All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Easter Vigil

1 Kings 19:1-13
Ezekiel 37:1-14

In a lecture to her students of African-American art just days after her husband, an African artist, died suddenly, Elizabeth Alexander said, “Art replaces the light that is lost when the day fades, [when] the moment passes, [when] the evanescent extraordinary makes its quicksilver. Art tries to capture that which we know leaves us, as we move in and out of each other’s lives, as we all must eventually leave this earth…Survivors stand startled in the glaring light of loss, but bear witness.”1

This is the night when our ancestors, such as Ezekiel and Elijah, who survived terrific turmoil and tragedy, bear witness to us. Both Elijah and Ezekiel were acquainted with grief and, at the time God broke into their lives in their stories told tonight, they were surrounded by death—Elijah hiding from enemies who were out to kill him, and Ezekiel in the midst of all those bones. Both were incredulous at best—and, really, more exasperated—at God’s questions to them:

Why are you here? and Can these bones live?

“O Lord God, you know!”

And—and yet—both of them left these encounters with God, these wrestlings, with hope.

The poet Lisel Mueller calls hope that which “hovers in dark corners before the lights are turned on.”2 On this night, hope hovers not only in the dark corners of this place or of our souls but also in our faces. I see you—these simple candles and these spangled stars reflect your great light within.

And in this I’m reminded of Ash Wednesday, when we looked at one another with ashes on our foreheads, each of us having been told, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” and how that night to me felt like—looked like—truth.

This, this is the night when we greet the other part of that truth: that returning to the dust is not the end of the story. For Jesus, the Son of God, has returned to the dust, he has been washed and buried and sealed in a tomb, he has descended even to hell—and that is not the end of his story.

This is the night when together we bear witness, especially with and through and for Mashell and Jason, our candidates for baptism, that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not—and will not—overcome it.

In that same lecture, Elizabeth Alexander also told her students, “Great artists know [the] shadow [of death], [they] contend with death, [and] work always against the dying light,” while always knowing that even the dying light is not the end of the story, for new light will come.

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?

Yes, even in the glaring light of our loss.

Broken saints, redeemed sinners, faltering friends, loveable fools
We bear witness to one another
We will commit to bear witness to Mashell and Jason as they are baptized,
just as they bear witness to each one of us through their faith and longing for God.

Shines light in the chasms we’re desperate to be filled
Shines light on our brittle fractures, which we would prefer to keep hidden
That is how the light gets in

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

God speaks to each one of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand. (Rilke)

Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger. My love is stronger than your fear.
Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger. And I have promised, promised to be always near.

“’Cradle Song’ appears on [Jason Moran’s] album ‘Artist in Residence,’ which was recorded shortly after the pianist’s dear and influential mother died of cancer, a relatively young woman. ‘Cradle Song’ is an elemental solo that sounds something like a mature student’s variation on a simple piano exercise, perhaps a variation on a Chopin etude before the student has learned it well enough to play it fluently. It includes the recorded sound of intense pencil writing. According to Moran, this is meant to represent his mother’s writing and note-taking during his music lessons when he was a child. This very very small quotidian sound—the presence of his mother’s hand—is called back into the music, called across the line between life and death and in that sound, she is present. The sound of the writing is the second instrument on the recording; the piano solo is, then a duet, with the mother who was by her son’s side as he learned to become a piano player. If the presence of the mother taking notes by her young son’s side is what moved him forward and accompanied him as an apprentice, its sound on the recording is what enables him to make music after she has died” (Alexander 164-165).

“Loss is our common denominator. None of us will outrun death. What do we do in the space between that is our lives? What is the quality and richness of our lives? How do we move through struggle and let community hold us when we have been laid low?” (Alexander 206).

“A great and mighty wind arose then. It split nearby mountains and shattered rocks. But the wind was not the Lord. After the wind was an earthquake. But the earthquake was not the Lord. After the earthquake, fire, but the fire was not the Lord. And after the fire—a still, small voice. I stood then, and approached the mouth of the cave. I remembered that Moses had met God at the mouth of a cave. I hid my face, and God spoke once more: ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’ God wasn’t asking—he was calling me back to myself.

Am I here for the miracles? The whirlwinds? The earthquakes? The vengeance and the victories in the name of the Lord? Maybe a little! … but all those things will come and go. … I am here for the still, small voice of the Lord.”

The angels’ presence → “This is not about human capacities or possibilities. It is wholly about God’s capacity and determination. If goodness and mercy are to withstand the onslaught of religiously based self-righteousness and control, it is not because good people just keep trying hard. If death as a final conclusion to even the most finely lived human life is to be transcended, it is not because such goodness just naturally lives on. It is, rather, because God acts at that boundary of life we call death and does something altogether new. Angels and earthquakes are the inevitable elements of the resurrection narrative, because that is the only way Matthew can make clear that we are confronted with God’s possibilities and not our own” (Murchison FOTW 348).

“For adults, the fears can be more complex and words of reassurance harder to come by. As we get older, we cannot escape the realization that, in Ernest Hemingway’s phrase, ‘life breaks everyone’ at some time or another or, at the very least, wears one down relentlessly. As adults, we live with an increasing sense that death is greedy, eventually claiming everyone we love. When grown-up fears are stirred by such enormous realities, it can seem as if words of reassurance are nowhere to be found…When the angel says, ‘Do not be afraid,’ or when Jesus says, ‘Fear not,’ it is not assurance that nothing can go wrong, because often things do go wrong. It is not assurance that everything turns out for the best, because, if we are honest about it, it seldom does. Rather, it is assurance that, whatever may happen to us, whatever a day may hold, God has the power to strengthen us and uphold us; that whatever we must face, we do not face it alone; that nothing we encounter is stronger than God’s love; that ultimately God gets the last word; that in the end—and sometimes even before the end—God’s love is triumphant. Only God can offer such assurance, and that is why, in the end, only God, or one of God’s messengers, can say, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and say it with authority. It is not the words that are said that matter. Rather, what matters is the source…there is only one who can offer such words in the face of life’s uncertainties and before the certainty of death, and do so with authority. So, if we as pastors are to offer words of strength, of comfort, of assurance, we must offer them as messengers from another source” (Copenhaver FOTW 350).

Baptism – fear
Fire – fear
Because faith is dangerous. It is real.

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

“Your servant obeyed you,” the woman from Endor reminded him. “Faithful, I took my life in my hands to do what you asked. Now let your servant feed you so that you have the strength to go on your way.”

At first, Saul refused. “I will not eat,” he declared. But finally, out of duty, he ate to gain strength. The king supped, and left.

Saul had wanted comfort. But you can’t always get what you want. He left instead with what he needed—clarity, and another chance to reconcile himself with his Lord.

It hovers in dark corners before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

 

 


 

1The Light of the World (Grand Central Publishing, 2015), pp. 165-166

2 From the poem “Hope” in Alive Together (Louisiana State University Press, 1996)

 

 

  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,
    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.