Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Faith Works 04-09-05
By Jeff Gill

Both Old and New Testaments, Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Gospels alike, are filled with images of Monarchy, of Kingship and Kingdoms, realms and rulers.
In the funeral of Pope John Paul II, with vast processions, lying in state, and the ornate surroundings for elaborate liturgies, we have our best point of contact in the modern world for what it means to imagine the royal aspect of divinity presented in most Biblical texts.
Karol Wojtyla of Poland, the man who became a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, and then one of the greatest Roman Pontiffs of this or any age, made the papacy accessible for many in a way not seen perhaps since Peter started the office from a humble setting in a quiet corner of Rome 2000 years ago.
Yet the outwards signs of an office with that many years of tradition behind it and most of the earth’s surface incorporated within it (Pontiff comes from the Latin for “bridge builder”) makes for palaces, mitred crowns, and armies of attendants even aside from the ceremonially fierce if only halberd-wielding Swiss Guard. And for some, those imperial trappings can be off-putting on a religious leader. Ask Martin Luther, for one instance.
Do we need royalty or pomp and circumstance in our lives? Many who would call themselves “Bible believing” Christians would say no, pointing to the texts of humility and simplicity. Intriguingly, the accounts of the private papal apartments tell of Spartan lodgings suitable to an as-yet-undecorated dorm room, but even those with a strong taste for the unadorned have to grapple with the richness of Biblical imagery around robes and scepters, jewels and trumpets.
In the papacy, even Protestants find a view of something that instructs and uplifts. The British monarchy has turned to self-parody, and most other European royal houses have either passed from the scene or are shriveling in that direction.
But in the affairs of the Vatican, both in the majestic farewell playing out through this week, and as the world, almost against its better judgment, watches a small chimney near the Sistine Chapel from the Plaza of St. Peter for a tell-tale wisp of white smoke, there is something compelling in all this spectacle. Not just a sight to see, but an image of something simultaneously distant and personal, of direct importance to our lives yet unaffected by everyday bothers.
Undoubtedly John Paul will join Pope Leo who talked the Huns away from the gates of Rome and Gregory the proto-reformer as “the Great.” His own impact on the wider world is unquestioned even by those who objected to much he stood for personally. But it is the ongoing vitality of the Papacy itself in the modern world that is one of the unspoken mysteries of these unusual days we are living through in the weeks after Easter.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. If you have tales to tell of faith at work, e-mail disciple@voyager.net.
Notes From My Knapsack 04-10-05
By Jeff Gill

Spring break right after Easter with heavy rain outside meant only one thing: Peeps in the microwave!
That’s right, put your Marshmallow Peeps (any color, bunny or bird shape) in the nuke chamber for ten seconds on low power, and watch them puff up to basketball size!
Eat after with a spoon; they deflate pretty quickly, but after the science lab stuff with six varieties of egg dye has worn out . . . or they are now 23 glasses of uniformly grey colored water . . . inflated peepery is pretty darn fun.
Then it’s 10 am, and the day looms ahead, with more rain.
But you may have no Peeps left by now. If you do, they could be getting very dry and hard, another reason for the microwave trick.
The Little Guy and I hit the Columbus Zoo (the aquarium could care less about precipitation), along with The Works, staffing the William Kraner Nature Center out Flint Ridge way for a volunteer afternoon with Licking Park District, and the bird viewing room at Dawes Arboretum.
We’ve been working on our card manufacturing, too, covering the dining room table (“so what’s new?” asks the Lovely Wife) with paper, early attempts, and triumphant works of festive greeting art. Hallmark quakes with fear in their Kansas City citadel, as we laugh away commercial sentiments in favor of colored pencils, crayon, marker, and watercolor vistas (can you say “mixed media”?) surrounding unrhymed truisms as direct as any display rack can provide.
St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and First Day of Spring Break cards have all gone into production in Little Guy Studios, with Time Change cards our last project.
(We interrupt this homey meandering with a public service reminder: when you set clocks forward Saturday night, did you change your batteries in smoke detectors, testing them and your CO sensors with a quick “bzzzz”? We now return you to sentimentality, already in progress.)
First, a Fiftieth Anniversary card for my beloved’s parents, united in marriage on what was, this year, Easter day! The design for this salute is a bigger challenge, since no one the Little Cardguy knows well has hit this big 5-Oh. My own folks, currently basting and marinating in Rio Grande heat, are just a couple years off their own Golden Occasion, and of course we Loving Parents are only on the brink of their twentieth, not even worth a capitalization.
On the other hand, 20 years ain’t too shabby nowadays, and we might just celebrate it anyhow. Keeping a marriage in good repair is an art form that some say is fading, and even our 30 years less than a Fiftieth can draw the occasional “what’s your secret to a good marriage?” query.
To which I answer: we have . . .oh, sorry, school has started again, the sun just came out and we’re getting out of the house and away from the keyboard! Answers next week, or if you have your own tips, send ‘em in and I’ll post ‘em up here along with our own. Go ahead, write my column for me, I dare you! (Paging Tom Sawyer, Tom Sawyer to the front desk . . .)
Send your thoughts to disciple@voyager.net, and they’ll go in the knapsack until we get back from bike riding, when I can go back to bloviating beyond my word limit.