All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Toward Wholeness

February 12, 2017 | Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Matthew 5:21-37
The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey

In some of his final words to the Israelites, whom he had been leading to the land of safety, security, and prosperity for many years, Moses said, “See, I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may truly and fully live, loving and holding fast to the Lord your God.

Choose life.

It seems obvious, and sometimes it is. But of the many actions and words—and even thoughts—we choose during a day, or an hour, or a moment, how do we know when we’re choosing life?

How do we know during those tiny moments—choosing what to read on the train or listen to on the drive whether to pick up the phone, or not what to say to a friend or colleague, or not say whether to show up to that thing on our calendar, or stay home --how do we know when such decisions will inch us toward full and true life?

Or rather, how might our choices make us more whole, rather than more broken?

In these days, we find ourselves in a post-truth world, in a culture that has prized convenience and the self for so long that it neither recognizes nor cares what is real.

But this is also nothing new—for certainly since Jesus’ time and Moses’ time and let’s also say Adam and Eve’s time, we have looked outside of ourselves to that thing, that person, that place, that job—or that apple—that will make us whole. That will make us at peace with ourselves. That will let us breathe. 

Should we dare to look inside, we do not always like what we find. We do not always like the truth that is in us. The truth that compels us forward and yet sits uncomfortably. So maybe we don’t look.

This morning we hear two sermons. (Well, three, if you count this one.) We hear a sermon from Moses and one from Jesus. Moses is toward the end of his sermon to the Israelites, his brothers and sisters and friends with whom he has been traveling for years. From where they stand today, they can see the Promised Land. Yet Moses knows that his days are numbered, and that he might not—and indeed he does not—make it to the Promised Land with them.

So Moses really is thinking about life and death. He’s thinking about what really matters. He’s thinking, “If this might be my last chance to talk with them, what do I want them to remember above all else?”

What does it mean to choose life? To Moses, it means first of all to love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). And from there come the decisions to act. Moses reminds his beloved brothers and sisters of the many actions they had chosen along their long journey together. Do you remember,  he says, when we chose to forgive the debts of the poor (15:1-11)? Do you remember when we pushed our government against too much wealth (16:18-20)? When we did everything we could to protect human dignity (19:1-7)? When we fell all over ourselves to care for the strangers and refugees among us (23:15-16)? Do you remember, he says, when we started to leave some of our own harvest behind in the field, in case someone would come along hungry and need a little food (24:19-22)?1

During these times, he said, we were close to God. During these times, my friends, our ancestors were close to God because they stood for what they believed. They resisted and they persisted. And we, like them, are close to God when we act out of wholeness rather than fear, out of integrity rather than scarcity.

Jesus, in contrast to Moses, is toward the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount—which we began to hear two weeks ago and will continue to hear for another few weeks. He is also at the beginning of his public ministry. People are just starting to follow him and listen to him, more people every day. In his jarring hyperboles that we should cut off our hand or tear out our eye, Jesus is recalling Moses’ sermon and taking it further. He is impressing upon us that not only are we to act out of wholeness, but that our internal world of our thoughts and our feelings really matters.

Of course we can’t control all of our thoughts and feelings. Things just come to mind and things just happen in our hearts. But to the extent that we can become aware of these things, then we have a choice. We can choose what would draw us toward full, true life, or what would draw us away from God.

To continue Jeanne’s message from last week, faith is the pursuit not only of joy and wonder, but it is also the pursuit of truth and candor. In this age of alternative facts, the most countercultural and most Christian thing we can do is be truthful to and within ourselves. How many alternative facts do we subsist on?

In this fractious world that spins further into chaos each day, the most countercultural and most Christian thing we can do is to act out of wholeness. If wholeness is not something you’d say describes you right now, as is the case for many of us, can you imagine it? Are there things you can do to get in touch with those parts of yourself that remind you of who you really are inside? Maybe it’s talking with a friend who’s known you since forever. Maybe it’s revisiting works of art or pieces of music that have spoken to you over and over again through the years.

The many choices before us in a day do not come with labels, “life” or “death”, but they are still many opportunities, large and small, to choose wholeness over fear, integrity over scarcity.

We do all of this not only in the name of self-help or self-improvement, although those are good and necessary, but in the name of God, who sees us in all of our complexity, our pain, our weakness, our grief, our confusion, and does not look away. God does not look away.

And so we pray: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse and guide the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you with our whole heart, mind, soul, strength, and worthily magnify your Holy Name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.2


1 Brett Younger in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume I, p. 341
2 Collect for Purity, adapted, Book of Common Prayer, p. 355


  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,


    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.