All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

The Stuff of God

Alex DeMarco
August 7, 2016
Isaiah 1:1,10-20

I can imagine some of you might be wondering who I am and what I'm doing here. So I'll just take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Alex DeMarco. I've been a parishioner here since last December. I'm usually a 9:00er, but occasionally I'll come to 11am. My wife Jenna and I moved to Chicago last summer from Princeton, New Jersey, after I graduated from the M.Div program at Princeton Seminary. Last month I was facilitating the Pub Theology discussions we were having at O'Shaughnessy's, which was a lot of fun. And I'm very excited to be with you all, having the opportunity to preach this morning.

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Today I would like to talk about how we locate God. Where is God? That's our driving question.

It's an important question to ask, I think, because a lot of us (and I count myself in this group too) have a tendency to divide up our lives into two categories. We have our spiritual, or religious, life—where we deal with God, Jesus, mystery, transcendence, ultimate meaning, and all that fun ethereal sort of stuff. And then we have our worldly life—where we deal with more day-to-day things: like Netflix, political conventions, friends, family, neighbors, work, and play— the more concrete, tangible things.

For most of us, it's very natural to operate with this implicit distinction—between our spiritual, or religious, life on the one hand, and our worldly life on the other. I think we operate this way because we haven't quite figured out how to locate God.

And so we're asking this morning: where is God?

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We'll be taking some clues from the prophet Isaiah, and from Jesus himself—and I think we're going to find that we encounter God a lot more than we realize. And that perhaps there isn't such a clean distinction after all, between our spiritual life and our worldly life.

That was certainly the case for the people of Judah and Jerusalem in our reading from Isaiah. God was livid with these folks. God had had it with their formal worship—with their sacrifice and their Sabbath, because outside of that time, in their "worldly life" (so to speak) they served only themselves.

"Everyone loves a bribe," it says, "and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow's cause does not come before them."1 What the people didn't realize (or at least didn't acknowledge) was that their God had a claim on all of life.

This was not a God who could be served in the temple and just ignored in the wider world. God was there in the world too—and expected to be served in the world, too.

And where is God specifically? The almighty God and Creator of the universe is with the oppressed, the orphans, and the widows—with the humblest and most vulnerable members of the community. And by turning their back on these people, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem had effectively turned their backs on God as well. For Isaiah, there is no such thing as a clean distinction between spiritual or religious life, and life in the world.

And that brings us to Jesus.

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In John's gospel it says that the One through whom all things came into being became flesh and lived among us.2 That means that, somehow, in a particular, unassuming individual, born to a poor Jewish family in the first century, heaven and earth have, mysteriously but definitively, been brought together. This is what theologians call the incarnation.

The one writer who's probably had more influence on me than any other, both spiritually and intellectually, is the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer insisted that, "Whoever looks at Jesus Christ sees in fact God and the world in one. From then on they can no longer see God without the world, or the world without God."3 This is why Jesus tells his disciples that when they feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and clothe the naked, they are in fact feeding, welcoming, and clothing him.4

Practically speaking, the incarnation means that there are no merely worldly occurrences. God and the world have been brought together, so that there is now a divine dimension and significance to our every interaction and relationship.

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So, in answer to our question, where is God? On one level, we have to say that God is here! We don't serve some kind of remote, other-worldly deity. We encounter God right here in our worldly life.

As Bonhoeffer says: In Christ, we can no longer see God without the world, or the world without God.

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But this alone isn't enough. We need to consider the crucifixion as well. If the incarnation tells is that God is present in the world, the crucifixion tells us that God is present in a special way in and with the persecuted, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. If we want to locate God, this is where we have to look.

We have to look at the car with the broken taillight on the side of the road in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

We have to look at the desecrated night club in Orlando, the blood-stained promenade in Nice, and video footage of a police chase on the south side of Chicago. That's where we find the crucified God.

And yet, the God who has become one with the world, and who identifies with the suffering, is also the God of resurrection. And therein lies our hope—our hope that for ourselves, and for the world we inhabit, despite how things might sometimes appear, death will not have the last word.

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Now, with all this in mind—Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection—I want to talk a little bit about the results of our Congregational Assessment Survey. This might sound like an odd shift, but bear with me.

We scored so well in so many areas. Our scores in Morale, Readiness for Ministry, Governance, Conflict Management, Educational Engagement, and Hospitality were all off the charts!

But when it came to Spiritual Vitality, our score was abysmal! We were in the 2nd percentile!

This Spiritual Vitality index is designed to measure the extent to which we feel that our faith is central to our lives, and the extent to which we feel the presence of God in our lives. We love our church, we're committed to and enthusiastic about its ministries, but we often don't feel that we're connecting with God.

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I find this kind of ironic, frankly, because from what I've seen, this is a church full of folks who are very much connected to God. This church is full of folks who feed God every Tuesday night right here in this sanctuary and over in our parish hall, and who line up in the hot sun, year after year, to welcome God at the Chicago Pride Parade.

Perhaps it just hasn't sunk in for us yet.

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We encounter God all the time, because we serve a God who shows up in the world, an incarnate God, who has embraced creaturely being, human being, in all its ambiguity, frailty, connectedness, and dependence—embraced it as God's very own being.

Which means that there is now no such thing as a merely worldly occurrence, a merely human interaction. In Christ, the breaking up of our lives into spiritual and worldly is completely undermined.

The individuals and occurrences we encounter in the world, in all their beauty and brokenness, in all their pain and their potential—they are now the stuff of God.

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It takes the eyes of faith to see this, but it's important that we do learn to see it.

When we learn to see that the stuff of the world is the stuff of God, that God is here with us, present to us in suffering, and in the suffering of our broken world, promising resurrection, we'll not only begin to feel a stronger sense of connection to God, we also will be given the strength to persevere for the long haul—to continue the fight against the systems of oppression, and the forces of inequality and injustice that are too big for us to take on alone.

We will be relentless in our struggle, because when we can no longer see the world without God, we can no longer see the world without hope.

Amen.

 


1 NRSV, Isaiah 1:23

2 John 1:3, 14
3 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, DBWE, vol. 6 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortres Press, 2009), 82.
4 Matthew 25:40

 

 

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Dear Friends,

maryjaneI am so very sad to tell you that my Mom, MaryJane Fahey Perry, has died. I flew to Virginia last night to be with my Dad and siblings. I will fly back Saturday night and will be in church briefly, but mostly I am coming in to celebrate my spouse Susan's installation as Senior Pastor at People's Church this Sunday at 2:00pm. Please join me there if you are able.

All my best,
Bonnie

Friends, this Sunday, March 26, I will be away to attend the funeral of a close family friend, Andy Becker, who died in a plane crash last week at the age of 33. I am incredibly grateful to Carol Reese and Jeanne Wirpsa, who are stepping in to preside and preach, respectively, on short notice. I also am so grateful to Colin and the choir, who will be leading gorgeous music (like this song), and to Polly Tangora and others who will be making sure things run smoothly. The strength and faith and talent of this place run deep.

I am available by email and phone, and I'll return Sunday night.

We will send a note next week with information about services for MaryJane. In the mean time, I ask your prayers for Bonnie, her father Ray, and all of her family during this terribly difficult time.

Peace,
Emily

 

 

People's Church of Chicago, Sunday March 26, 2pm

susanhBonnie invites you to join her for the installation of her spouse, The Rev. Dr. Susan Harlow, as Senior Pastor of The People's Church of Chicago this Sunday at 2pm. A reception will follow.

People's Church is located at 941 W Lawrence. Parking is available at 850 W. Lawrence at the Chicago Lakeshore Hospital Doctor's Office building. Although not required to park, use of this "permit" would be appreciated, as it helps give organizers notice as to which cars are connected to Peoples Church.

For more details, see the Facebook event here.

 

The Communications Summit previously scheduled for this Saturday, March 25, at 9:00am has been postponed, due to Bonnie's and Emily's last-minute travel. It will be rescheduled for later this spring. Stay tuned.

 

Sunday, April 2 at 10am

asygEver played Human Rock, Paper, Scissors? Ever jammed in a drum circle? Ever had in-depth conversations with teenagers about how faith matters in the ups and downs of our lives? I'm guessing the answers are "No," "Not really," and "Not since I was a teenager." Well, this could be your chance to change all that.

All Saints Youth Group, or ASYG, is (literally) a growing ministry, and we are looking for additional help. On April 2 during Coffee Hour, we will meet in the Parish Hall to share what ASYG is all about and provide information about the many ways you can help support, from joining the leadership team to simply dropping off dinner... and maybe play Human Rock, Paper, Scissors...

 

Wednesdays, March 8 -- April 12, 7:00-7:30pm 
 
Evening Prayer with music and candlelight will be offered at the high altar on Wednesdays throughout Lent. 


Come, join us in taking time to pause and listen for God.

 

Wednesdays, March 8 -- April 12, 7:30-9:00pm 
 
For those new to the Christian faith or to the Episcopal Church, our 6-week Inquirer's Class, led by both Bonnie and Emily, is an exploration of adult spirituality by way of a "spirited" romp through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. 
 
This lively series offers space to question beliefs, imagine possibilities, learn about All Saints', and make new friends. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June. Contact Emily with any questions.

 

Beginning now and ongoing 
 
The All Saints' Listening Group offers ministry of presence to any member(s) of our church family facing an important decision. Perhaps you are at a crossroads in your career or you're deciding where to move or go to school. The Listening Group is happy to gather with you and provide a supportive, nonjudgmental space in which you can think through your questions more deeply.
 
Gatherings typically run for a couple of hours and are scheduled as needed. If you're interested in meeting with the Listening Group, or if you're looking to serve on the ministry, please contact Jess Howsam Scholl at jessicahowsam@gmail.com.

 

Sunday mornings at 10:15 beginning March 19
 
The Screwtape Letters by the Christian apologist C. S Lewis never grow old precisely because they are about me, you, and the world we inhabit. In a series of letters, Screwtape guides the young demon - his nephew Wormwood -- through the finer points of temptation, the weaknesses and foibles of human beings, and the disaster of his patient becoming a Christian.
 
On Sundays March 19, 26 and April 2, Jim Nixon will lead a discussion of these very human letters from 10:15 to 11:15 AM in the Reading Room.
 
So get the book (easily available on Amazon or local booksellers), grab a cup of coffee and join us in a reading and discussion of this perennial classic. 
 
Any questions? Contact Jim via email or 678.910.4923.

 

Individual Actions Towards Racial Equality

Volunteer Opportunities, Events, and Recommendations

(re)imagining: Racial Justice Summit Sponsored by YWCA Evanston/North Shore:


Thursday, April 6 from 6 - 8 pm
Friday, April 7 from 9 am - 4 pm
 
Unitarian Church of Evanston
1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL
 
Goal: "To bring people of all ages and demographics together to deepen their understanding of their own racial identities, develop skills to work for change, formulate action plans and engage with others."

For Information and Registration, click here

"The Scottsboro Boys" at Porchlight Theater through March 12th
 
A musical production that is getting rave reviews, "nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and presented in the style of the notorious "minstrel show", this true-life story of nine African American teenagers accused and put on trial in Memphis for a crime they did not commit is one America's most notorious episodes of injustice; inaugurating a wave of social changes leading up to the modern Civil Rights Movement."

For information and ticket prices, click here

Suggested reading, non-fiction: 
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, January, 2017

This book has been described as "...a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted."

 
Recommended as a "companion piece to the film rather than a stand-alone book." One reviewer recommended "seeing the film first, and then using the book for meditation and revisiting afterward."

Volunteer opportunity: GROWING HOME "We have a vision of a world of healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well." Since 2002, Growing Home has trained and employed and, most importantly, given a second chance to people with employment barriers. You may be familiar with their Wood Street farm in Englewood. Their farms are the first and only USDA-certified organic high-production urban farms in Chicago, and because they strive to also feed their community well, all their produce is grown, harvested, cleaned, and sold within a 20-mile radius. Read more at http://growinghomeinc.org

Volunteer opportunity: Non-profit Reading In Motion has successfully refined its mission over its 30+ years to help give kindergarten and first grade students foundational reading skills they need to start on a path for lifetime learning. They partner with public school teachers and have been extremely successful in making a difference in children's lives. Click here for more info.

 

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

The Ravenswood Run website is officially open! 

Register now at their website here.

The race times (subject to change) will be 5k - 8:00 AM
Kid's Race - 9:00 AM.

Save the Date! May 12threalityf

The 11th annual Reality Fair will be held Friday morning at Ravenswood Elementary School. Please mark your calendars now, and we'll send more information and sign up instructions later. This is an incredible event which truly affects our children's lives.

If you have any questions, please contact Jen Simokaitis or Helen Poot.

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!

 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!

 

Jeff Lee
Dear Polly and All Saint's Kids,
 
I am writing to you from a meeting of the board of Episcopal Relief & Development in Bogota, Columbia. We are meeting here to visit some of our partner ministries with people in need. I have seen the amazing results of this year's bake sale (in fact, I'm looking at photos of some of the cakes - wow!), and you have reminded me that we don't have to travel to Columbia or South Sudan to make a huge impact for the good of God's people.
 
I am so proud and grateful for you and the work you do. You guys are heroes. Our friends in South Sudan will be blessed by your effort.
 
In Christ,
 
Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago

Sundays at 10am

The phrase Imago Dei means the Image of God. Specifically, the image of God as it is found in humanity. The image of God in us - it is what makes us spiritual people - valued as whole and complete. What does it mean to creatively live as whole people? How do we live in relationship with others - respecting and sharing one another's security and one another's discomfort?

Join us on Sunday mornings between services as we figure out together how to help one another take practical responsibility for living in this world - especially as racial and spiritual beings.

True - our time will be uncomfortable because it will mean talking about race, violence, personal helplessness, and personal failure. Also true - this will be comforting and supportive because it will mean getting to be honest, practicing together, and caring for one another.

Every week we will ask one another "What have you done in these past 7 days with who you are and within your sphere of influence when it comes to the realities of race?" the answers will be different for each person and it won't be a competition. We will be lifting up the everyday choices we make and don't make. Sometimes we will like what happens and sometimes we won't.

And - we will be doing it together.

The Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants served by the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society were deeply moved by the notes of welcome from All Saints. We shared them at our community lunch on Thursday, and now they will hang in our conference room to remind people of your warm welcome in the days to come. Thanks!

Peace,
Laura Youngberg

breadbakersSignup online to bake for a month

Calling all bakers! If you love the smell of fresh-baked bread filling your kitchen, please consider signing up to bake communion bread for our services. This involves a one-month commitment that you'll share with another baker, and you can do all your baking at once and add to the reserves in our freezer.

Signing up is easy, just click here for our page on Signup Genius and reserve your favorite month.

Contact Jennifer Simokaitis, or Anne Ellis if you have any questions.

Yard Signs Available 

Grow Community has created yard signs for anyone who would like to display support for our local public high schools. Signs and sign holders are available in the Reading Room.

 
 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

tinaParishioner, Tina Tchen, accepts Bishop Maryann Budde's invitation to preach at the National Cathedral Sunday, May 8. Click here to see the video.

 

Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

1883 Construction web 

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.
 
 

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.

 

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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.