Saturday, February 21, 2004

Notes From My Knapsack – March 2004 “The Church Window”

Most of you reading this know that, when trying to understand a problem of today, my first impulse is to look at the past. History is not an unfailing guide, but can be a useful directional arrow. In the same sense, Scripture guides us not by having specific counsel for every situation we meet, but by always pointing us towards God’s presence in every event.

These are, indeed, interesting times we find ourselves in. Americans, and Christians of this nation, have found themselves in morally challenging situations before. I look to the period before the Civil War, the work of the abolitionists, when I think about the dilemma of abortion in society.

When we look back on the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s, I don’t think many of us have trouble sympathizing with the supporters of the Underground Railroad, who had stops right here in the Hebron area on the way to the Western Reserve, Canada, and freedom. And it takes little empathy to understand the resistance of many slaveholders, who greatly feared releasing those whom they had bought and sold and slain. Those who are most baffling, looking back, are the bulk of Americans who had little concern about slavery and bondage as long as they weren’t bothered, financially or personally. It was their indifference that led to five years of slaughter and bloodshed between Union and Confederate troops.

When a future era looks back on the days of abortion on demand throughout the third trimester, I fear they will wonder much the same about us. Even after viability, you chose to permit the killing of unborn infants? How could so many have been so indifferent?

At the same time, some would evoke the era of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950’s and 60’s to urge people of good will to support the cause of same-sex marriage, equating sexual orientation and racial status, making this the new civil rights debate. I have spent much time in prayer and reflection and study over this question, and yet cannot find a way to make any behavioral choice one might make the same as an ethnic status. There are friends I have lost over this question, and more pain ahead I can see.

Others insist on a literally Biblical turn of argument, where also I cannot go. My concern over widening the scope of marriage is that the bonds of obligation are already looser than they were a generation ago, and the clear losers are the most vulnerable and weak. As Christians, we are called to shape communities and build relationships that defend and support the weak and powerless.

May we faithfully use both Scripture and Tradition to bring past and future together this Lenten season.

In Grace and Peace, Pastor Jeff

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Pastor’s Class for Membership

Sundays at 4 pm, starting March 7

For age 11 through ??

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“The Purpose Driven Life”
by Rick Warren
a 40 Day study through Lent!
“What on earth am I here for?”

Small Group opportunities:
Sunday @ 9:30 am – Older Youth Class
-- Adult Class
Wednesday @ 10 am – Lenten Study Group
Thursday @ 7 am – Prayer & Study Group
Thursday @ 6:30 pm – Junior Choir (brief)
Thursday @ 7 pm – Senior Choir (brief)
Saturday @ 8 am – Hometown Deli

As well as Sunday sermon through Holy Week,
And weekly themes/questions on the church web site,

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Interfaith Legal Services
offered at Hebron Christian Church
Wed., Mar. 17th
5 to 8 pm
First 30 present are assisted

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 2-22-04
By Jeff Gill

Janice Harris assures me that CPT does indeed stand for “certified personal trainer,” since she just got that certification herself. It is a good thing to hear that places like “It’s a Girl Thing” are doing so well, and that personal fitness and physical health are valued in a new way by so many. Keep up the good work, y’all!
Helping others with their health was the result of the ongoing series of Red Cross blood drives at the Hebron Municipal Complex. The date and even time change (starting at 2 instead of 1 pm, which wasn’t Linda’s idea!) kept some from donating, but over sixty people will benefit from the two-dozen pints donated right before Valentine’s Day. We’ll remind you here at the Hebron Crossroads of the mid-April blood drive a little closer to the day, which is Apr. 19 and will go back to a 1 pm start.
In the volunteering and helping others department, I heard that Beth Walters received the “Volunteer of the Quarter” award from the Licking County Board of Realtors. That group is a real county wide asset, by the way, with a track record for service and support matched by few trade associations. For Beth to stand out among that crowd is a double compliment.
Beth has been a big part of the 9-11 “Patriots Day” community service projects these last few years, and we’re looking at a possible “Crossroads Festival” for the Hebron area coming soon. . .stay tuned.
We’ll also have more to share in the next few weeks about the work Lakewood Intermediate is doing to prepare for the writing portions of the proficiency tests coming in a few weeks. There are some great budding writers over on Lancers Road, and that’s good news for editor Amy as she looks for future correspondents and columnists in a few years.
Next week is Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent, the period that leads to Easter. For some, the significance is that it’s the day after “Fat Tuesday” (or in French, “Mardi Gras”) when the big blowout before the rigors of Lenten fasting and discipline begin. The Licking County Coalition for Housing will be just a few days late (somehow that seems appropriate) celebrating a great cause with their Mardi Gras fundraiser at the Granville Inn Friday, Feb. 27. Call 345-1970 to see if there’s still a ticket or two left for the murder mystery and fine food evening.
Being a pastor, you’ll expect me to note that the season of Lent really is for preparation, to get ready mind, body, and spirit for Easter week. We’ve talked about physical health: giving up or taking on something for Lent is really about your mental and spiritual health.
There are a number of Licking County churches that are reading the forty chapters of “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren through Lent day by day, and you can find one near wherever you live.
And you’ve probably heard about the movie. Yep, that movie. “The Passion of the Christ,” a work of love produced and directed by Mel Gibson, who feels that reclaiming his faith saved his life from Hollywood excess. Some feel that the movie has its own excesses, both in terms of the violence shown and the blame cast.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, so my comments are limited, but I do want to make two here. First, from everything I’ve read on-line and seen on TV, this is a devotional message, not so much an evangelistic tool. What I mean by that is that this doesn’t sound like it was meant as a good “front door” or first stop along the way into understanding the message and meaning of Jesus’ last twelve hours on that long ago Friday. Mel didn’t pick Ash Wednesday as the release date at random, I am quite certain. This movie is intended to focus and intensify a Christian’s understanding of what that death represents. I won’t say that “The Passion” won’t spark some conversions, but it is aimed primarily at those who already have a sense of the story and where it leads, drawing them deeper.
As to accusations of blaming the faith of Judaism or Jews in general for Christ’s death, while there is a clear obligation on Christians since the Holocaust to be scrupulously careful about where our teaching leads, I think the movie carries within itself one immensely powerful counterargument, carefully placed.
Mel Gibson made, bankrolled, and risked much to make this film. But he didn’t put his own very bankable self into the shooting. . .except for one scene. You won’t see his face. When Jesus is nailed to the cross, the hands and forearms that hold the nails and swing the mallet are those of Mr. Gibson himself.
I think that should clear up any question of who he thinks is “responsible” for nailing Christ to the cross.
“The Passion” won’t be for everyone. You will have to decide for yourself if the wrenching experience of such violence, graphically depicted, is appropriate for you or those under your care. Yet I don’t think you have to be a preacher to note that this is an event that stands at the heart of human history as we know it, and the question of why we’re still talking about the death of a minor political prisoner in an obscure backwater of a long-dead ancient empire is still worth talking about.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church; if you have Lenten events at your church or other news of local interest, e-mail him at or call 928-4066.