All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Restoring a sense of humility in our day 

When Emily asked if I could preach today I did not realize that I had already begun preparing for this homily – until I read the Gospel for the day! For my birthday earlier this summer Peg gave me New York Times columnist, David Brooks’, latest book, The Road to Character, which zeros in on the lesson of today’s parable, humility, with its familiar aphorism: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

With its seeds in Greek, Roman, and oriental cultures as well as the Hebrew community where Jesus picked it up, this traditional virtue, humility, seems to have disappeared from the landscape of our lives today. It appears to have been replaced by ‘trust yourself’ and ‘you are special’ messages, ‘winning at all costs’ mentality, and now the selfie generation.

David Brooks tells about his sudden awareness of this shift. One day, while driving home he was listening to a program called Command Performance on NPR. The episode being broadcast was the day after VJ Day, August 15, 1945. The program featured Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Bette Davis and other celebrities. What struck David was that here in the midst of one of the greatest military victories in human history, the tone was subdued in this broadcast, no chest thumping, but more self-effacement and humility. Rise Stevens sang Ave Maria and the host, Bing Crosby, came on to say, “Today, though, our deep-down feeling is one of humility.” Sure there was confetti and kissing in Times Square. But there was a real mixture of joy and solemnity. David sat in his driveway listening to the end of the program, mesmerized.

When he went inside he turned on a football game. I quote: “A quarterback threw a short pass to a wide-receiver, who was tackled almost immediately for a two-yard gain. The defensive player did what all professional athletes do these days in moments of personal achievement. He did a self-puffing victory dance, as the camera lingered. It occurred to me,” David continues, “that I had just watched more self-celebration after a two-yard gain than I heard after the United States won World War II.”

What on earth has happened? David did some research and found a study in which psychologists asked 10,000 adolescents this question in the late 1940s and again in 1989: Do you consider yourself a very important person? In the early study 12% said yes. Forty years later, the answer of another 10,000 adolescents was yes, 80% of boys, and 77% of girls. Or take the subject of fame. A 1976 study showed fame ranking very low as a life’s ambition, 15 out of 16 items. By 2007 51% of young people reported that being famous was one of their top goals.

Then David looked at some Girl Scout handbooks and found an earlier copy which preached an ethic of self-sacrifice. A more recent copy tells girls to pay more attention to themselves: “Put yourself in the center stage of your thoughts to gain perspective on your own ways of feeling, thinking and acting.”


Now a confession: Humility is not my strong suit. My own ego has always been a challenge. My parent’s pride, especially in my academic achievements and scholarships, did not help. My place in the family, coming after a developmentally disabled older sister did not help, nor that I was the first son in a traditional German American home. All these things and a confident and loquacious personality conspired to challenge me.

I remember clearly latching on to a verse from the Psalms in my Sunday School days, which was of some help: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord….”

Years later after being elected to the General Conference of The United Methodist Church and being nominated for bishop in a delegation meeting, the old ambition demons were set loose. A near heart attack and open heart bypass surgery came to my aid that time. And some clear limits initiated by my dear wife! Humility is still not my strong suit.


In today’s parable Jesus was at the home of a leader of the Pharisees as other guests arrived for the dinner. He noticed how people acted, especially how they managed to place themselves at or near the head table. Here was a perfect teachable moment and Jesus did not hesitate. He immediately launched into a story about a wedding banquet and how to seat oneself at the tables, concluding with the well-known injunction : “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” It was a barely camouflaged analogy to what he was seeing among the guests.

That is not the end, however. Jesus then turns to the host and virtually instructs him that for his next dinner banquet he should not invite his friends, relatives and rich neighbors – some of the very people who are right there listening to Jesus – but rather invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. He tells the Pharisee host, if you do this you will be blessed. And that is still not enough. When a dinner guest blurts out, “Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God”, Jesus tells another parable, an even more elaborate story of a great dinner. You can read that after your lunch. Luke 14:verse 15 and following.

Jesus did not just talk about humility either. This attitude was central to who he was. He also ate with tax collectors and sinners. He talked with women of the streets. He touched lepers. He identified with the poor. Jesus’ humility culminates in the humiliation and suffering of the Crucifixion, as Paul testifies in his letter to the Philippians:

Have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name….

“He humbled himself.” How on earth do we humble ourselves in this selfie culture?

Let’s begin with some models of humility. One thinks of the desert monks, or Albert Schweitzer who humbled himself before the smallest creatures and critters on earth, or Mother Theresa, soon to be named a saint, who served among “the poorest of the poor,” or some of the greatest artists such as Michelangelo who always created an intentional flaw in each work of art to acknowledge their humility before the Creator God.

Or General George Marshall, at President Roosevelt’s side throughout the war, and then Secretary of State and author of the Marshall Plan. This account is in David’s book. As Marshall lay dying, age 79, messages came from all over the world, from General Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, Mao se-tung, Joseph Stalin, Marshall Tito. Visiting at his bedside were former President Harry Truman and even 84 year old Winston Churchill, from England. Marshall was a towering figure of the day. Take a listen to his funeral plans: “Bury me simply, like any ordinary officer of the U.S. Army who has served his country honorably. No fuss. No elaborate ceremonials. Keep the service short, confine the guest list to the family. And above all, do it quietly.”

My most memorable lesson in humility occurred when I entered a chartered airplane at O’Hare Airport for the flight to Atlanta and Dr. King’s funeral in April, 1968. The plane was overbooked and I was asked to leave. My traveling mate, Jim Barnes, Lay Leader at the church I was serving on Chicago’s south side, who already had a seat, stood up, and insisted to the stewardess that I, his pastor, be allowed to take his place, and with that he immediately left the airplane. I’ve never been so humbled as on that sad day.

Humility is truly a gift of grace. It is an ability to say, “I’ve screwed up” “I’ve sinned” “I need help.” It is self-awareness of our humanity, of our limitations, of our interdependence with others and with all creation. Humility is an attitude of openness, vulnerability, surrender, of outstretched arms ready both to receive and to give. Humility is recognition that each of us is a stumbler, to borrow a word from David Brooks, but as we grow, as we unite with God as companion, we stumble less. Humility helps remind us that we are not the center of the universe, we are not superior to anyone else. True humility allows no room for racist, sexist, homophobic or nationalistic attitudes or any other bigotry.

But today, sadly, humility is portrayed as weakness, and it is clearly ridiculed by certain candidates in the current election campaign. On the contrary, humility has within it a deep spiritual strength, an uncommon acceptance of life. I recall so vividly that day, 50 years ago August 5th, in Marquette Park on the South Side, when we were marching with Dr. King for fair housing and an open city. To be surrounded by hundreds of angry local residents lobbing missiles of hatred at us over the heads of a line of Chicago police officers, missiles in the form of jeers and bottles and bricks, this was a humbling experience. It was, in a sense, the way of the cross, to be totally non-violent, at least trying to be, accepting of the hostility, expressing love in the face of hate. Some of you might recall feeling a similar, if less intense, humility in the midst our diocesan-led Crosswalk against violence here in Chicago a few years ago. Are there persons here who were on that Crosswalk?

Humility is an attitude of openness to God. In the words of an old hymn, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior, hear my humble cry; while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.” Humbling ourselves asks God to accompany us in life’s journey, to embrace us, to share our joys and sorrows and angers. As the Apostle Peter writes to the elders, that’s you, Emily, and me: “Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.” And Paul, to all of us: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience….. And above all clothe yourselves with love.”

When we open our hearts humbly to ourselves, to others and to God we are preparing the way for a life of joy, reverence, interdependence, and true non-violence, the way of peace and Shalom. So, I dare you all, myself included, “wrap yourself in humility.” If this is a message you can affirm, join me in saying “Amen.”

Rev. Martin Deppe
All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago
August 28, 2016


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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.