The Importance of Retreat

(Author’s note: This article was written for and published in the February 2020 edition of The Cross and Tower newsletter at FUMC Winnfield)

Jesus was a busy guy!  Thousands of years later, we are still talking about his short three years of full time ministry.  To tell the stories of his teachings, miracles, birth, life, death and resurrection takes 11,304 words in the Gospel of Mark; 18,346 words in Matthew; 19,482 words in Luke; and 15,635 words in John.[i]  That is a total of 64,767 words to tell the story of who Jesus was and what he came to do!

Yet Jesus also found time to spend with God and apparently he did it regularly.  Luke 5:15-16 reads “But the news about Him (Jesus) was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (NASB)  If Jesus was purposeful about finding time to retreat and focus on his relationship with God, shouldn’t we?

There are many good retreats such as Cursillo, Happening, Walk to Emmaus, Youth camp, and many others that help us find focused time to spend with God. I am blessed to have been to several of them.  Maybe you have too.  Over the past few years, I have become involved in a retreat called the North Louisiana Christian Ashram and this retreat has met yearly in Louisiana for over 40 years!  In fact, the worldwide headquarters are in nearby Ruston, on US 167, near the Methodist Children’s Home.

What is an ashram?  Christian Ashrams were started by the great Methodist missionary to India, E. StanleIMG_4115y Jones.  The word “Ashram” simply means retreat.  Ashram includes a rhythm of an evangelistic speaker, Aaron Brown from Joplin, MO, Bible teaching, by Jason Ramsey from West Monroe, LA, small groups, food, fellowship and more.  The healing service on Friday night is always a highlight of the weekend.  FUMC Winnfield member Jan Beville and I are privileged to serve on the planning team for this year’s ashram which will be February 7-8, 2020 at FUMC W. Monroe, just off of Interstate 20.  This year, we are trying a new, shortened two day schedule which begins at 11 AM on Friday and concludes about 3:30 PM on Saturday.  We are hoping this will make to Ashram more accessible to out of towners (like people from Winnfield) who will only have one night’s lodging expense, as well as those who are working full-time, that would only have to take a half day off work on Friday to fully participate in the weekend.  But each Ashram is a come-and-go event, so if you cannot stay for the entire retreat you could come to some of the worship services or Bible study.  Registration (lodging not included) is only $45 (without meals) or $75 (meals included) for the entire weekend.   You can find out more about the ashram by talking to Jan Beville, Kiah Beville, me or visit http://www.christianashram.org/north-louisiana-christian-ashram.html.  I have a brochure with a registration form if you would like to register for the ashram, view the schedule, or you can register at Eventbrite.com (search Louisiana Ashram- an extra fee is required).

If Jesus thought time away with God to focus on his spiritual life was important, shouldn’t we who claim to follow Jesus follow his example?  I invite you to make retreat, an intentional time set apart for spiritual growth, a part of your life.  And I invite you to the Ashram to help you realize that goal.

Taking time to retreat,

Kevin D. Smith

[i] https://overviewbible.com/word-counts-books-of-bible/

 

 

Finish Strong

(Author’s note:  this article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of “The Cross and Tower” newsletter published by FUMC Winnfield)

It has been a successful and historic season for LSU football. As a passionate LSU fan and proud LSU Alum who witnessed one, count them, one, winning season dulsu football helmetring my three years at LSU (1992-1995), it is almost heaven to witness an undefeated regular season, a SEC Championship, many postseason awards, number one ranking, and a chance to win a national championship. Yet with those successes come high expectations. It would be a great season, but a disappointing one, if the Tigers fail to finish the season strong and come up short in the college football playoff. They must finish what they started.

So it is with Christmas. Christmas, with all of it’s wonder and cheer, wise men and shepherds, poinsettias and lights, and the wonderful gift of Jesus, God’s only son, is only the beginning. We cannot leave Jesus in the manger. The one born on Christmas grows to be a great teacher and leader, was crucified and buried for our sins, then rose on the third day, and now He lives in us. We remember and celebrate all of these facets of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection through the Christian year, which begins with Advent instead of a calendar that reads January 1.

My encouragement to the LSU Tigers is to finish strong! Play hard! Finish what you’ve started.

My encouragement to you and I after Christmas is to finish strong! Watch Jesus grow. Listen to his teachings. See him die for you and me. Witness the empty tomb. Watch for his return. Spread the good news about Jesus. It is our task to finish what Christmas has begun.

I found this Christmas poem by Howard Thurmon many years ago and it has become a favorite of mine.
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and the princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among brothers, To make music in the heart.

GEAUX TIGERS! Finish strong!

Go Christian! Share the good news about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection!

Finishing Strong,
Kevin Smith

For All the “Saints”…

Good read! GEAUX SAINTS!

Not the Perfect Pastor

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a New Orleans Saints fan. Seriously, my earliest memories of football…any football…are of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon, usually at my Grandmother’s house. I love me some Saints football.

That’s one reason I’m heartbroken this week. The Saints played in the NFC Conference Championship game on Sunday afternoon and were robbed (yes, robbed) of the chance to play in the Super Bowl on February 3rd. There was a horrible no-call pass interference penalty late in the fourth quarter that most likely would have ended the game with a New Orleans walk-off field goal. Anyone but the most avid Los Angeles Rams fan would agree the non-call was egregious (check here and here), but that fact doesn’t change the result of the game: LA Rams 26, NO Saints 23!

Here’s my confession: I take the New Orleans Saints too…

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THE Way Forward

winding-road-1556177_960_720(Author’s note- this article was written for the October edition of The Cross and Tower Newsletter for FUMC Winnfield)

For over 40 years now, the United Methodist Church has been in turmoil over homosexual marriage and ordination of homosexual clergy. In 2016, the General Conference, the worldwide meeting of the United Methodist Church, elected a group of 23 persons from a range of theological perspectives, called the Commission on a Way Forward, to help us (hopefully) reach a solution to this impasse. They have presented three options to a called session of General Conference will take place February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis. You can access the entire 93 page report here: Commission on a Way Forward or a shorter 2 page infographic summary here: Overview of Proposals for 2019 General Conference. Other options and petitions could also be presented, discussed, and voted on at the General Conference meetings.

What will happen at General Conference? Will one of the plans be approved? Will the United Methodist Church split or dissolve altogether? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone else knows either.

But I do know the answer to the question is there a way forward. The answer is clearly YES! Actually, I know not only A way forward but THE way forward. THE way forward is to follow Jesus each and every day. THE way forward is to follow the one who said “I am the way the truth and the life” in John 14:6. THE way forward is to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” in Hebrews 12:2. THE way forward is to follow Jesus.

THE way forward is to be faithful to our mission. Our mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Our mission is to make a difference, to make disciples, in our community and around the world. We accomplish this through the many ministries and programs of our church- Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Wondrous Wednesdays, acolytes, youth, Kids World, Helping Hands, Kairos, Chancel Choir and so many others. This is our mission. This is our task. Obviously, this mission falters or even fails without your support through the giving of your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. We cannot forsake our mission. Jesus is depending on us.

What will happen in February? I don’t know. But I do know that I plan to come to work on February 27. I do know that we will have Sunday morning worship on March 3. I do know that Jesus will still be Lord, working and moving in the world and in my life. I do know that our mission will still be the same- to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

I want to encourage you (and me) to not be distracted or in despair over the called session of General Conference and a way forward. Instead let us focus on THE way forward, following Jesus and being faithful to our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Following THE way forward,

Kevin

James and Ella Russell Window and Good Shepherd Window

(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on August 12, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the tenth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)

I. Introduction

Over the last weeks we have been looking at the reminders of God all around in the symbolism of our church building and stained glass windows.  Today we come to window number 9 in memory of James and Ella Russell and window number 10 in memory of Mr and Mrs N.M. Jackson.

II.  Body

A. Balcony Cross

IMG_2770Window Number Nine (in memory of James and Ella Russell) in the Balcony is divided by the cross, seen more distinctly from the outside of the church, is a contrast in its simplicity and carries out the arched theme seen throughout the sanctuary.

James G. Russell, Sr was born June 15, 1879 in Blanchard, Isabella County, Michigan.  He died Oct 11, 1967 (aged 88) in Winnfield.

His obituary reads: Jame G. Russell, Sr., 88, retired accountant of Winnfield, died at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday, October 11, 1967 in a local hospital after a lengthy illness.  The deceased was a native of Blanchard, Michigan, but moved with the Tremone Lumber Company to Winnfield 65 years ago. For the past several years he was employed as bookkeeper for a local wholesale grocery.

Mr. Russell was an active member of the First Methodist Church where he served on the board of stewards for many years. He had taught Sunday School classes, all ages ranging from 6 to 60 years.

Funeral services were conducted in First Methodist Church with Rev. Richard Walton russell 2officiating, assisted by Rev. R. H. Staples and Rev. Edgar Dufrense. Survivors include three sons, J. G. Russell, Jr., of Winnfield, Lawrence Russell of Alexandria, and Donald Russell of Bossier City; three daughters, Mrs. Max Allen of Winnfield, Mrs. Clyde Corley, Bastrop, and Mrs. Charles Dark of Cleveland, Texas; 10 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.[i]

Clara Ella Gibson Russell was born Feb 22, 1886.  She died Dec 6, 1954 (aged 68).  She is buried in Winnfield Cemetery.[ii] Rusty and Ellen Russell are James and Clara’s grandchildren.

All of the windows are beautiful, but this is window is one of my favorites.  It is the most visible window to me from the pulpit while being hidden from many of you in the pews.  It’s simple image of the cross is a reminder to me to always center what I do and say on Jesus and what he has done for us.

As many of you know, I was not raised a Methodist.  I did not set foot in a Methodist church until I was in college. When I was deciding if I wanted to be a Methodist and was called to be a United Methodist pastor, a man named Dan Solomon was the Bishop in Louisiana from 1996-2000.  I met with Bishop Solomon in his office in Baton Rouge and we had an honest and fruitful conversation.  It is one of the reasons I am standing here this morning.

Bishop Solomon was an excellent preacher and many of the times I heard him speak, he reminded his listeners to “keep the main thing, the main thing.”  The Russel window is a constant reminder to me to keep Jesus and the cross the main thing in my life and preaching, that, like the arched theme and cross, I might point others to Jesus.

The lone sheep window in the stairwell near the Sanctuary in honor of James’ son, Jim.  This window was made by Betty Lawson’s sister and was given by the church and the community in October of 1993 for Jim’s 80th birthday.  The Russell windows reminds us of their faith, to keep the main thing the main thing, and to point others to Jesus.

B.Good Shepherd Window

IMG_2768Window Number Ten, lighted throughout the night, depicts Christ as the good shepherd. Recalling the beautiful passages of Psalms 23, we see the depth of Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays clown his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). The life of service that Jesus lived and his sacrificial death have inspired the figure of a stalwart young man carrying a lamb.  On the walls of the catacombs of Rome where the early Christians went to escape the Roman soldiers. there is found over 150 times the picture of the shepherd, reminding the faithful scattered sheep of their Good Shepherd whose care was unfailing at all times.

The good shepherd window is in memory of Mr. and Mrs. N.M. Jackson.  Napoleon M. Jackson was born Feb 16, 1870 in Ruston.  He died Jun 4 ,1939 (aged 69) in Winnfield.  He is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.

His obituary reads: N. M. Jackson, 69, prominent citizen of Winnfield, died suddenly img_1773.jpegSunday morning at about 4:30 as he was about his usual task of caring for his dairy cows. His grandson, Harold DeBray, who assists him during vacation time, seeing milk flowing down the hallway of the barn, went to see the cause and found Mr. Jackson dead.

Mr. and Mrs. Jackson moved to Winnfield in November, 1909, coming from the old Jackson farm near Ruston, where Mr. Jackson was born and reared. Here they reared and educated their family, taking an active part in the religious and civic life of the community.  Mr. Jackson had been a member of the Methodist Church since a youth and had been a member of the Woodmen of the World for many years.

Last rites were conducted from the Methodist Church Monday morning with the pastor, Rev. G. A Morgan, officiating. He was assisted by the Rev. Alwin Stokes, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and Rev. W. T. Strain, Baptist minister of Simsboro.  The floral offering, coming from friends throughout the state, was one of the largest ever witnessed in Winnfield, attesting to the esteem in which the family is held.  Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise (Winnfield, LA), June 8, 1939[iii]

Ella McIntosh Jackson was born Mar 23, 1874 in Waxahachie, Texas.  She died Nov 25, 1960 at the age of 86 in Winnfield.

img_1766.jpegHer obituary reads:  Mrs. N. M. Jackson, 86, died at a local hospital early Friday morning, November 25, 1960. She had been in failing health for the past two years.  Last rites were conducted at the First Methodist Church with the pastor, Rev. R. H. Staples, officiating. He was assisted by Dr. W. L. Holcomb of the First Baptist Church and by Rev. P. M. Carraway of Shreveport, former pastor of Winnfield. Burial was in the Winnfield Cemetery under direction of Southern Funeral Home.

The deceased was the former Miss Ella Olyce McIntosh, born in Waxahachie, Texas, on

IMG_6556

Mr. and Mrs. N.M. Jackson

March 27, 1874. She was active in the religious and civic life of Winnfield and took a leading part in various clubs and groups. Mrs. Jackson was a charter member of the Methodist WSCS and served as its president for four years. She was also a charter member of the Readers Review Club, the Garden Club, and Methodist Orphanage Society, of which she served as president many years. Other organizations of which she was a charter member included the P. T. A., and the Delphians.

Mr and Mrs Jackson had six children.  They are the grandparents of John Glen Jackson and great grandparents of Jan Shell Beville and Fran Shell Walton.  Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise News-American Winnfield, LA), December 1, 1960[iv]

The most represented image in catacomb art is of Christ as the Good Shepherd. In the ancient world sheep provided wool, milk, cheese and meat and the shepherd of the sheep was the person who led the sheep to good pastures, risked his life to protect them from wild animals, gave help to the sheep who were injured, kept an accurate account of them, looked for those who were lost and made sure they were safe at night

The kings of Israel were expected by God to be shepherds of His people (II Samuel 5:2) and the New Testament word for “pastor” from the Latin pastorem literally means “shepherd.  The sculptures and images are meant to evoke passages in Scripture about Christ as the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, finds it and brings it home as well as the shepherd who protects, pastures and lays down his life for his flock:

In John 10:11-15 Jesus says 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  The early Christians used the Biblical metaphor of the Good Shepherd to show the redeeming work of Christ and of His care for believers—Jew AND Gentile.[v]

If you are like most people today, chances are you do not know any shepherds. Think about their job. First, to better understand the purpose of a shepherd during the times of Jesus, it is helpful to realize that sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon the shepherd. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of the shepherd as they graze. Rushing walls of water down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, robbers may steal them, and wolves may attack the flock. David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:36). Driving snow in winter, blinding dust and burning sands in summer, long, lonely hours each day—all these the shepherd patiently endures for the welfare of the flock. In fact, shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, sometimes even giving their lives to protect their sheep.[vi]

A shepherd tended his flock day and night. He would gather the sheep into a sheepfold at night for their protection. The sheepfold was a pen, a cave, or an area backed by stone walls. Since there were no doors, the shepherd would often sleep or sit in the opening, ready to guard his sheep from harm.

The good shepherd was different than a hired hand who might run away in the face of danger.  The good shepherd would stay and defend them. He had a genuine loving concern for what belonged to him. In chapter 10, Jesus illustrates how the shepherd cares for his flock, protecting them from weather, thieves, and predatory animals. He loved and shielded them and if necessary, he would lay down his life for them. [vii]

A shepherd knows his sheep well. There is a personal relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus knows each of us by name. On the other hand, we respond to his voice and do not follow the voice of strangers who may lead us to harm.  When Jesus gave Peter the responsibility of leading his Church, he again used shepherd imagery. He told Peter, “Feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).  The image of shepherds is that they are kind, loving, patient, strong, and self-sacrificing. They are a good image for Jesus. And sheep, who can be rather stupid and foolish creatures, are a good symbol for us![viii]  The good shepherd window reminds us that Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for us.

III. Conclusion

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through us?  The balcony cross reminds us of the Russell family and to keep Jesus the main thing.  The good Shepherd window reminds us of the Jackson family and that Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for us.  The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58955130/james-g.-russell

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27341643/clara-ella-russell

[iii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54395312/napoleon-m.-jackson

[iv] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54395075/ella-jackson

[v] https://earlychurchhistory.org/christian-symbols/symbol-of-christ-as-good-shepherd/

[vi] https://www.gotquestions.org/Good-Shepherd.html

[vii] https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/jesus-the-good-shepherd.htm

[viii] https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/scripture-and-tradition/jesus-and-the-new-testament/who-do-you-say-that-i-am-names-for-jesus/the-good-shepherd

Carolyn Sue Smith Window (Lyre-Dove with Olive Branch and Ark- Lamb on Book of Seven Seals)

IMG_2741(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on August 5, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the ninth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)

I. Introduction

Over the last weeks we have been looking at the reminders of God all around in the symbolism of our church building and stained glass windows.  Today we come to window number 8 in memory of Carolyn Sue Smith.

Carolyn Sue Smith was born March 23 1939 in Winnfield.  She died Sep 6 1950 (aged 11) in Winnfield.  She is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.

Her obituary reads: Tragedy struck suddenly this week in Winnfield with the untimely death of Carolyn Sue Smith, 11 year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Smith. Carolyn became very ill Tuesday afternoon at her father’s store, the Jitney Jungle supermarket, and was taken to a local hospital, where she died at 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Funeral services were conducted at the First Methodist Church with the pastor, Rev. P. M. Caraway, the former pastor, Rev. Fred S. Flurry, of Hammond,, and Rev. Alwin Stokes, officiating. The Methodist choir sang, “Lead, Kindly Light.”

Carolyn was born in Winnfield on March 23, 1939 and had lived here all her life. She was in the sixth grade in Winnfield School, where she was especially interested in science and math and did excellent work in this field.  She was everyone’s friend, having a sweet disposition and a habit of being kind to everyone. Her classmates loved her and showed this by electing her to several positions of honor in her classes.

She was a member of the elementary chorus and the band at school, and was a member of the Girl Scouts. She was active in the Junior Department of the Methodist Church and was a member of the Methodist junior choir.  Surviving, besides her parents, are one brother, Troy Lynn; her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. F. O. Lattier, Winnfield, and Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Smith, Timpson, Texas.[i]

Carolyn was the sister of Troy Lynn Smith- Missy Smith’s husband. She had an Aneurysm upstairs at the store and died next day.  Died Sept 6 on Missy’s birthday, whom she had just met. It was a tragedy that affected their family for many years to come.  But even in her few years on this earth, she seems to have made a positive impact on those around her.  We remember and celebrate her short life, as well as the beautiful gift of this window in her memory.

II. Body

A: Lyre

IMG_2733The lyre again represents praise or worship. Psalms 33:2 reads, “Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings!”

The lyre dates from before the Bronze Age (400-3200BC) and may have evolved from ancient harps.  “The fundamental difference between a lyre and a harp, is that in a harp, the strings enter directly into the hollow body of the instrument, whereas on a lyre, the strings pass over a bridge, which transmits the vibrations of the strings to the body of the instrument – just as on a modern guitar.”  Concerning the number of strings, each lyre varied in design. Typically there were three, four, seven and sometimes ten strings, each representing certain patterns of frequency (sound) considered appropriate in the design of the instrument i.e. meaning and purpose of the communication.[ii]

The ancient Hebrews had two stringed instruments, the “kinnor” (harp) and the “nebel” (lyre).  In both instruments the strings were set in vibration by the fingers, or perhaps by a little stick, the plectrum (as Josephus says). The strings were made of gut, metal strings not being used in olden times. The body of the instrument was generally made of cypress (II Sam. vi. 5) or, in very precious instruments, of sandalwood (I Kings x. 11; A. V. “almug”).

The kinnor and nebel are often mentioned together. As in the case of all instrumental music among the Hebrews, they were used principally as an accompaniment to the voice. Instruments were used on joyous occasions, such as banquets and festive processions (Gen. xxxi. 27; I Sam. x. 5; II Sam. vi. 5; Isa. v. 12), and especially in the Temple service (Ps. xxxiii. 2, xliii. 4; Neh. xii. 27; I Chron. xvi. 5); here also in accompaniment to songs of praise and thanksgiving (I Chron. xvi. 16; II Chron. v. 12; Ps. xxxiii. 2, lvii. 9, lxxi. 22). They were never used on occasions of mourning (Isa. xxiv. 8; Ezek. xxvi. 13; Lam. v. 14; Ps. cxxxvii. 2; Job xxx. 31). The nebel, the lyre, seems to have been reserved exclusively for religious occasions (Amos v. 23; Ps. cxliv. 9). In connection with secular events (Amos vi. 5; Isa. xiv. 11), its use appears to have been regarded as unseemly and profane. It is evident from the Old Testament that the lyre could be played while the performer was walking (I Sam. x. 5; II Sam. vi. 5; Isa. xxiii. 16); hence they must have been easy to carry.[iii]  The lyre reminds us of the joy of music and praising God through song.

B:  Dove with Olive Branch and Noah’s Ark

IMG_2735The dove with olive branch is a symbol of peace. When Noah’s ark is used, it stands for salvation or more particularly the salvation which the Church affords. Thus it is often used as a symbol of the Church.

We already examined the symbolism of the dove on two prior windows, so this morning I’m going to focus on what Noah’s Ark Represents. This morning we shall examine briefly certain aspects of the story of Noah’s ark and how it relates to Christ. If we fail to see Christ in the story of Noah’s ark, we miss the point.  The image of Christ portrayed in the Ark offers many parallels.

-The ark was constructed of wood.  The cross upon which Jesus died was constructed of wood.

-Noah was instructed to make a single door in the side of the Ark; it was the only entrance into the Ark, and access was controlled by God.  Likewise, Jesus said that He is the door, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

-The Ark carried all of its passengers safely to the destination that God had prepared for them.  Jesus said:  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)[iv]

-The word Noah means rest or comfort. Christ is our comfort and rest (Heb 4:4-11).

-Noah built the ark according to God’s revelation, not his own wisdom or imagination (Gen 6:15). This is symbolic of Christ and Christ’s workers, building the church according to God’s plan and not their own plan (Matt 16:18, John 6:38, 1 Cor 3:10-15, Eph 2:20-22).

-The dimensions of the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (Gen 6:15).  We lose the significance of these measurements when we translate them into English dimensions. The number 3 signifies the Trinity (Matt 28:19). The number 5 signifies the creation (four, Rev 4:6-9) plus God (one). 5 (four plus one) is creation in God, or strengthened creation. God created humans with 5 fingers, 5 toes and 5 senses (hear, see, smell, taste, touch).

-Like Christ, the ark was for the salvation of all living things, not just mankind (Col 1:20).[v]  Pictures depicting the ark can even be found in the catacombs where the early Christians gathered.[vi]  Noah was saved from the water, but through the waters of baptism we are saved.  The dove with olive branch and Noah’s ark reminds us God’s salvation through the ark and through Jesus.

C: Lamb on book of seven Seals

IMG_2738According to John 1:29, when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This and a similar statement in John 1:36 have brought into being two of our most meaningful symbols of Jesus Christ. One form of this symbol shows a lamb reclining on the Book of the Seven Seals mentioned in Rev. 5:1. The Easter banner symbolizes Christ’s victory over death.

The lamb represents Jesus. A lamb summed up all the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  A lamb was described it as “the theological shorthand for all the sacrifices of the Old Testament.” This lamb showed the evidence of having been killed, yet it was alive! Here is Jesus, the One spoken of in prophecy; He is a man, yet sinless; He has been crucified and has been resurrected! Death could not hold Him! He is worthy to break the seals and shower blessings upon the human race by redeeming it.  A lamb is the epitome of weakness. As the Lamb of God, Jesus portrayed perfect weakness – He did nothing in His own power; He remained on the cross and died for His enemies!

What do the seals signify? Only the Lamb, whose very life has overcome death, is worthy to open the seals and to redeem humanity. [vii]  This seems to be an appropriate end to the windows ringing our sanctuary, for this window panel, more than any other, looks toward the victorious second coming of Christ when the lamb shall become the lion of Judah.  The lamb reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus and that he is coming again.

III.  Conclusion

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through us?  The lyre reminds us of the gift of music and the songs of praise to the Lord. The dove and Noah’s ark remind us of God’s salvation through Noah and Jesus. The lamb and the seven seals remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice and the day when he will return.  The short life of Carolyn Sue Smith reminds us that there are no guarantees in life and that we can impact lives in only a few short years.    The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/59211940/carolyn-sue-smith

[ii] https://designconsciousness.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-significance-of-lyre.html

[iii] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7266-harp-and-lyre

[iv] http://www.icr.edu/what-noahs-ark-represents

[v] https://www.talkjesus.com/threads/the-significance-of-noahs-ark.49679/

[vi] https://earlychurchhistory.org/christian-symbols/the-deluge-as-a-biblical-symbol/

[vii] http://www.thegoodseed.org/insights/revelation5.html

Bevill Family Window (The Harp/House on a Rock/Trumpets)

IMG_2731(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 29, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the eighth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)

I.  Introduction

Over the last weeks we have been looking at the reminders of God all around us in the symbolism of our church building and stained glass windows.  Today we come to window number 7 in memory of the Bevill Family.

The Bevill family has a long history in Winnfield and has been involved in several churches in our community, including FUMC, as well as the economy and politics of our community.  Martha Ellen Black Bevill was born Mar 1846 in Americus, Georgia, USA.  She died Feb 28 1916 (aged 69).[i]  The family told me that Martha was orphaned at a young age and came to Winnfield with relatives at about 10 years old, making her one of the earliest settlers in Winn Parish which was established in 1852.  At 15, she married James Riley Bevill and they moved to Winnfield in 1865.  James Riley Bevill was born Sep 22 1826 in Union County, South Carolina, USA.  He died Jan 7 1879 (aged 52) in Winnfield.  James and Martha are buried in the Winnfield City Cemetery.[ii]  Martha’s obituary reads that the local Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian pastors spoke at her funeral and praised her character as a wife, mother, and devout Christian.  She was a faithful member of this church.  Martha and James were survived by three sons, Cornelius Miles Bevill, Rardon Dixon Bevill, and William Gordy Bevill.  A daughter, Parmelia Bevill, died at the age of 12.  They are the great grandparents of Kiah Beville and Ginny Beville Koeppen.

The Bevill legacy did not end with Martha and James.  Their son C.M. “Pete” Bevill served two full terms as mayor of Winnfield.  Under his administration, city hall was built along with other improvements to the town.   Former mayor Kiah Beville continued the Bevill tradition of political involvement in the Winnfield Community.  Pete was also a first class carpenter and built a pulpit for this church and aided in the design of a previous church building in this location.  He was active member of this church.  The Bevill family was very musical, including professional musicians. It is for this reason that musical instruments and themes are present throughout this window. Kiah Beville and Ginny Beville Koeppen remain active in our choir.  The window was purchased by R.D. “Quack” Bevill in memory of the entire Bevill family.  Beville street in downtown Winnfield is named after this family.  The Bevill’s and their family have left us a great tradition of service to God and community as well as a beautiful gift in the Bevill Family window.

II.  Body

A: The harp

IMG_2722The harp signifies heavenly joy and the music of David. (Psalms 150). Throughout the Old Testament we learn of praises made with musical instruments and today music is very important in our worship services.

The Harp (Heb. kinnor), the national instrument of the Hebrews.  The Harp as a Christian Symbol represents music, instruments, joy and worship in praising God. According to Genesis 4:21, the harp was invented by Jubal before the flood of Noah. The harp was used as an accompaniment to songs of cheerfulness as well as of praise to God (Genesis 31:27 ; 1 Samuel 16:23 ; 2 Chr 20:28 ; Psalms 33:2 ; 137:2 ).  In Solomon’s time harps were made of almug-trees (1 Kings 10:11 1 Kings 10:12). The soothing effect of the music of the harp is referred to in 1 Samuel 16:16 1 Samuel 16:23 ; 18:10 ; 19:9 . The church in heaven is represented as celebrating the triumphs of the Redeemer “harping with their harps” (Revelation 14:2).[iii]

Jewish historian Josephus records that the harp had ten strings, and that it was played with the fingers. The Harp was used throughout the temple services until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by the Roman forces of Titus. Using the Biblical scale of ten notes, its music would swell in anthems of praise during the great festivals of the Lord.

The harp will be present even at the end.  In Revelation 14:2-3 the apostle John writes- “I heard a sound from heaven like the noise of rushing water and the deep roar of thunder; it was the sound of harpers playing on their harps. There before the throne, and the four living creatures and the elders, they were singing a new song.  That song no one could learn except the hundred and forty four thousand who alone from the world had been ransomed.” (vs2-3)   The 144,000 are selected by the Lord of hosts to herald the coming of the Messiah.[iv]  The harp reminds us of the gift of music and the songs of praise to the Lord.

B: House on the Rock

img_2725.jpgA house or church on a rock is sometimes pictured as securely founded, like those who hear the word of our Lord and do them (Matt. 7:24) and confess him as the Son of the living God-—the rock of faith against which the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt. 16).

Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27 with these words: 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”  This is often called the parable of the wise and foolish builders.

In the present day, there are numerous building codes and processes for building safe buildings for homes and businesses.  In Jesus day, there were few such codes and processes.   Note that both buildings were built in the fair weather, that the storms came later after they were built and only then was the true quality of craftsmanship shown by the success of the building to withstand or succumb to the storm.  The words used to describe the builders are very interesting.  The foolish builder is described by the Greek word moros, “foolish”[v], from which the English word “moron” is derived.[vi]  On the other hand the Greek word for the wise builder is phronimos, “wise, sensible, thoughtful.”[vii]  The contrast between these two words are descriptive of the two builders and the result of the building which they built.  Jesus didn’t mention any difference between the skills and resources of the two builders. The only variable He identified was where each chose to build. Jesus noted that, based only on their choices, one man was wise and the other was foolish.

The man who was a wise builder chose the rock as his foundation.  It would have been hard to chip into the rock and level off a footing for the house. It may have taken a long time to work around rocky outcrops and to attach the structure to the bedrock. It would have been challenging to build on rocky terrain—it would have taken time, patience and hard work. But the wise man seems to have considered such factors and to have believed it would be worth the effort.  Built into the rock, his house could endure the inevitable storms that would come.

The foolish builder was not necessarily a bad man, just apparently a shortsighted and foolish one. Was it because he had too much to do or was in a hurry to have a house and get on with other concerns? We don’t know. He knew about building, but seemingly didn’t consider the foundation to be important enough to invest more time in. His concern appeared to be on the present and on getting the house built quickly.  Building on the sandy soil would have been easier. Without taking as much time to prepare the foundation, the entire project was surely completed more swiftly. The foolish builder didn’t seem concerned about the inevitable storms.

Sometime after the men had built their houses, a storm came. Notice that both the wise and foolish builder face the storm.  The house built into the rock survived the downpour, but the house on the sand was demolished. Jesus stated, “And great was its fall”—in other words, it was beyond repair.

Jesus was illustrating that we can live wisely or foolishly. It depends on where we lay our foundation. He said that if we pay attention to what He said and follow Him, we will be like the wise builder. We will come through the inevitable storms of life—the trials and difficulties that are part of life—because His teachings are rock-solid principles about how to live successfully.  Following Jesus is the best place to build. He provides a solid foundation for our lives, our families, our friendships, our associations and our future.[viii]

Our window also features the words of a famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther, the founder of the protestant church.  Luther’s German version is a paraphrase of Psalm 46 which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” “A Mighty Fortress” may have been written in homage to Luther’s friend Leonhard Kaiser, who was martyred. The first German printing appeared in 1529. While the exact date of composition is uncertain, it may be from this same year. Often called “the true National Hymn of Germany,” the hymn spread rapidly and was sung on the battlefield of Leipzig in 1631 during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Heinrich Heine, the famous nineteenth-century German poet, called it “the Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation.”[ix] The house on the rock reminds us to build on the solid foundation and that Jesus is the mighty fortress.

C: Trumpets

img_2727.jpgThe trumpets are a call to worship and remind us of the Day of Judgment and the Resurrection. They, too, are used in praise. The words, “Ye Praise The Lord,” reflect this symbolism

Many instruments of music are mentioned in the Bible, but the trumpet is the one that stands out prominent amidst them all. In Numbers 10:1-10 there are given express commands for their construction, and throughout the Bible, from the giving of the Law at Sinai down to the sounding of the last trump, and this vision of the seven trumpets, we continually meet with them. What, therefore, may we learn from them? They teach:

GOD HAS A MESSAGE FOR US. Trumpets emit clear, loud notes. In a world before facebook, text, email, or even writing, trumpets were used to communicate with large groups. Trumpets were used to indicate to Israel the begin of seasons of worship – the new year, the new moon, the jubilee, and other occasions when God commanded his people to render special service. And these special messages remind us of God’s great message to mankind, which he has given to us in his Word. The trumpets remind us that he has left a message for us.

The trumpet blast was startling, arousing; its clear, loud note penetrated the dullest ear, and reached those afar off, and forced all to listen. And such message of urgency God’s Word brings to us. It is no mere matter of indifference, but life and death hang upon it.  The trumpet note was emphatically the music of war. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:14) looks forward to day, “where we shall hear no sound of trumpet.” The hosts of Midian fled in dismay when the blast of Gideon’s trumpet burst on their startled ears. Terror seized on them and made them an easy prey. You might remember when Jericho fell, it was a long trumpet blast and a loud shout that crumbled the walls.

The trumpet also is an instrument of joy.  How joyful was the sound when it proclaimed, as so often the trumpet did, the advent of some glad festival, some “acceptable year of the Lord,” the jubilee especially! And in the Feast of Tabernacles the joy was heightened by the frequent sounding of the silver trumpets by the priests. “Blessed are the people that hear the joyful sound” – this is said of God’s message of grace, and such joyful sound is the characteristic note of the gospel.[x]  The trumpets remind us of God’s message to us and to joyfully praise the Lord.

III.  Conclusion

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through us?  The harp reminds us of the gift of music and the songs of praise to the Lord. The house on the rock reminds us to build on the solid foundation- Jesus. The trumpets remind us of God’s message to us and to joyfully praise the Lord.  The Bevill Family window reminds us of their faith, generosity, and heritage in our community.    The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52834755/martha-ellen-bevill

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52833986/james-riley-bevill

[iii] https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/harp/

[iv] http://www.biblesearchers.com/temples/jeremiah11.shtml

[v] Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulas, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger, eds., The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart:Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft United Bible Societies, 1994), 119.

[vi] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=moron, accessed 9/25/14.

[vii] Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulas, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger, eds., The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart:Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft United Bible Societies, 1994), 195.

[viii] https://bible.org/seriespage/12-storm-warning-matthew-724-29

[ix] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god

[x] http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/conway/the_trumpet-symbol.htm