Sunday, March 25, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 3-29-18

Notes from my Knapsack 3-29-18

Jeff Gill





About now, sunrise is at 7:15 am, thanks to the clever busy helpful adjustments of the government a few weeks ago. We are saving daylight, having trimmed an hour off the morning and pasted it onto the evening. Huzzah.


So I'm waiting to get sunrises back where they belong in my morning routine, or where I think they should be about this time of year.


I've written more over the years about moonrises than sunrises, because of the Newark Earthworks and their ancient, learned geometries from two thousand years ago, and through them I've learned how amazing it can be to watch a moonrise, which few end up doing.


But most of us have watched the sunrise, at some point or another. It can be a painful experience, if you've waited through a long dark night, and found yourself watching the east for light, for hope, for a beginning or an ending, but weighted with sorrow.


Or it can be a joyful moment, especially if you went to a special vantage point, moving up to it in the dark, in pre-dawn gloom, and were where you could enjoy to the fullest the gathering light moving up in advance of the breaking forth of the sun's rays over a distant horizon.


Sometimes, a sunrise is just the price you pay for a party that went on too late, a job that began too early, and you see it in your rear-view mirror or squint into it through the windshield, a feature of a time of day you'd prefer to be able to avoid.


I know there are many who enjoy a good western view, on the gulf coast of Florida or out in California or even islands beyond, where you can relax by watching the sun set with a cool drink near at hand, letting the red rubber ball squeeze down into the ocean far off.


But I find myself most put in tune with the day, with my life, getting to sit where I can see the first light of day tint the highest tree branches near me, then watch the glow work down the trunk and to the ground, finally warming my face where I sit with a good hot cup of coffee.


A good sunrise can put you in touch with those for whom it's a sunset far to the east, and make you mindful of those who off to your west are still waiting for the first glimmer of dawn. A morning that begins with a sunrise that can warm your heart will light up the whole day, even when the sun is eaten up by clouds overhead later on.


This Sunday, many of us remember a sunrise thousands of years ago, one that began in predawn mists of uncertainty and anxiety, but which by full light had turned into a day full of rejoicing and wonder. Sunrises can do that for you.


This spring, and it is indeed spring no matter what the forsythia are saying to us, I hope you get a chance to wake and greet a sunrise to see what it has to say to you. It might just cast a light on the day and days ahead, that makes more clear than even a good night's sleep alone can bring.


Happy Easter!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he will be atop Horns Hill at 7 am on Easter morning. Tell him what the sunrise says to you at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


Faith Works 3-31-18

Faith Works 3-31-18

Jeff Gill


Seeing and hearing, a story



She almost bolted out of the dark interior of the church into the bright sunlight of Jerusalem.


Inside, the crowds and the turmoil had been enough to throw her off, but the tour guide had taken them to the tomb first, then to the Golgotha chapel, which confused her. The guide did his best to help orient everyone in this ancient building, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, explaining how the original stone quarry had been reshaped and built over, across seventeen centuries, including the place of Jesus' crucifixion, and the location of his now empty tomb, but the lamps and candles and icons and incense . . . it was all too much for her.


Other tour groups crowded in on every side, a chorus of guides speaking at once, in different languages, and when she heard their guide tell everyone that they had free time to wait in line to enter the "Edicule," the chapel built around Christ's tomb at the heart of the church, but that it would be a two hour wait, she turned and went back out the main, ancient doors and into the courtyard.


This was not what she was hoping for, what she'd expected when she signed up for a tour of the Holy Land. There had been wonderful experiences so far, and she wasn't regretting being there for a minute, but this stop on their week long program had thrown her for a loop. She was thinking about Easters past back home, the flowers and morning light and stillness only broken by organ music and hymns, and this was . . . something different. Too different. She couldn't keep the cross, or Jesus, foremost in her thoughts.


They were to head back out the Jaffa Gate, and west to their hotel for lunch in two and a half hours. She could tell the tour guide had seen her look on tourist faces before, and he quickly agreed to let her leave, after a few questions confirmed for him she could make her way back on her own.


Even the courtyard, about the size of her backyard at home, was crowded. She worked her way through the entering pilgrims, heading back to the main point of entry to the church. A turn, a couple more blocks, and blessedly, the Old City opened up and there was even something resembling a small park in front of her. An open bench sat in the sun like an invitation.


Looking around, there were low ruined walls, a sign saying something about a "muristan," and the closest thing to green growing plants she'd seen in some time. The sound of the guides in the echoing hollow spaces of the church were gone, and there was a bit of wind blowing through the tiles and towers around.


Then she saw the cat. It was sitting on a stretch of wall off to one side of her, paws tucked together beneath, but one in the cat's mouth, then curling up behind an ear, pulling it forward and around, again and again.


The cat grooming itself suddenly took her to a different place. She was at home, but not at home. Her cat back in Ohio, cats anywhere, a cat in this place two thousand years ago, would have groomed themselves in just the same self-possessed, repetitive way. Past and present felt closer together, and she to that past represented by the city, the streets, and that busy bustling too crowded church. And then she heard the name of Jesus.


It was "Jesus," and "sepulcher," with German accents, in the midst of more she couldn't quite make out, but they had come out of the Lutheran church across the way, and were walking as a group without a tour guide, heading exactly away from the street which would take them to the ancient church, the traditional place of crucifixion and resurrection. And then they came to halt all together, just in front of her, pointing all the wrong way, an apparent leader of sorts squinting at a map.


She summoned up her courage, and her one year of high school German, and stood up. "Gehen kirche Sepulcher?"

"Ja?" replied the woman with the map.


With a muddle of "Ich spreche ein sehr bisschen Deutsch" and "rechts, zwei . . . blocks? Then rechts nochmal?" the light dawned, fingers pointed at the map, and the group turned in the correct direction with a flurry of "danke! Danke fraulein!" over their shoulders.


She sat back down, and smiled. She had pointed them in the right direction. Towards Jesus.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your trips to disorienting places where the familiar can still show up at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.