Pentecost. It's a BIG deal. | Caleb Schut

This Sunday is Pentecost. Unlike Christmas and Easter, however, you’ll find no displays in Target. No chocolate filled flames, no marshmallow tongues of fire or Pentecost-Red bead necklaces. And while I do not lament that Hallmark hasn’t sunk its demdaco angel claws into another Christian holiday, I do regret that Pentecost gets short shrift. Maybe it is a solidarity borne out of my own place as the youngest of three kids.

Whatever my reasons, I think you should cook up a Pentecost ham and invite the family over. You should pop the cork on the fine champagne and celebrate a holiday that has to be number 3 on the list of the most important Christian holidays. And if you are a C&E-er (someone who goes to Church on Christmas and Easter only) you should consider becoming a C&E&P-er.

Pentecost is THAT big of a deal.

It’s summer’s version of Christmas. The Christmas of the Spirit.

Christmas, of course, is God becoming a person. Christmas means God hasn’t washed his hands of us. Love came down at Christmas as the song goes.

But without Pentecost, we wouldn’t be celebrating it.  At Pentecost, the living Christ (shout out to our #2 holiday, Easter) continues His ministry by sending the Spirit (the same Spirit that was in Christ) to a group of people that, without the Spirit, are as helpless as a water buffalo on a pogo stick. Pre-Pentecost, the followers of Jesus are uninspiring to say the least. Even after they see the resurrected Jesus, they seem apathetic (Matthew 28:17 records the brilliant faith of the disciples right before Jesus gives the Great Commission, “some worshipped him. But others doubted.” Inspiring.) John reports that about half of them take up fishing again. They are a huddled mass of insecurity without Jesus leading them.

“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus had said. “I will come to you," He said. At Pentecost He does just that. Hallelujah. Pentecost is the Christmas of the Spirit. We washed our hands of God in order to crucify Him, but at Pentecost He confirms that He still hasn’t washed his hands of us. In a moment of fire and wind, the sorry crew of believers worried about whether they had peaked already, are suddenly transformed into a group that, in this moment at least, couldn't care less about themselves.

They are no longer paralyzed by the fear of following in the footsteps of their crucified Christ, and in fact they fling open the doors and push back the windows to allow the light of the sun to penetrate the darkened room and to allow the light of the world to illumine the world that Christ is yet pursuing. Love came down at Christmas. Hope becomes possible at Pentecost. Like Forrest Gump running out of his leg-gear, the church is set free in the Spirit to pursue the future that was made possible through Christ. 

So, fire up the grill. Put on your Sunday best. Take hope. Christ has not left us as orphans. He has come to us.

It's a BIG deal. 


  1. Christmas
  2. Easter
  3. Pentecost
  4. Good Friday
  5. Transfiguration Sunday
  6. Ash Wednesday
  7. Ascension Sunday
  8. Trinity Sunday
  9. All Saint’s Day
  10. Palm Sunday

*I just made this list up. It's arbitrary.

The Spirit of God is the guarantor of what has been granted to us-granted with that ‘not yet’ and that ‘already’ which are always the character of a promise.
— Justo Gonzalez
What God promises from eternity, the Spirit enables through time.
— Thomas Oden

Maundy Thursday | Caleb Schut

Maundy Thursday is a Christian holiday celebrated on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the washing of the disciples feet by Jesus. The word Maundy traces back to the Latin word mandatum (see mandate in there?), which means command. In John's account of how the last few days of Jesus' life go, the disciples gather for a final meal with Jesus, and at this meal Jesus washes their feet. 

After washing their feet, the meal begins. At some point in the dinner, Jesus identifies Judas as the disciple who will betray him. After Judas leaves the group, Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for what is coming next. "I will only be with you a little longer," Jesus says. Then, as a final command, he says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This command is where the phrase for Maundy comes from. It is Jesus parting command...If you remember anything I've told you, REMEMBER THIS!

To love has become such an obvious sentiment. Love trends as a hashtag and is plastered across t-shirts and bumpers. Perhaps some credit for that ought to go to the man who commanded it so emphatically. Maundy Thursday is a day to remember exactly what it means to love "as I have loved you." 

Jesus Washes His Disciples Feet | John 13:1-17

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 

For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Post Election Letter

Dear Grace Chicago members and friends.

The following is a letter from the consistory, a reflection on the presidential election. Given the raw emotions that many are feeling this week, we felt that it was important to say something, even knowing that it would be imperfect.

This week, even more than usual, I have felt the weight and the privilege of being a pastor and friend to all people, regardless of their political persuasion. Critical to a faithful presentation of the gospel is to recognize that the only political sovereign who will unite all people is Jesus, and to live as if that were true. When we gather around the communion table we make a picture of that truth. This week, in particular, I look forward to meeting each of you at that communion table, as we offer the true sign of hope to one another and to our broken world: communion in Christ.

Grace and Peace,



Dear Grace Chicago Community and Friends,

The peace of the Lord be with you!

This week’s presidential election results reflect the deep divisions and profound cynicism of the American public around issues related to our political culture.

“For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party. And today, sizable shares…. <about half> …. of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger.” (Pew Study: Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016, p.1)

Another research project found that: “‘Two- thirds of the American public (67%) have little to no confidence at all’ in the people who run our government to tell the truth to the public”; and found that “three out of four Americans (74%) agree that ‘you can’t believe much of what you hear from the mainstream media’.” (p.22, Vanishing Center of American Democracy, 2016 Survey of American Political Culture). Also, according to the same study: “the overwhelming majority of Americans (88%) believe that ‘political events these days seem more like theater or entertainment than like something to be taken seriously’.” (17)

For many of us, we aren't surprised by these kinds of statistics. We need not look beyond our own extended families to find painful anecdotes illustrating the drift towards tribal worldviews that are mutually exclusive, and profound cynicism about the political process and the media spectacle in relationship to truth.

At this time when our country is so divided and cynical, as a church community we have an opportunity to redouble our commitment to live into our mission statement*, as we continue to celebrate a union of a diverse group of people who have been called to love one another by the one true political sovereign, King Jesus. Together we continue to work out what it looks like to bring the ethics of Jesus' kingdom to bear on the public good, working out what it looks like to share Christ’s selfless love with a deeply broken world.

But surely part of what it means to see the world through Jesus’ eyes so soon after election day requires us to acknowledge in a non-partisan way that a great many people here and abroad feel afraid and uncertain; they are people who the Bible privileges in a unique way, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Throughout the Scriptures, aliens, orphans, widows, and the poor are symbols of God's unique advocacy for and identification with those who are at the mercy of the powerful. As the leadership of this Christian church, we want you to know that we are concerned for those in our church, in our country, and around the world, who today fear for their well being. May Grace Chicago Church be a welcoming place for the weak and vulnerable; may God bless us as we seek to live more fully into our mission.


We offer this prayer and invite you to join with us. It is based on a very old prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

O Christ  our King, whose glory is in all the world:

We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace.

Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve the people with humility, and in a way that treats all people with inherent dignity and worth, as those who bear your divine image.

May you enable us to seek the things that make for peace and the common good; may each of us reach out  to those who are not like us and form bonds of unity where your Spirit make it possible;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.



*The mission of Grace Chicago Church is to actively seek the good of individuals and the welfare of the city by embracing the good news of God’s redemptive promise.


A Prayer for France

Yesterday, there was an attack in France directed against Christians participating in mass. You can read about it here. This tragedy struck especially near to the heart of our own Marc Billon. Marc is French and offered these words to help us pray. Take a moment to lament and pray for those affected by this act of terror:

Friends of Grace Church,

France is again shocked today and plunged into profound horror after Jacques Hamel an elderly priest was killed while celebrating mass this morning.

"The murderer cut the throat of the priest. This is an act sufficiently thought out to further destabilize French society" said the president of the Normandy region. 11 attacks have occurred in France since January 2015.

With my french compatriots, I cry out to God.

Lord, I pray for Jacques Hamel, for the nuns and other victims of this horrible violence. I pray for their families and communities who today are mourning the horrible loss of their priest. Lord, may the consoling presence of your Holy Spirit be with all the victims.

In Union of Prayers,


Why Ash Wednesday?

Luke 4:1-13 (The Story of Jesus in the Wilderness)

What a sight? Our savior, bent over with hunger pains, his hand in the dust of the wilderness, his head hanging limp.

Why would we want to follow him there? Why would we take up fasting and preparation for 40 days? Of course, none of us will go into the wilderness or without food for any significant amount of time, but why mark this event with a special service? Why gather on a Wednesday to remind ourselves of our mortality?

The somber reflections on our own finite limits and our inevitable deaths is, to use the theological word, a drag, a serious bummer.

What about the wilderness is good news?

The route through the desert is not the path we prefer to take. It is dry, barren, lifeless, purposeless, it is chaotic and unorganized, it is not where you are supposed to be: productive, efficient, successful. When you find yourself in the wilderness you do everything you can to get out of it. You turn back to find out where you went wrong, or maybe you press on, head down legs moving quickly.

If it were up to us, we would never pass through the wilderness. So it’s shocking when we read that it was the Holy Spirit that drew Jesus there. And it is no different when we are the ones taken into the wilderness.

Ash Wednesday is not another excuse for Christians to indulge their guilt, to wallow in self pity, to convince themselves that they are not worthy.

One of my professors recently reflected on the temptation of Adam and Eve faced in the garden. He writes, “it was precisely our limited humanness that left us with the sense, I am not enough- paving the path for the slithering serpent to make the offer of a life without limitation. Somehow we are ashamed of our humanness. Humiliated when we fail. Disturbed when we can’t get it all done in a day.”

Ash Wednesday is an invitation into the wilderness to experience our humanness and the freedom that comes from being limited. The freedom of being dependent upon another. It will feel terrible at first. Oh, it will be terrifying-to face your own limits.

Fits of panic and anxiety, sweaty palms, heart racing.

It will feel like head hanging, hand in the dust of the wilderness, bent over with hunger pains.

But if you follow the spirit to the quiet open wilderness you will first hear silence. And then a still small voice saying…

You don’t have to be anything other than human.

You don’t have to be anything other than who you are.

You are enough.

To hear our Savior whisper those words is why we gather for Ash Wednesday, it is why we follow him into the wilderness.