All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

threadThreads of Hope

December 4, 2016
Isaiah 11:1-10Romans 15:4-13
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

As I’ve been reading this passage from Isaiah this week, I keep thinking, “Is this for real?” “Is this seriously true?” And the timing! I mean, come on, Isaiah!

These words about a new leader who would be defined by wisdom and understanding and a knowledge and fear of God, who would not govern at the whim of his senses and any distractions, but above all, no matter what, take care of the most vulnerable among us? Come on, Isaiah!

An image of the wolf and the lamb coexisting and not hurting each other, when racial tensions run rampant in ways that I have not seen before? Rub it in, Isaiah.

A child playing near the snake’s hole, when easy access to guns threatens all of our safety, especially our children? Come on, Isaiah.

The calf and the lion dwelling together, when Native peoples and allies have freezing water pelted at them in cannons while protecting as basic a human need as clean water?! Rub it in, Isaiah.

Is this scripture seriously out of date?

Well, actually, Isaiah lived and worked in tremendous political turmoil. He lived in and near Jerusalem in the eighth century BC, and at that time the Assyrians occupied a large empire to the east and north, and they wanted Jerusalem and the surrounding land of Judah, too. They were also after other small nations on their way toward Judah: Samaria, Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom. These small nations formed a coalition against their common foe, and wanted Judah to join them. But the king of Judah, named Ahaz, decided not to, probably thinking that the Assyrians would never make it that far.

But as the Assyrians conquered Samaria and Ephraim and the Northern Kingdom, King Ahaz became terrified for his country, and he threw a most unexpected Hail Mary. He asked the Assyrian king to spare Judah, for the sake of protecting Jerusalem, and leveraging the fact that he had never joined the coalition against Assyria.

The prophet Isaiah, who had the ear of King Ahaz, was furious at this move and deeply grieved, for he sensed that it would lead to even more violence. It would be the end of Jerusalem—the end of the house of David, the end of the world as they knew it. The family tree of Jesse, David’s father, would be cut down to a stump.

And it is in this context that Isaiah stares bravely into his grief and says, “By the grace of God, this ain’t over yet. A new branch will grow, mysteriously and surprisingly, on that old stump. A child will be born in the house of David and his rule will bring peace unlike anything anyone had ever seen.” With this, his listeners were able, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”.1

Hope. They must at first have laughed numbly at Isaiah for suggesting such preposterous folly. They clearly were doomed to be taken over by the Assyrians like greedy wolves and vicious lions. But hope, in the words of liberation theologian Rubem Alves, is “the suspicion that…the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the present, and that miraculously and surprisingly, life is readying the creative event that will open the way to freedom and resurrection”.2

Hope, Isaiah says, is what we do—even when the facts and our rightful fears tell us otherwise.

Hope is not an empty word, to which we resort when we’re out of words. It is not for a Hallmark card. Hope is scrappy; hope is brave.

In Hebrew the word “hope”, tiqvah, originally meant rope or cord, suggesting that hope is the tension of a rope being pulled beyond what it thinks it can hold, a rope being pulled between bad and worse. To hope, sometimes, is literally to hang by a thread.

But the good news is that with your thread, and your thread, and your thread, and mine, we can weave ourselves together, stronger than ever before.

As we call out the injustice and falsehood all around us—as we act—we become sacraments of hope, outward and visible signs of the hope that is in us.

Another preacher once said, “Every human act, every Christian act, is an act of hope. But that means you must be men and women of the present, you must live this moment—really live it, not just endure it—because this very moment, for all its imperfection and frustration, because of its imperfection and frustration, is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities, is pregnant with the future, is pregnant with love, is pregnant with Christ”.3

We may bemoan, in the words of Madeleine L’Engle that grace our bulletin, that this really “is no time for a child to be born, with the earth betrayed by war and hate”4 but the 8th century Jerusalem under threat of destruction by Assyria was also no time for a child to be born, and neither was it eight centuries later under occupation by Rome when Emperor Augustus decreed that all people be registered in their hometowns and a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.5

My friends, today may we believe that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant us to live in harmony with one another….and may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.”6



1 “I Have a Dream” Address, delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963:
2 From Passion of Christ, Passion of the World by Leonardo Boff. Quoted in An Advent Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, p. 84.
3 Walter J. Burghardt, Sir, We Would Like to See Jesus, 1982. Quoted in An Advent Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, p. 81.
4 “The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973”, in The Ordering of Love: New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle, 2005, p. 155.
5 From Luke 2:1-4
6 Romans 15:4-5, 13




  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.