Thursday, September 16, 2010

Knapsack 9-23

Notes From My Knapsack 9-23-10

Jeff Gill


A Season For Orange, Or Something Like It



Autumn arrives today, in an official sense, with all its astronomical papers in order.


We've already been suspecting the presence of a new season, quietly waiting just around the next corner.


Browned off grass and singed leaf edges confirm this suspicion, and then there's the appearance of orange on the landscape.


Now, in this age of industrial chemical coloration, the word orange itself starts to take on an unearthly hue in our minds. Orange barrels, construction worker vests, overhead alert sleeves on power cables – that's an orange of a sort.


But I'm seeing an older orange, the one that is the true harbinger of autumn


You could call this color pumpkin, since that's the broadest, most obvious place to pick it out. Big ripe garden gourds waiting for a knife and a candle to reach their jack-o'-lantern apotheosis, pumpkins are obviously orange, but with a lighter touch and an inner vibrancy.


Up in the canopy, where most leaves are holding on for a last few days equal to the nights, there are glimpses of russet and reddish-brown and orange.


Even out in the lawns, where much of the turf has given up the ghost, there's a faint hint of orange-ish-ness out in the middle of the dormant patches, made all the more distinctive by the green corners that flare up after fall rains renew the shady patches.


Then when you roll out through the countryside, there's a dry, dimmer orange underlying the corn and soybeans, past their growth, withdrawing into aridity, waiting for the harvesters to roam the fields by night under the September moon.


"Shine on, shine on harvest moon . . ." which itself can be seen, on first arising, as an orange orb in the east.


From now through the end of December, nights will be longer than days, having just passed the equinox. For a little while longer, though, there's still a bit of an evening where a walk around the neighborhood or down the side of the road can still stretch the legs and clear the mind.


Henry Thoreau wrote a beautiful essay titled "Walking" which is worth reading as a spur to doing some sauntering yourself, easy enough to find online. It closes with a poem which talks about a road in the neighborhood of Concord, MA which once went to Marlborough but is now a farm lane, still displaying milestones much as Licking County's own National Road does.


Henry closes with a thought that applies just as well to Newark-Granville Road or Pearl Street, Main St. or Cherry turning into Broad:


If with fancy unfurled

You leave your abode,

You may go round the world

By the Old Marlborough Road.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your favorite road at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Faith Works 9-18

Faith Works 9-18-10
Jeff Gill

Whatever You Might Choose To Call Him

Not infrequently the question will come up, in regards to Jesus.

It gets asked courteously, sometimes confrontatively, occasionally combatively, always very curiously: "So you, as a Christian, think he was God?"

To which, of course, my answer is no.

We Christians believe he *is* God, then and now, before and after.


Yep. That's the deal.

If there is further conversation on the point, it's usually along the lines of "So how does that work?"

The short answer is "the Trinity." Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't get much play these days, in our marvelously rationalistic era, since it's (at its best) an extended philosophical argument for the Three-in-One-ness of God. This was much more common a point of clarification, oddly enough, in a more so-called primitive era, like the early medieval period of Ireland, where Patrick, late of England, stolen slave by the Celts and now returned Christian missionary, plucked up a shamrock to help answer the question all the cool Druid priests were asking.

A three-leaf clover actually doesn't work as a shamrock, since it really is three separate leaves off the central stem. A shamrock, if you look verrry closely, is a single leaf, with deeply incised lobes which from a bit of a distance looks like three separate leaves. On closer examination, it's really one. There's God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, said Patrick, soon to be bishop and saint, and patron of a springtime festival with the wrong plant stuck up on the barroom windows.

Most folks aren't that much more concerned than a Druid, and leave the Trinity as well enough alone at that point. But the whole idea of Jesus as . . . what did you say he was?


Right – seriously, you believe that?

Muslim folk of good will let me know that they are puzzled by Christian claims to be monotheists, believers in one God, but that we think we can say that Jesus is God. As I mentioned last week, there's some surprisingly positive stuff said about Jesus in the Qur'an, but there are also some unmistakable assertions that you simply can't, shouldn't call Jesus either God or the Son of God. It's a mistake, one we should correct forthwith.

And some Christian folk will downplay that kind of formulation, and aver that Jesus represents, or embodies God to us in a very compelling way; he's a metaphor, or a window . . . but they may be very hesitant to emphasize that Jesus is in any way God himself. A door to God, a metaphor which Jesus himself uses.

On behalf of orthodox Christian teaching, let me try to get into my inner St. Patrick and describe what many of us mean when we say "Jesus is Lord." If you look at the sun – first, you really barely even can and truly shouldn't look directly at the sun. You'll put your eyes out, kid.

As powerful and visible and effectual as the sun is, when you glance up in its general direction, you can "see the sun." It occupies a particular place, and that place appears from our point of view to move.

In fact, the sun is what we orbit around ourselves, and even when the sun goes down, the light of the moon is reflected sunlight, and the warmth of the earth is radiating from the day's store of illumination; the gravity and mass of the sun hauled together and formed the planets of the solar system, millennia ago and spinning still.

You can calculate the movements and position of the sun's appearance in the heavens, but that doesn't even begin to encompass the physics and reality of nuclear fusion that is the heart of what makes the sun sunny. It looks round and reassuring on an autumn blue sky day, but what the hydrogen atoms are up to for that to be there beggars the imagination, hinted at when we glance too long, and look away with an afterimage burned into our eye from 93 million miles away.

When we look to Jesus, we see enough. We Christians believe that pointing to Jesus directs people to as much of God as we can handle, and then some; no matter how Trinitarian we're feeling, we know that there's even more to God than what we see in him.

And it's the "sent-ness" of Jesus that makes us stop and take notice, because everything about him and the time he walked among us points to how he was a specific, intentional, intended message of God to us. To their then, and our now.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story that shed light into your life at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.