All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

A Recipe for Weary Souls

M. Jeanne Wirpsa

February 5, 2017
All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13)

I don’t know about the rest of you but I have absolutely no idea what salt tastes like when it has lost its flavor. Maybe during Mathew’s days they had different techniques for mining and storing salt that led to this depletion of taste. The salt I buy – be it Morton Salt or Kosher salt – always seems to fill its function just fine. Since I don’t really “get” the salt metaphor, humor me while I offer another one from the culinary world that hopefully will invite us to think about the question on my mind today – How do we sustain ourselves for the work of justice and mercy to which we are called? How do we find the staying power we need for the long road ahead?

I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of more than a little sustenance right now. On a personal level, I’m wrestling with some old demons from my past. I did not get the promotion at work I wanted. The darkness of winter combined with the darkness of our political system threatens to rob me of energy and light. I’m tempted to give in to the feelings of demoralization and weariness.

And yet, I know I don’t have that luxury. The vulnerable, the unwanted, the stranger don’t have the luxury of laying down their load, so neither can I. Neither can we. Now is NOT the time to hide under the covers or, to use Mathew’s other metaphor, to hide our light under a bushel.

So here’s my remedy by way of metaphor: One of my favorite vegetarian recipes is an old Tuscan soup, Ribollita. It is often referred to as the “poor man’s stew.” It literally means “re-boiled” as the servants used to take the old broth from yesterday’s Minestrone soup, add food-soaked trenchers from the Lord’s banquets and boil them for their own dinners. There are now many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, nearly a pound of Lacinato kale, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onions. The version I love is topped with a layer of bread, thinly sliced red onions, and parmesan cheese.

Now while I’m convinced the crispy layer is the sole reason my vegetarian daughter eats the soup, the key to the success of this dish are the herbs. As the broth simmers, you add not only the usual suspects – garlic, salt and pepper, bay leaves – but also FRESH sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Yes, fresh whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme. I once tried to make it using dried herbs – trust me, it just did not taste the same. As the soup simmers, the kitchen becomes saturated with the aroma of rosemary and thyme. The savory, comforting smell soon reaches every corner of the house and it’s as if you are transported to a small village in the south of Italy where all is right with the world.

Lest I leave you confused about the recipe, please note that it helps to use ripe Italian tomatoes, fresh kale, and real (not that fake, canned) parmesan cheese. But these ingredients fall flat without the herbs. It is the rosemary and thyme that make the tomatoes pop and the kale sing. It is the rosemary and thyme that call forth the full flavor of the Ribollita.

Salt or rosemary or thyme or ginger or lime…you name it. It is always one or two simple, understated, and unexpected ingredients that make or break a dish. It’s the same for our individual lives as well as our community.

So take a second and think. Shift your focus from this week’s worries about bills or health care, from news of more violent deaths, and from harmful, frightening presidential edicts. Shift your focus from organizing and agitating and protesting. Just for this moment, shift your focus from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger. Focus on who or what it is that gives YOU comfort, strength, and joy. Who or what are your rosemary and thyme?

As many of you know I work as a chaplain at NMH, mostly with patients and families facing serious and life-limiting cancers. The course of treatment for many of these cancers is arduous and long, and the outcome uncertain. The weight of the diagnosis and treatment together can be crushing. Weary is the word I hear often from patients and their loved ones. Weary to the bone.

Since every other profession in the hospital gives out prescriptions (you know -- two pills three times a day, chemo once a week), I like to do the same every now and then, especially in response to bone crushing weariness. My prescription read something like this: “I so wish I had the power to take this load off you. I can’t change what you must go through if you want to try to fight this cancer. So here’s what I’ve learned from other patients and families: You need a double dose of beauty and joy to balance out the badness and suffering.” Now if there is even a slight sign of interest, we then go on to explore small places where they might find such sustenance – binge watching old I Love Lucy or Friends Episodes, connecting deeply with an old friend, lavender oil, or an image of resting under the shelter of God’s wings.

I’ve been trying to follow my own prescription lately. I’ve been doubling up on those activities I know renew my spirit – exercise, a walk by the lake, quiet time for prayer and meditation, and yes cooking, lots of cooking! I’ve also found sustenance in surprising places.

On Inauguration Day I knew I needed to shift my focus from fear, bigoted arrogant language, and darkness to that which was life-giving. It would have been easy to listen to NPR on my drive in to work or to sneak a look at the day’s events while visiting patients. I chose to do neither. Instead, I decided the best way to face the day was to attend the Dr. Martin Luther King Humanitarian Awards, an event held annually at our hospital. As I heard the story of how five ordinary persons (all employees of the hospital) were effecting change in their communities and our world, the truth of Dr. King’s prophetic words hit home – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

The five honored humanitarians received rousing applause for their good works. The crowd really came to life, however, when the children from the hospital day care paraded in, dressed in little purple choir robes, to sing a sweet, slightly off key tune about Dr. King’s dream. This unexpected dose of pure delight was what we all truly needed to be able to go back to our work as bearers of suffering and healers of bodies and souls.

In his essay The Meaning of Joy, theologian Paul Tillich challenges those who envision the Christian life as one purely of discipline, hard labor, and sacrifice. He reminds us that the Bible abounds in admonitions to rejoice. Joy, however, he goes on, is different than mere pleasure. Seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure is our attempt to fill a place of emptiness, to avoid engaging with reality. In contrast, we find joy when we connect deeply with the abundance of creation, with others, and with the Source of Life itself (our God).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” Fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme to make the tomatoes in the Ribollita pop and the kale sing. Whichever metaphor you choose, the message is the same – to do God’s work of justice and mercy for the long haul we need to be fed. We need not deny ourselves rest, prayer, and yes, great joy to be disciples of Christ. AMEN.

 

Mark Bittman's Ribollita recipe from the New York Times.

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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,
    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.