All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Fragments of Necessity

January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

In Germany in 1937, a few years into the Nazi regime, a pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. The premise is that "cheap grace" says, "I've been saved, so it doesn't matter what I do." "I'm a Christian, so I can do whatever I want." It is lazy, it is self-centered, and it is false.

But "costly grace", Bonhoeffer says—real grace, the grace that saves our lives—bids us "stay woke" to the pain around us and within us. It is unflinching. And it is humble, because it reminds us always of our common humanity, our sister- and brotherhood as children of God. Where there is no peace, it says, "fight for it." Where there is no justice, it says, "fight like hell for it!"

I've been thinking a lot about Bonhoeffer this week. He's been speaking to me, maybe speaking to all of us. The book, The Cost of Discipleship, is as a whole a reflection on the Sermon on the Mount, the very beginning of which we just heard in Matthew. What especially stood out to me this week was his reflection on the beatitude, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Bonhoeffer writes, "By 'mourning', Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity. He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards. Such [people] mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate, and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings, 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,' they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power, and of the future, but the disciples meditate on...the coming of the kingdom...And so the disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guests and disturbers of the peace."1

Would that we all were—would that we all realized we are—"unwelcome guests". And what a high calling indeed, don't you think, to be strangers together, and disturbers of the peace. Can't you hear Jesus saying today, "Blessed are the unwanted, the banned, the forbidden, for they will be welcomed with open arms."

Bonhoeffer also points out that Martin Luther, his hero, translated the Greek word for "mourning" as "sorrow-bearing", with "the emphasis...on the bearing of sorrow. The disciples, he says, "do not shake off sorrow as though it is no concern of their own, but willingly bear it. And in this way they show how close are the bonds which bind them to the rest of humanity. At the same time, they do not go out of their way to look for suffering or...[adopt] an attitude of contempt and disdain. They simply bear the suffering which comes their way as they try to follow Jesus Christ, and bear it for his sake."

Here is where I feel Bonhoeffer is really preaching to us, today: "Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross. They stand as bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the Crucified: they stand as strangers in the world in the power of him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified him. This is their comfort, or better still, this One is their comfort."2

Indeed, the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...for God chose what is "foolish" in the world to shame the "wise"; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus...as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in God."3

Bonhoeffer could have boasted. He involved himself heavily in the resistance to Hitler. Even when he was in prison, he continued to teach and write and pray with his fellow inmates. Ultimately, he was executed by special officers at the Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, just a few days before it was liberated by the Allies. Today he is still remembered as a teacher and author and martyr of the church, whose writings continue to give life.

So it is interesting to me that one of his biographers noted that Bonhoeffer often asked himself about the deeper meaning of his life, which seemed to him so disconnected and confused. A few months before his death, when coming events case their shadows before, he wrote in prison: 'It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments that are only good to be thrown away, and others that are important for centuries to come because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment...we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, rejoice in it."4

So how might we rejoice and be glad, as Jesus asks of us today. How, when this week—this month—gives us so many reasons to mourn. How, in the face of all of this, can any one of us make a difference? It seems like any one of us can't even hold a candle to it all.

I wonder if to the extent that we are hungry and thirsty for justice, to the extent that we are pure and humble in heart, to the extent that we show mercy and seek peace, we might be "fragments of necessity". Fragments, yes. But necessary, yes.

I see it in you. I see it in you every day.
I see it in you who rushed over the morning after the election to donate feminine hygiene products to our pantry, because you thought that women, especially the most vulnerable among us, might need a little extra help in these days.
I see it in you who, while grieving a loved one's death, decided to cook some of their own favorite recipes for hundreds of our neighbors and volunteers.
I see it in you who went to the protest at O'Hare last night and last weekend.
I see it in you who are giving of yourselves financially and personally to this place and other places that are seeking to do good.
In you who know that the time to care for the unwelcome—by which I mean every one of us—is right now.
In you who know that time to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God is right now.

 


1 The Cost of Discipleship, translated from the German Nachfolge first published in 1937 by Chr. Kaiser München, R. H. Fuller. Copyright 1959 by SCM Press Ltd. Touchstone Edition, 1995, page 108.

2 Cost, 108-109

3 1 Corinthians 1:18, 27-31

4 Cost, 32-33

 

 

  1. This Week
  2. Services Times
  3. Contact Us
  4. Sermons
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,
    Bonnie

     

    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

    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.