Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Faith Works 4-15-06
Jeff Gill

Did the Easter Bunny Visit?

Over the last few weeks, especially on-line, the story from St. Paul, Minnesota has made the rounds. All too sadly true, the human rights director for the city ordered an Easter Bunny be removed from a seasonal display area, since it could "give offense to non-Christians."
Buddy, I got news for you. There are quite a few Christians, especially the very passionate and evangelical among them (the type I’m guessing really bother this fellow), who would be delighted if they never see an Easter Bunny again, and are . . . well, they would likely avoid saying the pastel-painting rabbit was "offensive," but from their point of view it sure isn’t Christian.
Which, of course, it isn’t. Even the name of the observance is one of those classic Anglican baptisms of the pagan cosmos into Christ’s service. "Eostre," and fertility icons like the ever-burgeoning wabbit, come from the Angles and the Saxons and springtime rites that pre-date the whole Resurrection deal coming to the British Isles.
Christians of good will can disagree about the seasonal Harvey appearances (I find full-human-size rabbits as scary as a two year old does Santa Claus), but I can’t help but wonder what planet the administrator up north is orbiting if he sees the Big Bunny as the thin edge of Christian theocracy. Throw ‘im out, if you must, but if we had come forward to ask the municipality to remove the Fuzzy Lupine because he offends our religious sensibilities, am I wrong to suspect Christians wouldn’t have gotten the same hearing? Just wondering.
Liturgical purists, of the sort who insist that churches shouldn’t sing Christmas carols until Dec. 24 at the very earliest, will observe that the Hopping Fellow shouldn’t be hiding eggs and little surprises until we actually have something to celebrate, i.e. after church on Sunday.
Practicality, the true religion of America, has dictated that Saturday is the canonical Egg Hunt day, so both churches and community groups are planting unearthly colored oblate spheroids among the sprouting grass tufts, with teenagers carefully stashing the good candy up in tree limbs for later recovery.
Ham sells like turkey at Thanksgiving, only less so, and the rush to buy new dresses and pants long enough for the growing Little Guys gives a small retail bump to the season, and the sugar rush is nothing like Hallowe’en. Easter tries to emulate the rest of the cultural calendar, but it can’t quite, at least not so far.
Because even more than the Virgin Birth lurking awkwardly behind Christmas (hiding behind a screen of "heh heh, sure, I’ve known pregnant girls who said they hadn’t…"), Easter puts front and center a culturally very un-assimilateable image.
Good Friday pop culture doesn’t even want to touch, except for a glancing mock here and there, and the stray movie in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin. Maundy Thursday still baffles all but believers, and even a fair number of those.
But Easter…
The celebration of a sunrise after a Sabbath Passover, in a garden on a city’s edge 2000 years ago, next to the town dump, adjoining the civic execution ground. A commemoration of women who were where they weren’t supposed to be, doing what no one was supposed to do, hearing what wasn’t possible to hear, and seeing . . .
"He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today; He walks with me, and talks with me, along life’s weary way."

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share your story with him at disciple@voyager.net.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Notes From My Knapsack 4-09-06
Jeff Gill

You’re In Jeopardy This Week!

"Well, Alex, I’ll take Easter Potpourri for 600 words…"
Going from Palm Sunday today through Easter next weekend and the rest of April, we’re pulling a scrambled stack o’ notes out of the ol’ knapsack.
This Sunday, New Life Community is celebrating the opening of their Ministries Center at 5:00 pm. They hope to build someday somewhere in the southern third of Licking County, but for now they will rent office space in the former Hebron municipal building at 116 W. Main St., next to the new Sunshine Coffee & Books. New Life will then hold a talent show at Lakewood Middle School at 7:00 pm that evening. For info, call 928-4432 or e-mail pastorbrian@hedied4.us.
Many different churches hold a "Maundy Thursday" service on, yes, Thursday evening, check their signs for info: this marks the institution of the practice of Communion in the life of Christian churches of all sorts, regardless of how they do it.
Good Friday is a day off for many, but not all school districts in Licking County; the Newark Area Ministerial Association (NAMA) is holding a Noon to Three "Tre Ore" Good Friday service, this year at Trinity Episcopal just east of Courthouse Square; your writer will offer one of the seven meditations on the "Last Words of Christ on the Cross."
The Granville Ministerium is offering a silent "Cross Walk" from St. Edward’s Catholic Church parking lot east of the village, on Granville Rd., back through Granville and up to Denison’s Swasey Chapel; this procession will begin at 11:00 am.
Many other churches hold their own evening Good Friday reflections at 7 or 7:30 pm.
Saturday is an anticipation of Easter joy in many locations with an Easter Egg Hunt for children. Major ones are offered at public parks around the county, sponsored by a variety of groups from churches to service organizations.
Licking Park District offers a free and open afternoon with children’s activities on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 pm; they are inviting the whole county to bring their little ones for a ramble across the greening hills off Rt. 37 just north of Union Station.
Easter Sunrise services are at 6:30 am most locations; the Midland Theater is hosting a Newark Community Sunrise service at 6:30 am led by NAMA members, and Second Presbyterian hosts a pancake breakfast to follow that benefits the Licking County Jail Ministries. For info, check www.spcnewark.org.
The Lakewood Area Ministerial Association holds a sunrise Celebration of the Resurrection at Dawes Arboretum, with area churches providing music and message at 6:30 am. Following that, Hebron United Methodist offers the annual Nelson Werkhaven Easter Breakfast for donations only. I can vouch for the quality of the coffee, and more!
Then the very next weekend, April 21, 22, & 23, the Lakewood Drama Department presents "Hello, Dolly!" This musical version of the life story of Dolly Parton is a joyful celebration of a day at Pigeon Forge, and . . . wait, the Lovely Wife is handing me a note, saying "Wrong."
OK, so "Hello, Dolly!" is set a few years back (fun for the costume department) and in the New York area (will they go for accents?), with roles made famous by Carol Channing and Barbra Striesand (can the makeup budget handle the fake nose expenses?). Whateveah.
Anyhow, any time Martha Fickle and her team of talented youth put on a musical production, you can’t lose by attending, maybe even twice.
Shows are 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, 3:00 pm Sunday. Call the box office at 928-4496 and make ‘em sell out the show!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; send your community news bulletins to disciple@voyager.net.