Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Faith Works 3-26-05
By Jeff Gill

Hosanna, Hallelujah, and Amen!

Much of Licking County is working through the events of what’s known to Christians as Holy Week, or Passiontide, or the Easter events.
Last Sunday, known as Palm Sunday, marks the entrance into Jerusalem by Jesus, greeted by palm waving crowds as a ruling monarch; Thursday past the institution, or “mandate” of communion for Maundy Thursday, and the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday.
Along with these ancient, but fairly simple and straightforward commemorations, are some old mysterious words with actually quite elementary meanings.
“Hosanna!” is the shout of acclamation associated with Palm Sunday. Found in the Psalms (118:26), the archaic Hebrew “hoshianna” is translated there as simply “save us,” or “O save!” Originally a plea shouted to a king in procession (like ‘hang in there’ or ‘keep it up’), it had become by the time of Christ a ritual phrase associated specifically with a king in public settings (like ‘hear ye, hear ye’ in court). Matthew 21:9, the lectionary reading for many churches last week, carries the evolved meaning into the Greek with an untranslated “Hosanna,” kept now in the English.
“Hallel” is just Hebrew for “praise,” and also a term referring to a section of the Psalms sung at the close of observances, like a Passover meal. This is the setting for the Maundy Thursday readings many will use, closing with Matthew 26: 30, “when they had sung the hymn (one of the Hallel Psalms), they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Hallelujah is praise to “Yah,” or the traditional abbreviation for the unnamed One, Yahweh. Yah is combined in many Hebrew names with an active verb, such as Yah-shua (remember our ho-shianna?) or “God-saves,” the meaning of the name we translate to English as Joshua, or out of Aramaic, Jesus.
Hallelujah is then just “praise God,” or “praise the Lord,” with an hint of ancient tradition in the older forms of the words.
And Amen? In Hebrew, “Omein” or some similar transliteration, since Hebrew letters, especially the more archaic roots, don’t translate precisely to the English sounds.
But it means no more and no less than “Yes.” Just “Yes.”
May your “Yes” to God’s love in whatever language ring out this Easter weekend!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you have news from your faith community worth sharing around and abroad, contact him at
Notes From My Knapsack 03-27-05Jeff Gill
Sunrise!That is an astronomical event with (according to the Old Farmer's Almanac) a very precise time and orientation on the horizon. For Easter Sunday, call it 6:22 am.Of course, the pre-dawn twilight begins about 5 am, growing in illumination to the first appearance of the sun's rays directly shining over the horizon. So is it sunrise when the first light of day is visible? When you can read a headline from the Booster without a flashlight, closer to 6 am, or when the disc is visible of the ruddy orb o' dawn, which is you're on west side of a hill, could be more like 7 am?So sunrise is an elastic term, and the various Christian worship services tied to the celebration of Christ's rising from death "at sunrise" are equally various.While I find no evidence of any church holding a 5 am "Sonrise Service," there are congregations going with 6, 6:30, 7, and even 7:30 am.You probably did not pick your church by when they hold Easter sunrise observances (though some may be wishing they had checked that out before joining), but for those looking to attend a "community service," there are two open to their entire locality worth noting here in the knapsack.Around the Lakewood schools area, the Lakewood Area Ministerial Association is holding their Community Sunrise Service at 6:30 am just inside the gates of Dawes Arboretum at 6:30 am. Musicians from churches in Jacksontown, Hebron, and the surrounding area will set up in that aforementioned gathering light (and dew!), sharing their gifts with you and a chance to sing and pray together just as the sun rises over the hills to the east.In the greater Newark area, the Newark Area Ministerial Association in association with the Licking County Jail Ministry offers an Easter Sunrise Service at the Midland Theater, right on Counrthouse Square. Thanks to the support of Park National Bank, neither the time of sunrise nor the status of the weather is a big problem in that vast indoor space.A community chorus will sing and Rev. Barbara Sholis of First Methodist downtown will preach. Afterwards, a very tasty and cheap ($5!) breakfast in the Second Presbyterian fellowship hall benefits the ministry programming at the Licking County Justice Center. A mere short block away, you can't pass up the fellowship and food after getting up early to celebrate life and renewal in the first place.Most churches will be delighted to see visitors at any service on Easter morn, let alone at whatever time they observe the sunrise commemoration, but these two worship events are oriented around an invitation to the wider community.But wherever you go, at whatever time, remember to celebrate that Spring is here, Hope is born anew, and all Creation can rejoice . . . the ham and candy are just a fringe benefit. Now plant your lettuce and peas (you did that already, right?), set the turnips in the ground, and hold off on those flowers and tomatoes for a few weeks yet, because there's still some frost in an Ohio springtime well into April. Easter Monday is a good day to get up again at dawn (6:20 am) and turn over some soil, smelling the life already bursting out beneath your very feet.Next weekend, time change, and dawn really jumps around on us, so dig in now!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you want to share a story of renewal, e-mail him at