Sunday, March 30, 2003

Notes From My Knapsack (April 2003 "The Church Window" Hebron Christian Church)

After the forsythia blooms, is it two or three snows? Either way you know the old saw, we’re one down.

Daffodils look none the worse for wear after their long months deep underground, waiting for the lengthening of days and the growth of warmth, and I’m counting on the trillium out at Dawes to start to blossom very soon.

Perennials follow the signs of the seasons, and can’t be denied their nature, even though the occasional late snow might set them back. Easter, however, is different; the Resurrection is a flower of a different color.

The first robin, no matter how welcome, only proclaims the spring. Christ’s death and resurrection literally began the eternal Springtime for God’s people; Jesus doesn’t announce new life, he IS New Life, being born in us every day.

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself," not to reconcile God to us, but to "re-concile" – to "again-unite-hearts" as the word means at its roots – us to God. When we stand and face the cross, and face that God’s love is that deep, and that real, and that willing to overcome every barrier including death itself, then our "hearts again unite" with a God who truly loves us that much, and we are reconciled.

The forsythia blossoms will fade and drop, and we may dig up some old bulbs and plant new ones. Robins may even decide to pass on through and head for Ontario for the summer. But the Spring that Easter proclaims is with us always.

In Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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Lakewood Levy Fundraising
Pancake Breakfast

Sat., Apr. 12
Creative Catering
8 am to 11 am
$5 all you can eat;
$3 for 12 and under

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Interfaith Legal Clinic

Wed., Apr. 16
At Hebron Christian
(last time this year,
held every month around Licking Co.)
Open to Low-income and elderly folks
Needing advice on legal concerns

Doors open at 5:30 pm,
Clinic from 6 to 8 pm

Number of clients seen depends on the
Number of lawyers available, all of whom
Are donating their time as part of their own faith.

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Other items: Time change this Sat. the 5th; Eagle Court of Honor Sun. 6th David Scheiddegger T-27 chartered to Hebron American Legion; also wedding(s) Sat. Apr. 26, 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm.

Other info:
Last Mark Bible Study meeting 16 April 10 am
Maundy Thurs – 6:30 potluck, 7:30 worship
Prayer Vigil
Good Friday service – 7:30 pm
Easter Egg Hunt Sat. (not sure of time, will ask Connie this Sunday)
Lakewood Area Churches Sunrise Service at Dawes (7 churches partic.)
6:30 am, Jeff Gill preaching, Hebron Chr. Handbells ringing
after, breakfast at Hebron UMC, Nelson Workheimer Memorial Breakfast
Celebration of the Resurrection 10:30 am, beginning with baptisms

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Pastor's "Frequently Asked Questions" Top Ten List Rev. Jeff Gill, pastor

1. How do I know I’m forgiven/accepted by God?

Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God, not God to us. God loves us, and sent Jesus to show that love, which overcomes suffering and even death. When we accept that love as real, when we have our own relationship through Jesus Christ to God’s love, we are reconciled/reunited, overcoming our own fears. God does the forgiving, seen in Jesus’ sacrifice and self-giving love on the cross; we simply do the accepting.

2. Do you have to be baptized to be forgiven?

Not quite! Baptism is Christ’s gift to the church that shows us how our sins are forgiven, and gives us the experience that leads to a knowledge of that forgiveness. If we aren’t baptized, we won’t truly know ourselves as a forgiven people, and won’t experience the empowerment of that grace/gift. So the church is given the responsibility of showing people how to reach "abundant life" on earth as well as eternal life in heaven, and that is through baptism. We take that responsibility very seriously.

3. How do I pray?

Talk to God. Really! With our youth group, I’m always saying a prayer only needs "Dear God: Thank you. Amen." Now, those three parts can use some developing (invocation or "addressing" God, thanks and hopes, and a closing). A regular prayer life should follow a regular pattern and rhythm (again, for our needs, not for God to listen!), and Bible reading can be a tool for this: to point you on the way, to give you models for prayer, to get you in the mood. Devotional books are available for every kind of person nowadays, but don’t let them get in the way of offering your very own hopes, fears, dreams, and intentions. The Psalms are a good starting point for anyone.

4. What translation of the Bible should I use?

For many of us, the best one is the one we’re used to: I grew up with the Good News/TEV and the Revised Standard Version (RSV). At camp and in college I found many friends used the New International Version (NIV) which is a very good translation. Both RSV and NIV have "newer" editions out as well. The Living Bible is a paraphrase, and hard to use for study but is helpful for simply reading long passages of the Bible, but the New Living Bible is the best reading and study Bible I’ve seen since the TEV. You can find the TEV for daily reading at, or the NRSV texts we use for Sunday worship at or

5. Does our church give to missionary work?

Ten percent of our church income is used for supporting mission and ministry outside the congregational walls; over half that goes to the Disciples Mission Fund which funds both the general church (global and national) and the Christian Church in Ohio, our region. The rest is for our work and witness with people in need here in the Lakewood area and Licking County. There are also special giving opportunities to support outreach that you care about, such as through the CROP Walk, CCH Walk, or Week of Compassion.

6. Can I take communion?

If you believe that God through Jesus Christ is calling you to join us at the communion table, yes. Obviously, that means different things to different people, but our tradition is very firmly rooted in simply offering the invitation in Christ’s name. It’s between you and God as to whether you are "ready," and we don’t think it is anyone else’s responsibility to approve or disapprove of that decision. Some families allow children to receive, and some don’t, which is a matter of conscience for each parent, but it has never been the tradition of the Restoration Movement to require baptism as a condition for taking communion.


7. Can I give to the church? (Yes, people frequently ask this!)

Stewardship is what we can our responsibility as Christians to be "accountable" for how we use our time, talents, and money that God has given us. Giving to the church or other ministries is a good way to put thankfulness and service before our own desires, which is what folks mean by "giving off the top." We teach stewardship through proportional giving, or "tithing," where we commit to a) prayerfully plan our own use of resources each year, and b) make giving a part of that plan as a spiritual discipline. But you do not give as "dues" or even really to "support the church," and definitely not to be forgiven! We give as a way to keep our perspective on where what we have comes from, and where everything goes back to. And we have envelopes to help you remember. . .

8. Do we own our own property as a church and/or hire and fire our own clergy?

Yes, this is what is known as a "congregationally governed" fellowship, where we are in covenant with other churches (such as our region, the Christian Church in Ohio) to have staff and own a camp and things we need to work together to do. But the regional staff can only ask, not tell our board or officers what to do. In fact, our tradition honors local leadership under a Biblical principle called "the priesthood of all believers," where our elders preside at the communion table. As pastor, I am a trained evangelist called to serve here as the "preaching and teaching" elder in Paul’s words to Timothy, which he calls an office worthy of paid salary. . .but not a higher office! We can have communion when the pastor’s not present, and even members of the diaconate may baptize, if appropriate.

9. Is our budget and financial information public knowledge?

Our church budget and all expenditures are public knowledge, including staff salaries and benefits. What individuals and families give is known only by the financial secretary and treasurer (and perhaps an assistant); not even the pastor or elders know what anyone gives; unless, of course, you tell them. Some need a letter from the church for tax purposes, which the financial secretary sends.

10. What do the Disciples of Christ believe about. . . . .

Depending on how you end that question, it might actually rank higher than number 10, but in general, the answer is "They don’t." At least, in the sense that a group or body has published an official point of view which all members of our fellowship agree to, that’s not "the Disciple way." Our General Assembly, every other year, or a Regional Assembly in the years between, may pass a resolution on various subjects, or the General Minister and President or Regional Pastor may offer a letter for reflection and spiritual discernment, but nothing binding on all Disciples of Christ congregations exists.

An open communion table celebrated weekly, an emphasis on believer’s baptism by immersion, and a commitment to Christian unity through individual conscience in reading the Bible are the "essentials" of our fellowship, reflected by this guiding principle used by Alexander Campbell in the early 1800’s, itself taken from an earlier era:

In essentials, unity
In non-essentials, liberty
In all things, charity

As we take seriously our responsibility to wrestle with what the words of the Bible and the Living Word of Christ in our midst are telling us, those phrases still guide us!