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.

---

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?

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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

 

 

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

Dear Friends,

As wildfires in California continue to burn and Illinois Republicans of Lake County hold a fundraiser where an assault rifle and an assortment of other guns will be raffled, we might begin to find ourselves losing hope. Yet as people of faith we are called to not let ourselves be carried from the shore by a rip of despair. We are called to hope and to action and to prayer, perhaps in that order and perhaps in another. Action, hope, and prayer. Prayer, hope, and action.
 
And yes, we are also called to create space for rest and for sorrow. I am unclear how any one of us can read the newspapers, listen to the radio, immerse ourselves on our Facebook and Twitter feeds and not be filled with grief and sorrow.
 
So on Sunday, come join me as we create space for sadness and grief while simultaneously praying for change and acting in hope. I’ll be preaching, Emily will be celebrating, and Colin and our choir will be creating music that offers balm for our souls. 
 
In the midst of all that is going on in the world, our slice of the global community experienced a dear loss in the death of Jeanne Marie Uzdawinis. Jeanne, her husband John Boesche, and their daughter Maddy have been longtime friends of All Saints’, always supporting our ministries. Jeanne was a co-owner and co-founder of Cafe Selmarie, one of Lincoln Square’s and Ravenswood’s best restaurants. Here's an obituary that appeared in the Sun-Times on Tuesday. Services for Jeanne will be held at All Saints’ on Saturday, October 28 at 5:00 pm. I am honored and so so very sad to be officiating at Jeanne’s memorial service. I miss her so very much. 
 
And through it all, we continue on as a people of hope, action, and prayer.
 
Enjoy the weather. We’ve got that in our favor.
 
All my best,
Bonnie
 
Stop by the church tomorrow or Sunday-we’ll be welcoming hundreds of visitors as once again we will be a part of Open House Chicago.

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. 

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)

Gardening at 10am

churchschool2010

For the rest of June and July - although Sunday school classes do not meet at 10 during the summer - Atrium I will continue to be open during the 9 o'clock service until the end of July. Atrium I children who attend the 11 o'clock service will be welcome in the nursery during the service.

At 10 o'clock children are encouraged to come help water, weed and harvest vegetables from the garden we're planting to support the Ravenswood Community Services kitchen and food pantry

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!

 

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.

 

 


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.