do the choosing. The next time he actually speaks and is anything more than a recipient of activities, he is old, frail, blind and being duped by his wife and youngest son into giving his blessing to the wrong child.

Isaac, has not recovered. Isaac has not moved on. Isaac is scarred for life.

Abraham failed the test.

And let's be clear, some tests should never be made, some tests should never be taken, some tests should not exist at all. If God did do this thing, if the Holy of Holies did ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, then shame on God.

Shame on me for granting these words Holy status.

Instead, I believe this test did not take place, this exam did not happen.

This is one of several reasons why, though I believe scripture to be written for our learning and inspired by God, I do not believe in its inerrancy. Scripture was written by flawed, frail human beings, scripture is read by flawed, frail people like me.
The people who composed the bible and we who read it all have a perspective and we usually read scripture to confirm our previously held beliefs.

To paraphrase, African Biblical Theologian Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, "Rarely do we read the bible to be afflicted or to change our minds. Instead we read the bible to comfort us, to support our previously held beliefs."

At some point in time, an author of this text, had a reason for wanting to portray Abraham as a person of unfailing faith and unquestioning loyalty to God. And this story came to be.

And you and I, as flawed and frail as we may be, you and I as faithful people need to call this scripture what it is: unholy and inhumane. Faithful people, question and wrestle, we are made in God's image and likeness so we use our minds and our hearts to, as best we can, to offer God's hope for our world: even if it means wrestling, prodding and questioning tradition.

Abraham failed the test. And so did the ones who wrote about it.



  1. This Week
  2. Services Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons
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.