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.



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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,


    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


    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.