Thursday, September 28, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 10-5-17

Notes From My Knapsack 10-5-17

Jeff Gill


No, not me. You, maybe.



Every morning, I brew a pot of coffee. Since I was fifteen, I've drunk about six to ten cups of coffee a day, from dawn to dusk and often right on into the night.


I'm often told, and have been since in my twenties, that "son, one of these days soon you'll find you have to stop drinking that stuff by noon or you won't sleep a wink."


Just turned 56, still waiting for that fell day to fall. Hasn't yet. We'll see.


I could stop any time, of course. I just don't want to.


Lots of people come home at the end of the day, turn on the television. They don't have to, there's no paycheck or reward or any upside oftimes for doing so, it's just a habit. House is too quiet without it, they say. They could not click the TV when they walk in the house, even before they sit down, and might be happier for not having done so. They just don't want to.


Some of us, younger ones for the most part, put earbuds in at every reasonable opportunity and not a few unreasonable. Recorded music makes them feel better, and the soundtrack to their lives gives them a lift, and it blocks out things they don't want to hear. You or me, for instance. Gotta good beat, you could dance to it, keeps you going. They don't have to have music to live, but it helps life out.


Statistically, it's clear many of us take some pain pills in the morning. I've had my seasons. The sheer numbers sold over the counter indicate that either there are cellars all over America filled with the stuff, or quite a few take a handful first thing, and gobble a few more at intervals right on to bedtime.


Aching joints, throbbing head, general debility, and some ibuprofen or aspirin ease the day along. Could we get along without them? Sure, but it wouldn't be pleasant. Do we take more than we really need? Um, who's asking? Who decides? It doesn't hurt anything, much. Not really.


I am told by some friends and acquaintances that smoking a bit of weed is a useful end to a long day. Easier to get all the time, possibly even legal soon, so what's the harm. It's not addictive. It's not addictive. It's not addictive. (I heard you the first time, really.) Well, it can be habit forming, but not like alcohol, and that's legal, right? Let me have this habit, I'm not hurting anyone. Okay, I reply, I'm not saying it is. Except it is still illegal . . . cue lecture as to why it shouldn't be.


And I go to the grocery for salami and cheese and peanut butter, without which life would surely have no meaning worth speaking of, and traipse down a long aisle of alcohol. One gets the impression in Our Fayre Village that some of this gets drunk. Often. Much.


In our community controversy around schools and testing and expectations, one thing is clear to me. We live in an addictive society. I'm not even getting into the question of prescriptions and such. We are all addicts, and the cultural norm is to be addicted, to something or some things.


How we got here, and what that means, and how it is currently managed, by all of us: that's the question I'm compulsively tugging at.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he will freely admit to being a writing junkie, and can't get through a day let alone week without writing something. Tell him about your compulsions at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Faith Works 9-30-17

Faith Works 9-30-17

Jeff Gill


At the destination of our journeys



This weekend, the first of October, is when Christians around the globe observe World Communion Sunday.


Not every tradition has what's called "the Lord's Supper" at every worship service; Catholics and most Anglicans and many Lutherans and my own Disciples of Christ do so, but quite a few Protestant traditions have communion just once a month, once a quarter, or even just once or twice a year.


So the first Sunday of October became a good target date to try to gather in all of those schedules so there might be one occasion where we all might be mindful of each other, in different traditions, gathered around the same table. Presbyterians in Pittsburgh are proud of having gotten this ecumenical ball rolling, and I'm happy to give it a push.


The larger point has to do, I would say, with the Great Banquet. The meal at the end of the road. A welcome place with room for all. You can visualize it in many ways, but as we're all on a journey, the question is asked: where are we going? The book of Revelation at the end of the Bible offers some strange and wonderful images, but there's a marriage supper at the conclusion as we enter the City of God.


You've been to a wedding reception, I'm sure. They're all different, and they're all the same. There are guests of honor, there are family and friends from near and far, there is food both familiar and unusual: homey snacks before, and a mighty cake at the culmination waiting for everyone to share.


Looking around, you see familiar faces, and strange ones. You ask around, and don't you always hear "sure, you know them; that's cousin Lemuel from her side of the family twice removed"? There are people you should know, those you forgot you knew, and people you're glad you met.


This is what most of us who believe in Heaven think it is like. Do I literally think I'm getting carrot cake with cream cheese icing in the life to come? Not exactly, but the joy I have in tasting it now, with memories and expectations and goodness all coming together . . . that's just a taste of what I believe God intends for us in time's fullness.


And as for the Great Banquet, the "marriage supper of the Lamb," the King's feast, the message of that imagery is what we all know in our bones of this life: that if you invite someone to come to your table and eat with your family, they are being invited into a new relationship that goes beyond just those minutes or hours for a particular meal. You are now family, even if you travel away and are a long time gone. There's a tie that is likely to last over the years until you return, the prodigal of sorts, who will be welcomed and even celebrated on your return.


That is a huge element of what many of us see in worship at the communion table. The elements of the meal are small, and the symbolism our various traditions read differently, but the point is the same. This table, to which we are invited by our gracious Host, is a meal of fellowship that hints at a greater banquet that has no end.


There's also a sort of tradition that when the family gets together, you dig the extra leaves for the big table in the dining room out of the hall closet, behind the winter coats. You pull the end cabinet around and stretch the tablecloth over it; you set a card table up in the front room or back of the kitchen or even in the garage, and there is a special privilege to being at that "kids" table. Many elements come together but it is undoubtedly one table, even if Uncle Albert has to shout the grace around a few corners as we hold hands and bow our heads.


One table. Liturgical or simple worship; concert halls and auditoriums; newer church plants and old established buildings. Carved wood with Gothic letters in front saying "This Do In Remembrance of Me" or a card table with a cloth over the top. But from time zone to time zone this Sunday, from place to place, across denominational boundaries, we join as God's family, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to share in this holy meal. One.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's looking forward to communion every weekend, but this one especially. Tell him about tables of welcome you have known at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.