Saturday, April 27, 2019

Avengers & Potter

We're told that EVERYONE is going to watch Avengers: Endgame. But are they? Everyone? I made a reference at church, on a Wednesday night at Bible study, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in an aside about Doctor Strange, then asked how many had seen a Marvel movie — 1 hand out of 50 in the room went up. None had seen a Harry Potter movie. But when I went to look it up, the Harry Potter movies were seen in theaters by 8 to 14% of the country (and that's not factoring for repeat viewings by devoted fans). Around 1 in 10. That means close to 9 of 10 have never seen any of them. Not everyone!
On TV, "everyone" is even smaller. 4% watched Sopranos finale, 3% Breaking Bad's end, not quite 1% Mad Men. 24% of the country watched the conclusion of Friends, 30% the Seinfeld finale, 35% the 2010 Super Bowl between the Saints and Colts, 38% the 2015 Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Seahawks, but 40% of the nation watched the conclusion of The Fugitive in 1967, and 45% of Americans tuned into the finale of MASH in 1983. But back to the movies…
14% of the nation went to see Iron Man when it first came out in 2008; 23% watched Black Panther last year; a little less Avengers: Infinity War. Star Wars captured about a third of the nation in its first few years, the more recent ones closer to 20% even with Mark Hamill. At the most optimistic, the everyone who will go see Endgame in a theater is probably a third at best, I'd say less than 30% or so given the number who watch it again and again.
How many is everyone, anyhow?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Faith Works 4-27-19

Faith Works 4-27-19

Jeff Gill


Resurrection isn't over



In the wake of Easter, it has to be said.


It's not all about resurrection. Not really.


And I'm not talking about the "who knows?" said by some progressive critics of Easter faith about what happens when you die, but about Jesus, and his resurrection.


Keep in mind, he'd already raised up Lazarus from death, right? John, chapter 11? And then you get Peter raising Dorcas from her deathbed; Paul runs out in the street to raise up a young fellow who had the nerve to fall asleep on him named Eutychus, having fallen three floors out of a windowsill during a sermon in Acts 20.


Further back in the Bible, Elijah raises up the widow's son in I Kings 17; in II Kings 4, Elisha raises up the Shunammite's son. I'm just saying, resurrection is not an event unique to the end of the Gospels.


What made the resurrection of Jesus unique was not simply coming back from death, it was that THIS person, who died under THOSE circumstances, would be among those who rose again from the dead. Resurrection was not considered out of the bounds of possibility for the Roman pantheon, the Greek gods of Olympus or their adherents, or even in Judaism of Jesus' day. But for a shameful death, an execution of a criminal on a cross, to result in the glory of live restored at God's own command, THAT is what was amazing, and hard for many to accept.


Even today, we find many who have had their hearts stop, their breathing paused, but who come back to us from medical procedures or emergency events. We can say "well, they weren't really dead." Maybe so. I've been under anesthetic almost a dozen times, and I have no recollection of what it was like to be "gone." But I was. I could have gone on, but I didn't. Others have been . . . well, they make movies about it these days, I'm told.


What put Jesus in a different category was that he was tried, condemned, executed, mocked and shamed in his dying, placed between two thieves, not two candles, and unceremoniously put in a borrowed tomb. Of all those God in power and authority had chosen to bring back from death, Jesus was not on the list as we understood the criteria. If this Jesus was the Christos, the Messiah, the Anointed of the Lord, he might die and come back, but in battle, in combat, in struggle, perhaps in peace and prayer, but . . . on a cross? A gibbet? An execution platform? A gallows? From a lynching tree? Upon a mark of shame and guilt?


Warriors came back, Hercules came back, Orpheus returned, some said Augustus Caesar or Nero might be lifted up from death into life eternal, but law breakers and rebels and temple desecrators . . . no. Not such as that. Valhalla or Olympus or Dephi might see life restored to a human hero, but a garden tomb next to a trash dump adjoining an execution ground? No.


The resurrection of Jesus Christ was remarkable, and the good news of his restoration to life resisted, because of the circumstance, not the possibility itself. The Bible is full of strange stories, yet no stranger than most of our evening local news; what makes "Christ is risen" an epoch changing proclamation is how he died, not that he died.


And if a shameful death could be transformed by God into new life, then what, exactly, might be redeemed? Almost anything, you might think. There have to be limits to God's love, right? It's not like anyone could be forgiven. You wouldn't want to say the Lord would forgive any sin, would you?


Unless the cross means exactly what it appears to mean. That the love of God and the grace and peace of our Lord are intended for anyone at all. And that the power of resurrection is still at work, even now.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about where you've seen new life breaking forth at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Notes from my Knapsack 5-2-19

Notes from my Knapsack 5-2-19

Jeff Gill


Laurels among the lilacs and redbuds



Granville is, indeed, the kind of town where if a local is featured in "The New Yorker" word gets around fast.


If you don't subscribe, you'll still hear about it sooner or later from someone. Even in a newspaper column!


David Baker not only got a review but an illustration in the April 8 edition; he's had his poetry published in that august platform before. You can see his recognizable image foregrounded against what the article will tell you are a couple of our much bemoaned, often hunted, rarely appreciated Granville deer.


A Denison professor since 1984, he's written about the natural side of living in our village, of traveling about its margins, and how our lives and hearts can be in tune with the music to be heard all around us, even when we live off key.


Reading this appreciation of our local bard got me to thinking. We do have a long tradition of literary excellence in Our Fayre Village, from David back through Minnie Hite Moody at Tannery Hill, past Charles Browne White the sage of Mount Parnassus, beyond even Ellen Hayes and Edgar J. Goodspeed and Mary Hartwell Catherwood.


If you don't know who those folk are, shame on me. I'll keep writing about them, and Jacob Little, too.


But for our working writers, of which we have many, I would offer my appreciation, and a thought. Should we have a Granville poet laureate?


Spring is a good time for poetry; this might be a good year, with a new performing arts center being completed at Denison on Broadway, and as public discourse is redacted and inflected and impacted by partisan debate, for us to have a little more poetry in our lives.


Maybe Dr. Baker is busy, perhaps there are other candidates. And no doubt some will say public time and resources could be better used for infrastructure or services. But I wonder if a poet laureate for Granville might be just what we need.


It's an honor, of course, but laurels are a sign of victory. That's why a crown of them was given to a winner, to someone outstanding in a particular event or contest. To say that there are words or outcomes that speak to a particular moment in an exceedingly successful way. Dave Lucas is our current Ohio poet laureate, who was himself mentored by Ohio's own Rita Dove who was the United States poet laureate; our current national "poet laureate consultant in poetry" is Tracy K. Smith.


It would be no real insight for me to nominate David Baker for our first village poet laureate – the challenge would be to pick the second one. The first, though, would be a step in the right direction. We are community that values education, which has near its heart both a College Hill and a Mount Parnassus, after all. The Muses themselves would call on us to crown with laurel an exemplar in expression, a poet laureate.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your suggestions for various laurels at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.