All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

On The Move

Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints' Episcopal Church,
Chicago June 28, 2015
• 5th Sunday after Pentecost • Proper 8B
Mark 5:21-43

In the name of the living God,
whose love is breaking every barrier down. Amen.

As a friend of mine said yesterday, "This week has been a better week for God."

Last week was very stormy, in the wake of the massacre in Charleston. This week I've been so glad to see some justice trickling down – as in Amos' prophecy, "justice rolling down like a river, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (5:24).

If last week the weights of racism and violence felt particularly acute, particularly unbearable, this week I'm so glad that there's been some joy, some hope, to buoy us up.

Last week's Gospel took place on the water; Jesus and his disciples were all in a boat, and a storm came upon them. Today's Gospel takes place on land; they have just "crossed again to the other side".

Last Sunday's Gospel was about a storm and we were in one. Today's begins on a shore and we have just arrived on one: the long-awaited shore of marriage equality in this country.

But notice in this Gospel that Jesus does not stay on the shore. He is on the move. He is on the move toward others who need healing, he is on the move toward others who demand recognition of their inherent wholeness, he is on the move toward others who are demanding salvation.

It is a gutsy thing to demand salvation. In this Gospel we meet two people who do so. First is a man, a leader in the synagogue. His name is Jairus. Amid the big crowd of people gathering around Jesus, he comes right up to Jesus; he's in his face, falling at his feet, and asking for healing for his daughter. Jesus agrees, and they start heading toward Jairus' house.

On the way, another person demands salvation: a woman, who remains nameless in this story. She doesn't approach Jesus face to face, but sneaks up behind him. She's one of my favorite characters in the Bible, because I've always been intrigued at why she does this.

In part, it's because she knows she shouldn't even be out in public. In the social and religious milieu of that time, to have a bleeding disorder as she did, or a skin disease (like leprosy), or to have recently touched a dead body meant that you were ritually "unclean". To be unclean meant that you could not touch others and they could not touch you.

It is interesting to me that in today's Gospel, Jesus touches and heals this woman who is bleeding and the girl who has died – and a few chapters earlier he has touched and healed a man with leprosy, thus systematically breaking down these barriers.

This woman has had these hemorrhages for twelve years, but we're probably meant to think that it's been even longer than that. In the Bible, twelve is a number that symbolizes fullness, completion. For example, there were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve disciples. She has been ill for twelve years, and Jairus' daughter has been alive for those same twelve years. These numbers are not coincidental.

We're meant to understand that for altogether too long, she's been excluded. She's been on the margins. On the outside looking in. It's been forever since she even felt human touch.

But she's heard about Jesus; this man about whom people say, "When you're with him, it's like you're with God"; this man who can heal. She knows it'd be against the rules for him to touch her, but she also knows she cannot wait any longer. She can't continue like this for another day.

So she crouches behind him and reaches for the hem of his coat thinking, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be healed." She has guts.

She was in South Carolina yesterday. She climbed a pole outside of the statehouse and took down the Confederate flag with her own hands. She knew it was against the law, too, but she did it anyway, because she "couldn't wait any longer". She "couldn't continue like that another day."

She, the activist Bree Newsome, said, "It's time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building true racial justice and equality."

She was arrested for defacing public property and she knew she would be, but did you notice that while she climbed up the pole and while she climbed down, and even when she was led away in handcuffs, she was praying. She was reciting psalms of trust in God in the face of fear and opposition. "The Lord is my light and my salvation," she said, "Whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1) "Even though I walk through the valley of death," she said, "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

I believe that yesterday in South Carolina, as well as in our ancient Gospel story, she heard Jesus say, "Daughter, go in peace. Your faith has made you well."

For a long time, I thought that faith was something of the mind. Something with which I either agreed or disagreed, either embraced or dismissed with my mind. So if that is faith, then what does it have to do with being "made well"?

So we're getting to know each other, right? One thing you should know about me is that I love to play with languages. It is fun for me to read not just the English Bible but to dig into the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures, too, to pursue mysteries just like this.

I realized that the Greek word for "made well" (it's called sodzo, isn't that a cool word?) means more than to "be healthy" or to "be free of disease". It means these things, but it has more layers of meaning, too.

It also means "whole", it means "safe from harm", it means "free".

It also means "saved".

"Saved". I know, I know, that's a churchy word. I don't usually like churchy words, and I certainly know that Episcopalians don't say things like "saved" – but actually, we're all about it.

Because biblically speaking – even if you just look at the Greek word for "saved" / "made well" or its Hebrew counterpart – you see that salvation in the Bible is never just an individual condition.

It's not just about you being saved and me not being saved, or whatever. It's about us being saved with each other, all of us being saved together. Salvation doesn't mean much if it's accessible to only a few. Or as our President put it so well the other day, "Our Christian about more than just our individual salvation; it's about our collective salvation."

We know this at All Saints', yes? We know that it is a good and joyful thing to gather around and feast at this table today, but how much more is it to gather in this space again on Tuesdays to feed and talk with our neighbors. It is a good and joyful thing to love Jesus, but how much more is it to, in the words of Bree Newsome, be "sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building true justice and equality." It is a great and joyful thing to celebrate the fantastic shore we're on – that of marriage equality in this country – but how much more is it to continue to pray and work for marriage equality in our church and for freedom from discrimination for all people. We celebrate well our shore today, knowing that there also are many other shores to reach.

Jesus is on our shore but he is on the move. Can you feel the momentum? As we move, too, I wonder: What is standing between you and the freedom you need? To whom are you reaching out, even just for the hem of their clothing – yet perhaps it seems just out of your reach? Who is coming up to you, in your face, begging you to recognize their wholeness? And who, in the large crowd of our lives, our city, our world, is coming up behind you – out of sight, perhaps out of mind – but nevertheless yearning for connection?

Let us follow Jesus in loving the unlovable, touching the untouchable, seeing the invisible, daring the unthinkable, and breaking every barrier down.


  1. This Week
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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.