Friday, November 11, 2011

Knapsack 11-17

Notes From My Knapsack 11-17-11

Jeff Gill


A Thankful Connection




This Sunday, you all are invited to St. Edward's Catholic Church at 7:00 pm for a Community Thanksgiving worship service.


Rev. Dwight Davidson of the United Church of Granville will offer a message on "Making the most of the time" from Ephesians 5:16. A community chorus will rehearse together at 5:00 pm for the 7:00 pm service, and a number of young people from different congregations will share the readings.


One particular young person, John Ball, from UCG, is organizing a shoe drive which the Granville Minsterium wants to support this year. If you have old, worn shoes, tie or rubber band them together, and bring them to deposit at the service. John and his youth group are collecting them for Edge Outreach, a non-profit ministry which both sends on into the developing world shoes which can be worn, and recycles the others in bulk to earn cash that is then used to drill wells where they're needed, from Haiti to Sudan.


The shoes, like the canned goods we often collect in other years at the ecumenical service, are a small token, but a reminder, and one that has its own place. The offering makes us stop and think in a way writing even a fifty dollar check might not; walking into a church with barely useful shoes dangling from our hands gives a sense of the limits of our giving, but a practical insight into what's needed. Hope and healing, and clean water, may just be a few grubby sneakers away.


It's this question of how faraway places matter to us, and how we are connected to them, which dogs my question about what kind of "empire" our country, our culture is going to be. As Christians in a country with global impact, we can shape some ends with our actions, and resist some initiatives with our votes, even as we struggle to define which global matters truly do matter to a life of faith, and which means are right and proper to use as faithful people in the world.


Sending a check used to be safe, but we've gotten wise to the foolishness that money alone will announce the gospel, the good news. Sometimes you can't buy what God wants to see done; actually, that's usually the case.


Overseas mission, along with our local work recently celebrated and supported at places like a concert of gospel music in Newark, needs the kind of support that can only be participated in. Granville is blessed with the fact that most of our churches contain people who have actually gone and been and done in distant places, returning to tell us those stories, to make real to us what good news looks like in Myanmar and Mexico. Participation is more important than contribution, it seems, and even if we can't physically go, we can participate through holy listening, just as a gospel concert isn't complete without an audience softly singing along at times.


Overseas, counterinsurgency against violent threats is being rethought as well. Apparently we can neither bomb nor drone our way to a lasting peace, who knew? And "existential threats" may be best fought in a struggle that begins before the first IED is set, when skills and talents are better spent in building a life with hope & promise, rather than building bombs and booby traps.


I don't entirely know how we help others make that choice. I'm guessing learning more about why people make the choice to blow people like me up (or their own folk) is going to be one part of it. Figuring that out doesn't excuse their choices for evil acts, but it does give people like me a starting point to figure out what could be done. You don't have to concede terrorism is our own fault to realize that there may have been something we could have done sooner to prevent it.


And far enough back, it might have been as simple as a pair of shoes. Given with love.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he hopes to see you at the ecumenical Thanksgiving service! Say hello at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Faith Works 11-12

Faith Works 11-12-11

Jeff Gill


The More Things Change



"The Lord be with you"


"And . . ."


Those statements are familiar, as far as they go, across many Christian traditions.


They have long taken the form, in America, of "The Lord be with you" from the priest, preacher, or presider, with a response from the people gathered of "And also with you." It comes from the Mass in English after the great transition of the Vatican II conference for the Roman Catholic Church, and sets the worship service rolling.


Those responsive statements are so effective that actually in the vast majority of Protestant churches you could step up to the platform or pulpit and say "The Lord be with you," and count on the majority of worshipers to respond in booming tones "And also with you."


This will get a little complicated come the end of the month.


Nov. 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, which is, for liturgical churches (and to some degree for any congregation which follows the lectionary cycle of Scripture readings), the beginning of the year. Everything resets, from the texts in weekly worship to the colors of pulpit covers and table paraments (purple for Advent).


Catholic Christians will find on that day, and I presume in the "vigil masses" on Saturday evening before, a bit more of a change. Well, more than a bit.


It turns out that the Mass translations from the Latin many of us have heard for years have been provisional, awaiting a more carefully considered effort from an international commission on worship texts. They've been provisional for over 40 years, but Rome likes to remind people that they don't think in terms of years, but of centuries (and wags would add, "yes, the fourteenth century").


After some politick-ing that I've read about but can't claim to understand (there was a draft worked on for some 30 years that was liked by many, but pitched at the last minute and reformulated under different management to reach the new, final translation), this new liturgical year ushers in an official, non-provisional "Missal of the Roman Mass" for use in worship among Catholics throughout the English-speaking world.


With this first Sunday of Advent, you will hear the priest say "The Lord be with you," and your response will be "And with your spirit."


Is that all, you might ask? Oh no, there's much more. The form and sense of the whole is really not much changed at all, but some have said that a certain preference for Latinate constructions is what most marks this translation, with words like "consubstantial" likely to trip up unsuspecting tongues.


I've spoken to two priests and a few church musicians about the coming change, and the consensus is that the adjustment for the congregation should be relatively simple & straightforward (watch the card that's going to be in the pew!), but the real problem will be for priests and musicians who have been putting off wrestling with their parts, where the largest number of changes in wording have been made (I'm told). Some have begun already "saying the Mass" in this form in their private devotions, even practicing it in front of the bathroom mirror ("like being back in seminary!" one said).


But all agree the rumors and worries are a bit out of scale with what's actually going on. When you read the Latin text the 1970 translation was based on, you don't have to know the language to see why the 2011 adjustment makes a certain sense: Priest: Dominus vobiscum.  People: Et cum spiritu tuo. You can see it: "And with your spirit."


There is also returned from traditions of an earlier day a practice which is behind the common idiom "breast-beating": instead of what the 1970 version asks the people to pray as "that I have sinned through my own fault," the new translation returns, in English, to the Latin mass usage of inviting worshipers to tap their chest three times while saying "that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," from an original Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."


Meanwhile, for all us Protestants, the question now arises: do we change, too? Or does the sacramental meaning of acknowledging the Holy Spirit at work in the presider, reclaimed with "And with your spirit," mean that most of us would do well to keep "And also with you"?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he hopes that the Lord is with you! You may respond as you prefer to or follow Knapsack @Twitter.