Friday, March 18, 2011

Knapsack 4-7-11

Twelve Years Old in Granville - 1959


Every time he swung around Mount Parnassus and zipped into the valley
over the bridge, Bobby felt just a little bit nervous.

Not so much the speed his Huffy bicycle could reach downhill, but
about the lady in the little brick house at the top of the slope on
the other side.

Mrs. Moody could be, well, moody. Or at least tart-tongued.

He knew that she wrote for the same newspaper that he delivered, and
she would make comments about how they worked for the same boss, but
a paperboy really never ran into anyone other than the circulation
manager, or the delivery truck guy if he was at his corner when the
bundle got dropped off.

His route was on the east side of the village, with another paperboy
on the west side, and a third out Burg Street. Recently, there had
been new houses going up beyond Clear Run, past Mrs. Moody's house,
all the way to Mrs. Sexton's farm with the big mansion behind the
polo field.

"Young man, this area along the road, beyond my house, used to be
called Centerville, did you know that?" Mrs. Moody had lots of
stories about how things used to be. He knew that Mrs. Sexton had
been a Jones, and there were Joneses back to the very first settlers
here, back to when Indians still camped along the streams and creeks.
Bobby found arrowheads and stone axeheads down along Raccoon Creek
and up in the Jones' fields, and she didn't mind as long as he showed
them to her before he took them home.

Mrs. Sexton always said, when he delivered the paper up to her big
house, to just call her "Sallie," which he never could do. He also
never could collect her subscription, at least not as regularly as
most of the rest of his paper route.

Wasn't that odd, that the richest person was the hardest to get money
from? Or maybe she isn't really all that rich anymore, his mother
would say as he counted up at the kitchen table of an evening. Which
seemed odd…weren't rich people always rich?

Anyhow, this was the last loop before heading home, Bobby thought as
he zoomed down into the valley like a jet fighter on a combat
mission. Pull up, cruise past Mrs. Moody, toss the paper up over the
picket fence onto her stoop like a guided missile, and then six more
customers until pedaling up Jones Road to the mansion, last delivery.
Sometimes Mrs. Sexton would wave him into the kitchen off the back,
and pour him a glass of milk, "from my own cows!" she'd always point
out. Then a leisurely ride home, and one more swoop across this
bridge before he was done for the day.

That's how yesterday was, and how tomorrow would probably be. Bobby
wondered if his son might deliver papers on this same route. Wouldn't
that be amazing? Some things changed, like those stories Mrs. Moody
kept telling him about old times, but then there was new stuff, like
hearing about how the Kraft Music Hall might be in color soon, now
that they had Perry Como. Mom and Dad seemed pretty happy about that.

Things would pretty much always be exactly the way they are, thought
Bobby. Except for the parts that will be different.

[As the father, in 2011, of a twelve year old about to turn thirteen,
I'd like to thank the readers of the Sentinel for bearing with me
through these twelve stories of "Twelve Years Old in Granville."]

Notes From My Knapsack 3-24

Notes From My Knapsack 3-24-11

Jeff Gill

Twelve Years Old in Granville – 1905


If Billy had ever seen a man cry before, he didn't recall it. And two
crying old men was just the strangest sight.

There in the vestibule of the Presbyterian church, they were just
hugging and weeping and talking across each other, and Billy glanced
about, to see that many other adults had moist eyes as they looked on.

But it was time to go on up the steps into the sanctuary, and the
throngs that had crowded the new sidewalks in front now marched
together towards worship.

This was no ordinary church service; the preacher was a visitor, an
elderly gent (older than the two downstairs) who had grown up here in
the village, while his father had been the parson, both of them
called Rev. Little.

Just as he had feared, they ended up back far enough in the crowd
that by the time they got to the upper level sanctuary, the only open
seats were to the front. Billy had already been warned by his mother
that the guest preacher's father had been an absolute bear about
fidgeting or any noise-making, accidental or not, during worship.
Sitting in the second pew left him thinking that his doom was sealed,
and the nature of that doom occupied his thoughts for much of the
early part of the service.

When Rev. Little stepped to the pulpit, everyone shifted and adjusted
themselves as quietly as they could; Billy was not the only one to
have heard reminders that morning of the senior Rev. Little's eagle
eye. It was likely to be a long sermon, and finding a good position
at the start gave you a fighting chance to make it to the end un-

To the satisfaction of both young and old, the message was a warm and
affecting one. The minister spoke of his father Jacob, the struggles
to build the church in which they now sat, and further struggles were
alluded to, which some of the adults nodded at gravely.

He did not dwell on that cloud, but went on to recall the fiftieth
anniversary of the village, in 1855, and ceremonies his father
presided over in the earlier building. There was a town meeting of
sorts, and it was adjourned by one Elias Gilman, the oldest surviving
original settler, and it was seconded by the youngest "mature" lad
present, "my brother and now a pastor himself, George Little."

Everyone looked about and saw the silver head nodding, and smiled.
Rev. Charles Little went on to say "the motion they made and seconded
was to adjourn, to a date fifty years hence. And as the final vote
was taken, two boys in the balcony, about the age of . . ." and his
eye swept down into the second row, pointing directly at Billy, to
say "that young man right there. Those two whispered to each other,
as young men sometimes do during divine worship," and a soft chuckle
washed through the church.

"They said to each other, on that motion to come together again,
fifty years hence, that they would be there. And friends, I am glad
to reintroduce to you those two, who have returned to Granville from
the far corners of this land, Henry Carr & G.G. Walker, carrying with
them lightly the burden of another half-century."

At that, the two men from downstairs, weeping yet again, stood arm in
arm in the frontmost pew of the church.

Looking at them, Billy had two thoughts: that it was hard to imagine
they had ever been twelve, but surely they had – and that no one had
ever called him a young man before.

It was a grand day, all around.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around
central Ohio; tell him a story at

Monday, March 14, 2011

Faith Works 3-19

Faith Works 3-19-11

Jeff Gill


St. Joseph, Keep Watch Over Us



March 19 is the day in liturgical Christian calendars when Mary's husband, Joseph, is remembered. He's also honored on May 1 as "St. Joseph the Worker" which was a late 19th century attempt to steal some of the May Day socialist celebration, but that would be a very different subject.


We know relatively little about Joseph, but in truth we have more detail about him than many Biblical figures. There's description of him in both Matthew and Luke's accounts, and he comes off quite well.


Joseph is clearly respected, of good family – that whole "house and lineage of David" thing – and a worker, in wood.


In fact, later comments about Joseph by way of Jesus (Mt. 13:55) indicate that he was a "tekton," which means he was a bit more than a carpenter. Engineer or architect might be stretching a point, but a "tekton" in the literature of the time referred to a man who took the precious and rare commodity of wood, and used it to build, both directly and also for making the forms around which masonry would be shaped, such as an arch.


Once finished, the wood bracing would be knocked apart (carefully) with a mallet and pried apart, then reused. A tekton had a variety of skills in both wood and stone, and had to visualize the entire structure as it went up, and plan into the future for how, say, a half-dozen sets of forms would be placed and removed to build what might be dozens of arches in the finished building.


Then there's the question of his age. He's not called old, not exactly. The image of Joseph as an older father, whether at the side of Mary in the manger or on the road to Egypt after the visit of the Magi, is because after Jesus' childhood, to about twelve or thirteen, Joseph is clearly dead. We don't hear about his tragic death or the odd accident, it's just taken for granted that when Jesus reappears, narratively, at about 30 years old, Joseph is no more.


Add in the apparent set of step-brothers (this gets into the debate about Joseph, Mary, and if they had children after Jesus, a whole 'nother story), and the weight of scholarship tends to see them as Joseph's children by a first marriage, and there's something about the story of Joseph's dreams, encounters with angels, and ultimate acceptance of Mary, his pregnant betrothed, that feels right about that.


Joseph has some miles and some understanding on him when first we meet, and so there's a first Mrs. J, left unmentioned as were most women of that era, and then a later in life marriage that is a source of some conversation back in Nazareth ("is this not the carpenter's/tekton's son?" is not meant as a simple statement of fact, I'm thinking). The Joseph we start to piece together from our hints and asides, though, is a man who can handle a little talk in the taverns, and shrug it off with grace and dignity.


Since Mark 6:3 calls Jesus a "tekton," we know one more thing for sure about Joseph. He taught his son his trade, as any good father would, then or now. If your craft and skills and tools made a way for you in the world, it was that you handed on, more than coins or gold or even land. Joseph did that for Jesus, his son who was whispered of as "Mary's son," a sly insult which implied that Joseph was not his father.


Tradition rightly calls Joseph the father of Jesus, even if that doesn't tell the whole story. The old Irish cry of "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" may put old Joe third, but he's part of the Holy Family. God asked of him a choice, a decision to willingly carry a burden no less than did Mary, and he also said "Yes" to God's purposes.


The road ahead could not have looked clear, and need for things to go this way had to have raised questions in his mind, but Joseph saw God at work enough to say "yes, I'm going to follow this guidance, one step at a time."


For those in Japan, or in the midst of any of the inexplicable trials that wash over us in this life, it may be a good week to reflect on the role of Joseph, his responses in challenging time, and draw strength from his example – as did, most surely, Jesus himself.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about how your work is a source of God's guidance in your life at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.