A. J. Gwin Window (Torch/Baptismal Font with Dove/Open Bible with Lamp of Learning)

IMG_2709(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 15, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the sixth 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

This morning we will examine window number 5 in memory of A.J. Gwin.  His obituary from the Winnfield News-American, February 4, 1927 reads:

gwin 1The entire community mourns the passing of Andrew Jackson Gwin, for twenty one years one of the foremost enterprising citizens of Winnfield, died on January 31, 1927 at his home on Main Street.  Though Mr. Gwin had been suffering with heart trouble for more than a year, he had not been critically ill for more than thirty days and his death Monday morning while not unexpected was a distinct shock to the entire town because of the high esteem in which he is held.

J. Gwin was a native of Tennessee, being born there July 10, 1856. Soon after his birth his parents came to Louisiana and located at Rayville, where Mr. Gwin was reared, receiving his education in the schools of Richland Parish. In 1881, A. J. Gwin was married to Miss Augusta McNeill and to this union four children were born, three of whom are now living.  In the year 1885, Mr. Gwin with his family left Richland Parish and located for a short time in Ruston, moving from there to Gibsland where he remained until 1887, he then went to Minden where he was engaged in the contracting business for something like fifteen years.  He came to Winnfield in 1903, continuing his business as a contractor until 1905, when he established the Winnfield Brick Factory and began the manufacture and sale of brick. From that time on being the only enterprise of its kind in town and the first after a period of many years.

In March, 1909, Mrs. Augusta Gwin died and in 1911, Mr. Gwin was married to Miss Florence Humble of Mississippi, who with his three children, J. M. Gwin and Mrs. Mack L. Branch, of Winnfield, and D. J. Gwin, of Union Springs, Alabama, survive him.

The deceased was affiliated with the Knights of Pythian Lodge and was one of the most faithful, influential members of the local Methodist Church, being a trustee of this institution for the past fifteen years.  His work as a church member was characterized by a simple dignity, profound faith and unswerving loyalty, the same attributes being shown in his work as a citizen. In all his activities, Mr. Gwin was supported and encouraged by his wife, a fine consecrated Christian character.[i]

A.J. Gwin joined FUMC in February of 1912 and was a member until his death in 1927.  As far as I could find, none of Mr. Gwin’s relatives remain members of this church or are still left in Winnfield.  The Gwin family has left us a fine legacy and a wonderful gift in this beautiful window

II. Body

A: Torch

IMG_2700The torch refers to youth’s relation to the past and its obligation to bear the light of truth through the current age to the coming age. “The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation, Whom shall 1 fear?” Psalms 27:1. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.

Most of us when we see a torch we think of the iconic Olympic torch.  We had the privilege to see the stadium and venues of the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain last summer.  The Olympic flame’s origins lie in ancient Greece, where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. Today, the Olympic torch is lit in Greece and then relayed by “Torchbearers” to the various designated sites of the games. These torchbearers are usually famous people or celebrities whom the country is proud to show off.   Torchbearers are people that others would want to emulate, they are role models. It is a great honour to be chosen to carry the Olympic Torch.

As Christians, we are called to be Torchbearers for Christ! A torchbearer is a person who leads the way with the light that he carries. Jesus is the light of the world and since He dwells in us, we are to carry Him wherever we go. We are to let Him shine so that those who do not know Him may come to know Him. The Bible says “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).

After the resurrection, Jesus met with the eleven disciples and said to them “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This great commission was not only for the disciples but for all of us who would confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We have a mandate to go and preach the Gospel, of Jesus Christ to every nation of the world. We should be proud carriers of the torch.

During the Olympic Games, we make time to attend or watch the games on TV. As Christian torchbearers, we need to make evangelization a part of our lives, because we are also called to pass on the torch. It is imperative that we Christians pass on the torch from generation to generation. It is the duty of parents, Christian teachers, priests, bishops, prayer group members, missionaries and all who call themselves Christians to ensure that the torch is passed on.[ii]  The torch reminds us of people who have passed on their faith to us and our call to pass it on to others, just as we sang earlier in the service.

B: Font with Dove

img_2702.jpgThe font is pictured again with the dove of the Holy Spirit lending emphasis to our belief in the two sacraments: Holy Communion and Baptism. Jesus also told his followers to be “innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

We have already spoken extensively about the symbolism of the baptismal font and the dove, so this morning I will focus on the Sacraments, which sacraments we observe, what they are, and what they mean.

The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Baptism marks the beginning of our lifelong journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Through baptism, we are joined with the Triune God, the whole of Christ’s church, and our local congregation.  The water and the work of the Holy Spirit in baptism convey God’s saving grace, the forgiveness of our sins, and new life in Jesus Christ.  Persons of any age may be baptized—infants, children, youth, and adults.  United Methodists baptize in a variety of ways—immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, though sprinkling is probably most common.  A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.

The Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion, Eucharist) nourishes and sustains us in our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.  As we pray together and receive the body and blood of Christ together, we are united with Christ, with one another, and in ministry to all the world.  All who love Christ, earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another are invited to join us in offering our prayer of thanksgiving and receive the body and blood of Christ—regardless of age or church membership.  Congregations serve the elements of the Lord’s Supper several ways, but always include both bread and cup.  The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated and received regularly—John Wesley said, “as often as [one] can.”[iii]  United Methodists observe 2 sacraments.  Roman Catholics believe there are nine.  Other denominations see them only as ordinances, reminders of what Jesus did and taught.

What is a sacrament?  A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.  In other words, the sacrament is an outside sign of what God is doing inside our lives. We believe that God acts in our lives through these sacraments.  The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for Discipleship Ministries, said that for John Wesley and for Anglican theologians before him, the sacraments were an instituted means of grace.  “In other words, Jesus said, ‘Do these things and the Spirit will be active in these ways in your life,'” Burton-Edwards said. “Jesus left these for us as a means of continuing to abide in him and abide in the grace and the love of God.”

How grace “works” through the sacraments is a subject upon which the Wesleys – John and Charles – chose not to speculate and neither have subsequent United Methodist teachings, an indicator of trust in God’s promises.  God in Jesus Christ knew that we needed to touch, feel, taste, see and hear God, and thus, God invites us into an experience through the sacraments. Grace transforms us. How, exactly, is a mystery. [iv]  The sacraments remind us of what God has done and is doing in our lives.

C. Lamp with open Bible

IMG_2706The accessibility to the Bible since the days of the Reformation leads to its being shown open. The Lamp of Learning recalls the scripture, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105). To the ancients a lamp was not merely a light for darkness, but also a symbol of intelligence and learning. Today it means wisdom and knowledge.

That a lamp denotes faith, also the intelligence of truth and wisdom of good, which are from the Lord alone.[v]  The lamp is often used in connection with the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 25:37; 2 Chronicles 4:20), where oil was employed for light (Exodus 35:14; Leviticus 24:2).  Lamps were in use for thousands of years. Niches for lamps are found in the tombs of Tell el-Amarna in Egypt. We saw similar niches in the wall when we visited the Roman catacombs.  Clay lamps were used in Canaan by the Amorites before the Israelites took possession. The excavations in Palestine have furnished thousands of specimens, and have enabled us to trace the development from about 2000 BC onward.

“Lamp” is used in the sense of a guide in Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 6:23, and for the spirit, which is called the lamp of God in man (Proverbs 20:27), and it of course often signifies the light itself.  What does the lamp illuminate?  In our window, it illuminates the scripture.

Not that the Bible in our window is open.  A closed Bible is only an ornament and is more like a paper weight than the Word of God.  An open Bible is one that is read and used on a regular basis.  Thankfully, there are millions of Bibles available today.

According to the latest Scripture Language Report produced each year by the American Bible Society, some part of the Bible has been translated and published in 2,527 of the world’s languages (469 of these have a whole Bible, and a further 1,231 have a complete New Testament). If we take the total number of languages in the world to be approximately 6,900– the figure varies in different sources, largely because it is not always clear what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect – this means that there are roughly 4,400 languages which have no part of the Bible.

From one point of view this is a pretty depressing picture. After more than 2,000 years of translation activity, less than half of the world’s languages have even one book of the Bible available. Looked at from another point of view, though, the picture is by no means so bleak. Speakers of the 469 languages with a whole Bible actually account for well over half of the world’s population, and the 2,527 languages with at least one Bible book take that figure to something over 95 percent. And there are more than 2,000 Bible translation projects currently in progress.  Even so, and even after many centuries of concerted effort, there are still millions of people (perhaps as many as 300 million in total) who have no access to a single word of Scripture in their mother tongue.[vi]

According to statistics from Wycliffe International, the Society of Gideons, and the International Bible Society, the number of new Bibles that are sold, given away, or otherwise distributed in the United States is about 168,000 per day.[vii]  The light and the open Bible is our guide for life and available across the world.

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?  The torch reminds us of those who passed faith on to us and our call to pass the faith on to others.  The baptismal font with the dove reminds us of the sacraments- outward signs of an inward faith- and that God acts in our lives through them.  The light with the Bible reminds us that the Bible is our guide for life and is available across the world.  The Gwin window reminds us of his faith and generosity.    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/54182025/andrew-jackson-gwin

[ii] https://the-beacon.me/2014/04/06/the-bible-speaks-today-torchbearers-for-christ/

[iii] http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/sacraments

[iv] http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/gods-grace-presented-re-presented-through-the-sacraments

[v] http://www.biblemeanings.info/Words/Artifact/Lamp.htm

[vi] https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/uploads/content/bible_in_transmission/files/2011_summer/BiT_Summer_2011_Crisp.pdf

[vii] https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/q10_bible_facts_statistics/

F.C. Wren Window: Winged Lion of St. Mark-Faith, Hope, and Charity-Winged Man of St. Matthew”

IMG_2631(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 8, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the fifth 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.)

Introduction

Wren 1Today we will focus on Window Number four in honor of Dr. and Mrs F.C. Wren.  Funeral services for Dr. Floyd Carr Wren, prominent retired dentist and civic leader, were held at 3 p.m. Friday, February 10, 1967 in the First Methodist Church of Winnfield with the Rev. Richard Walton, pastor, officiating. He was assisted by Rev. Fred Flurry, Sr., and the Rev. R. H. Staples, former pastors.  Dr. Wren died at 12:20 p.m. Thursday, February 9, 1967, in a Winnfield hospital following an apparent heart attack. He was 87.

A native of Webster Parish, Dr. Wren received his degree in dentistry from Vanderbilt University, and first located in Jonesboro, where he served as Mayor while also practicing dentistry.  He came to Winnfield in 1916 when he became a part of the religious and civic life in the community being active until the time of his death.  He practiced dentistry until his retirement in 1945. At one time during his career he experienced an arthritic condition and operated a Winnfield dairy until his recovery.

Dr. Wren was Winn Parish registrar of voters from 1940 to 1948, and served as chairman of the Red Cross for 12 years. He was also active in the Salvation Army and other civic movements and was honored by the Winnfield Jaycees and Woodmen of the World for his vigorous activities as a senior citizen.  A charter member of the Winnfield Rotary Club, Dr. Wren also served on the City Council and was a member of the local school board in the early years.  He served as Sunday School superintendent for 30 years and was a retired steward of the church.[i]

wren 3Funeral services for Mrs. Leta O. Wren, 87, of Winnfield, were held at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 5, 1970 at the First Methodist Church of Winnfield with Rev. J. C. Skinner and Rev. Robert Gage officiating. Mrs Wren died at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, June 4, 1970, in a Winnfield hospital. She was a native of Caldwell, Ark., but lived in Tennessee during the early years of her life.

The widow of the late Dr. F. C. Wren, a Winnfield dentist, Mrs. Wren was an active and devoted member of the First United Methodist Church where she taught for many years. She held other offices in the church, including the presidency of the W. S. C. S., a women’s organization of the church. She was also a member of the Reader’s Review Club.[ii]

Dr. and Mrs. Wren were survived by; a daughter, Mrs. Thomas H. (Margaret) Harrel, Sr. of Winnfield, and two grandsons, Thomas Harrel, Jr., and George Harrel, all of Winnfield.  They were preceded in death by a son, Floyd C Wren Jr, who died in a fire in August of 1953.  The Wren’s were pillars of the church and were often relied on by the pastors.  Dr. Wren was a fine Christian man who rarely uttered a cross word and actively gave out tracks to talk to others about faith.  Their grandson, Tommy, described Dr. Wren as one of the greatest men he has ever known and is still his hero to this day.  The Dr. Wren Sunday School classes was started and named after him in his memory.  Dr. Wren wrote much of the original history of the church that I am using as a source for this series.  The Wren’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

Body

A: The Lion of St. Mark

img_2632.jpgThe lion, as king of beasts, represents the royal character of Christ and refers to the opening verses of the Gospel in his reference to John the Baptist, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness . . .” The halo of light, the nimbus, behind the head denotes sanctity.

Who was St Mark? While we are not certain, most scholars believe St. Mark the Evangelist was most likely a Hebrew and likely a priest of the tribe of Levi (as St Bede the Venerable teaches). Most scholars believe that St Mark did not know Christ during his earthly life but was converted to the faith by St Peter some time in the first years after Pentecost. This is the most natural read of Scripture, when St Peter testifies that St Mark is his spiritual son (“Mark, my son”, 1 Peter 5:13).   He accompanied Peter to many places, even to Rome. Later, he was sent by St Peter to preach the Gospel in Egypt and was Bishop of the Church in Alexandria. Here he gave witness to Christ through martyrdom.

Why is St Mark pictured as a lion?

The images of the four Evangelists are taken from Ezekiel 1:5-10 and Revelation 4:7-8 and in large part from the manner in which they begin their Gospels. In Mark, interestingly, there is no birth narrative of Jesus or description of his early years.  Instead, the Gospel of St Mark opens with the mighty roar of St John the Baptist’s call to repentance.  So the gospel of St. Mark is often pictured under the powerful image of the lion.  St Mark is also thought of as the founder of monastic life and of the desert fathers. Since St Mark is the father of the Church of Alexandria and this Church produced the great movement of consecrated religious life as hermit, anchorite, monk, or nun, St Mark is rightly considered by St Jerome and John Cassian to be the founder of monasteries and hermitages. Therefore, the image of the lion calls to mind St Mark’s connection with Alexandria and his role as the spiritual father of religious life in the Church.[iii]

The Lion of Saint Mark, is the symbol of the city of Venice and formerly of the Republic of Venice. It appears also in both merchant and military naval flags of the Italian Republic. The Lion of Saint Mark is also the symbol of the award of the Venice Film Festival, the “Golden Lion”, and is prominently featured in the city of Venice.[iv]

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’s rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah.[v]  The lion of Mark is the roar to repentance by John the Baptist and throughout his gospel.

B. Faith, Hope, and Charity

Faith, Hopimg_2633.jpge, and Charity are referred to by Paul in I Cor. 13:13- “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”KJV Faith is belief and trust in the triune God; Hope signifies our promise of eternal life and triumph of truth and justice; Charity, or love, is the center of our religion as taught by Jesus in many ways.

Faith

Representing faith is the cross. We spoke quite extensively about the symbolism and meaning of the cross last Sunday.  Often when faith, hope, and charity are shown together the cross often stands taller than the other symbols.  Faith is also the confidence and the strength to complete a larger task. The symbols of faith, hope and charity together in harmony remind us that God is there to help us each and every day.[vi]

Hope

The anchor represents Hope. It was a relevant popular symbol at a time when seafaring meant that a loved one may never be seen again.  The anchor to moor the ship gives solace and comfort to the wayward ship, as it finds a home. Hope is fundamental to the principals of what it is to believe in a better future.  At a time when danger was typical for travel, the anchor represented hope for home in this life and in the life to come.

Charity

Charity is often represented by the heart, though in our window it is symbolized by an open Bible.  Charity is a derivative of ἀγάπη (agapē), the word used by the English translation of the Bible in the 16th century. It was only in the Challoner Douay Rheims Bible of 1752 and the King James Version of 1611 that the term ‘charity’ was used for the similar ideal of Christian love.  Today, many modern translations use the word “love” instead of charity.  Charity represents the idea the believers should strive to love God and to love others as God loves them. Charity symbolizes the desire to love everyone, including one’s enemies, neighbors and the poor. The three symbols are bound by charity. Charity cannot be achieved without faith and hope because charity is love for all.[vii]  Faith, hope, and charity go together to teach us about our faith and the way that we should live.

C: The winged man of St. Matthew

img_2634.jpgMatthew traced the human lineage of Jesus; therefore, the symbol used for him is a winged man. He emphasized the humanity of Christ. Here again is the nimbus of sanctity.

St. Irenaeus saw Matthew as corresponding to the man’s face because the gospel opens with a human genealogy of Jesus and because, in the view of Irenaeus, Jesus’ humanity is emphasized throughout the book.[viii]

Matthew, meaning gift of God, was a common Jewish name after the Exile. He was the son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax-gatherer at Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated, and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew arose and followed him, and became his disciple (Matt. 9:9). Formerly the name by which he was known was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); he now changed it, possibly in grateful memory of his call, to Matthew. The same day on which Jesus called him he made a “great feast” (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and probably also many of old associates. He was afterwards selected as one of the twelve (6:15). His name does not occur again in the Gospel history except in the lists of the apostles. The last notice of him is in Acts 1:13. Although traditionally regarded as the author of the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, modern scholarship questions this attribution. Matthew’s symbol as an evangelist is a man, and in art he is often depicted with sword and money bag.

What happened to Matthew after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension we have only legend. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers are not consistent as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.  There is a disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew’s martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded.

His Gospel was probably first written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek.  Since Matthew was a Jew, he wrote with other Jews in mind. His gospel spends much time discussing the Old Testament prophecies and pointing out how Jesus fulfilled them.  Mathew’s gospel contains more than 130 Old Testament quotes and allusions[ix].  The man of St.Matthew reminds us of Jesus’ humanity and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

Conclusion

We love our stained glass windows and we should. But this song from Johnny Cash reminds us that they are not the most important things.  God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window God never keeps His window closed.  What about us?  Do we keep our window closed or allow the light of Christ shine through?  The lion of St. Mark reminds us of his roar to repentance by John the Baptist.  Faith, hope, and charity are central themes to our faith from 1 Corinthians 13.  The man of St. Matthew reminds us of the humanity of Jesus through his grand genealogy and fulfillment of scripture.

I close with this editorial by George Larson, editor of the Winn Parish Enterprise.  “Dr. F.C. Wren is gone from this earth but the memory and influence of this rare man will live long in this community and wherever his life touched other people.  He lived unselfishly and fully, holding fast to high principles in every endeavor he undertook.  He was a true Christian, a ‘prince of a man and a great man’ as Rev. Richard Walton of the First Methodist Church described him.

Dr. Wren’s kindness to all men was one of his outstanding traits.  Always interested in his community and its progress, he never ceased to talk and write about its good points and its future possibilities.  He had the courage to speak up for what he believed, whether it concerned a political question, a local bond proposal, or some other controversial issue.

Dr. Wren’s life really centered around his church, to which he gave a lifetime of service in nearly every capacity a layman could fill.  Living, working, and serving were joyful to him.  He was a participant and not just a spectator.  He remained young at heart.

He died as he wished it- being useful and active until the last days of his 87 years.  His passing leaves a void, but his life will always be an inspiration to those who knew him.  Dr. Wren was a great and good man.”  The Wren window reminds us of their faith and generosity.    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/25613536/floyd-carr-wren

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62098564/leta-wren

[iii] http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2016/04/who-was-st-mark-and-why-is-he-pictured.html

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_of_Saint_Mark

[v] https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-mark/

[vi] https://artofmourning.com/2014/12/25/faith-hope-and-charity/

[vii] https://www.reference.com/world-view/symbols-faith-hope-charity-e40cce894175cf56

[viii] http://www.moodycatholic.com/Saints_Symbols_of_Gospel_Writers.html

[ix] https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/gospel-of-matthew.html

Dickerson Window:(Dove with Olive Branch- Bible over Cross- Easter Lily)

 

IMG_2377(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 1, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the fourth 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.)

Introduction

Today we will focus on Window Number three in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Dickerson.  John Joseph “J. J.” Dickerson was born October 6, 1824 in North Carolina and died August 9, 1913 at the age of 88 in Winnfield.  He is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.  Because of the age, I was unable to find an obituary for Mr. Dickerson but his wife’s obituary also tells us about him.

dickersonHis wife, Mary Margaret Jackson Dickerson died at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, 1925, age 90 years.  Mrs. Dickerson was born in Tennessee February 25th, 1835, moved in early childhood with her parents to Spanish Lake, Natchitoches Parish, where they lived until they moved to Winn Parish, La., in 1859.

On February 5th, 1861, she was married to John J. Dickerson, who soon after the marriage enlisted in the Confederate States Army and served faithfully and loyally during the four years of the Civil War.   Mrs. Dickerson joined the Methodist Episcopal Church South at the age of nine years and gave eighty years of her life in service to Christ and His church. Those who knew her well know that hers was not a profession without possession, for every day of her life was a testimonial that the spirit of Christ filled her soul being daily reflected in her Christian living. The Dickerson home always had a preacher’s room in it where the preachers were received and entertained, such godly men as John Hearn, John F. Wynn, Eddie and Albert Galloway, Dan C. Barr, and others down through the years. Hers was a consecrated, Christian life, opposed to sinful worldliness, in dress, in speech, in manners or any form, always striving to influence those with whom she was associated to lives of simplicity and holiness.

After funeral services at the Methodist Church conducted by her pastor, Rev. P. M. Caraway, assisted by the Presiding Elder Rev. K. W. Dodson, and a former pastor and special friend, Rev. Dan C. Barr, of Oak Ridge, La., her remains were buried in the Winnfield Cemetery amidst a host of grief stricken relatives and friends. The abundant and beautiful floral offerings attested the high esteem in which she was held in the community.

The Dickerson’s were survived by their children: Mrs. H. L. Brian of Verda, La., Mrs. G. M. Wyatt of Couley, La., M. M. Dickerson, Mrs. J. R. Hall, Mrs. B. W. Bailey, and William F. Dickerson, of Winnfield, La.  Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise (Winnfield, LA), May 21, 1925.  The Dickerson’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

  1. Body

A: The dove with the olive branch

IMG_2371The dove with the olive branch depicts peace, victory, and the expectation of new life. This symbol comes from the account of the cessation of the flood recorded in Genesis 8:11 (Noah sent out the dove to see whether the flood was receding. When the dove returned with a “freshly plucked olive leaf” in her beak, Noah knew that the waters were receding). Hence the olive branch may be said to symbolize deliverance from the hardships of life and a peaceful life with God in the world to come.

The dove and olive branch is one of the most ancient symbols of peace.  We looked at the dove a few weeks ago in the Hyde window, so this morning, I will focus on the symbolism of the olive branch.  The olive branch symbolizes deliverance from the hardships of life and a peaceful life with God in the world to come.  The olive tree was so important that the reward for winning an event in the ancient Olympic Games was not a gold medal, but a wreath of olive leaves with which the winner was crowned.  The olive also appears in many ancient texts in relation with peace. In Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance, the main character holds an olive branch to offer peace, and in other texts there are records of Roman generals holding up an olive branch to ask for peace after being defeated in battle.

Extending an olive branch meant the ending of hostilities between two parties and signaled the end of the conflict. The United Nations flag contains an olive branch for this very purpose; to end all hostilities between waring nations.  It’s also found on many of the nation’s symbols, like in the 1885 Great Seal of the United States.

In an olive grove, called The Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The name Gethsemane means “olive press” and there Jesus had all the world’s sin all pressing down upon Him, as if to crush Him. Here it was that Jesus, “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).  It’s as if the olive press was squeezing Jesus by the weight of all of the sins of humanity that have ever been committed and will yet be committed. Olive oils are extracted from olives when they are pressed and Jesus was hard pressed in a garden of olives which are pressed or crushed to produce oil. In this same way, Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).  The dove and olive branch remind us of peace, victory and new life.

B: The Bible and Cross

IMG_2373The Bible and the Cross go hand in hand—both represent knowledge of God’s redeeming love. Bible is Greek for “book” and is accepted by Christians as inspired by God with the divine authority on which the Christian religion is based. With 39 Old Testament books, 27 New Testament, it has been called the window through which we see God and the mirror that reflects our true selves. The cross is the focal point of the Bible—everything before Christ set the stage for His coming; the deeds thereafter pay tribute to His power on earth.  We spoke extensively about the Bible in the Hyde window.  I will focus on the cross this morning

What is the meaning of the cross? Simply put, the meaning of the cross is death. From about the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD, the cross was an instrument of execution that resulted in death by the most torturous and painful of ways. In crucifixion a person was either tied or nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Death would be slow and excruciatingly painful; in fact, the word excruciating literally means “out of crucifying.”           Using the cross as a symbol of Jesus is like using a gun to symbolize John F. Kennedy.  The cross was the instrument of Jesus’ death, yet it is the nearly universal symbol of Christianity.

Why did Jesus have to die?  To redeem us. In Genesis, God created a perfect heavens and earth, yet because of sin, our relationship with God was broken and marred.  God the Father sent Jesus to take on human flesh and to be the Savior of His people. Born of a virgin, Jesus avoided the curse of the fall that infects all other human beings. As the sinless Son of God, He could provide the unblemished sacrifice that God requires. God’s justice demanded judgment and punishment for sin; God’s love moved Him to send His one and only Son to be the sacrifice for sin.

The cross not only describes Jesus, but his followers who Jesus called to take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). This concept of “cross-bearing” today has lost much of its original meaning. Typically, we use “cross-bearing” to denote an inconvenient or bothersome circumstance. However, we must keep in mind that Jesus is calling His disciples to engage in radical self-denial. The cross meant only one thing to a 1st-century person—death.  There are places in the world where Christians are being persecuted, even to the point of death, for their faith. They know what it means to carry their cross and follow Jesus in a very real way. For those of us who are not being persecuted in such fashion, our task is still to remain faithful to Christ. [i][ii]  .  The Bible tells us the story of the cross, of Jesus’ sacrifice for us and call to take up our own cross

C:  The Easter Lily

IMG_2375No specific scriptural justification is found for using the Easter Lily but it does aptly describe our hope in the resurrection. When the bulb is buried in the earth, a rebirth comes forth in the beauty of these white lilies with a new bulb for future”

The Easter Lily is the traditional flower of Easter and is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of elegance, beauty, spirituality, hope, and life. The lily has come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus because of its delicacy of form and its snow white color. The popular Easter lily we use today to celebrate the holiday is referred to as ‘the white-robed apostles of hope.[iii]  Their color symbolizes the purity of Christ, who was free from sin. In many paintings, the angel Gabriel is depicted as handing Mary white lilies, which symbolizes her purity as well. The trumpet shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet sounding the message that Jesus has risen, and the nature in which lilies grow is symbolic of the resurrection as well. From ugly bulbs that are underground for three years or longer, they become beautiful flowers. This process is reminiscent of Jesus’s brutal death and holy resurrection. Thus, lilies represent rebirth and hope, just as the resurrection does in the Christian faith.

Although Easter lilies are symbols of new life and purity, their history of getting to America is actually rooted in war. Following World War I, soldier Louis Houghton brought a suitcase of lily bulbs from Japan back to the U.S., specifically to his home state of Oregon. Houghton gave the lily bulbs to his horticultural friends, and soon enough, the area along the California-Oregon border, which happened to have prime growing conditions for the flowers, became known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese shipment of Easter lilies was cut off, which brought high demand to the Oregon and California growers, giving the flowers yet another nickname—White Gold.

Oregon and California now produce the majority of the world’s Easter lilies, although there are only about 10 growers left. Easter lilies are difficult to grow, and the process to the final product is a long, precise one. The bulbs have to be cultivated in fields for at least three years, during which they require care, moving, and tending as they progress through growth stages. Once the bulbs are ready to be shipped, they’re placed under strict temperature restrictions to ensure they bloom on time for Easter, which can be a gamble, considering Easter doesn’t fall on the same day each year. So when you pick up an Easter lily at the store, keep in mind the years of work that got it to you.

The following poem by Louise Lewin Matthews captures the spiritual essence of the Easter Lily:  Easter morn with lilies fair  Fills the church with perfumes rare, As their clouds of incense rise, Sweetest offerings to the skies.

Stately lilies pure and white Flooding darkness with their light, Bloom and sorrow drifts away, On this holy hallow’d day.

Easter Lilies bending low in the golden afterglow, Bear a message from the sod To the heavenly towers of God.  -Louise Lewin Matthews[iv]

  Conclusion

People are a lot like glass.  Glass can reflect, like a mirror, or transmit light, like a window.  Our windows are at their most beautiful when they permit the light to flow through them.  The light also shows the flaws and quality of the glass.

Like glass, we need to have the light of God shining through us.  Like glass, we can merely reflect, or transmit light.  Jesus offers inner light to those who accept him.  He is the light of the world according to John 1.  We can accept the light, or reject it.  If we believe, that inner light becomes ours.

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through?  The dove with the olive branch reminds us of peace, victory and new life.  The Bible tells us the story of the cross, of Jesus sacrifice for us and call to take up our own cross.  The Easter lily reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus following his death on the cross.  The Dickerson window reminds us of their faith and generosity.    The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

 

[i] https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-the-cross.html

[ii] https://www.crosswalk.com/special-coverage/lent/what-is-the-meaning-of-the-cross.html

[iii] http://www.dgreetings.com/easter/easter-lily-history.html

[iv] http://www.appleseeds.org/easter-lily.htm

Heard Window- Eagle of St John/Baptismal Font/Winged Ox of St. Luke


IMG_2363(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on June 24, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the third in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. I tried to include my sources but my end notes did not transfer well. You’ll find the sources 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.)

Today we will examine Window Number three (Eagle of St John/Baptismal Font/Winged ox of St. Luke) in Honor of Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Heard.  Joseph R Heard joined FUMC October 26, 1911 by Profession of Faith.  He died March 30, 1956 when Luther Booth was Pastor.  Lena Ewing also joined October 26, 1911 by Profession of Faith.  She died January 25, 1974 when Jack Midyett was Pastor.  The obituary reads Joseph R. Heard, widely known Winnfield banker and civic leader, died March 30, 1956.  Mr. Heard, a native of Shiloh in Union Parish near Bernice, was president of the Bank of Winnfield and Trust Co. He had held that position since 1934.

Mr. Heard came to Winn Parish in 1901 as bookkeeper for a Dodson lumber company. He became vice president and treasurer of the People’s Hardware and Furniture Co. of Winnfield in 1906, a position he still held at the time of his death. In 1907 he was named cashier of the Bank of Winnfield and Trust Co., elevated to vice president in 1916, and named president in 1934.  He was treasurer of the First Methodist Church and a member of the church board of stewards. In addition to various church and civic undertakings, he had worked actively with state and southern banking associations.[i]

Lena Ewing Heard died Friday, January 25, 1974 at age 85 in the Winnfield General Hospital following a brief illness.  Mrs. Heard, the former Lena Ewing, was the widow of the late Joseph R. Heard, Sr., president of the Bank of Winnfield and Trust Co., a member of the First United Methodist Church, and a native of Texas.

The Heard’s were survived by three sons, J. R. Heard Jr., Robert Heard, and Richard C. Heard.  They are the grandparents of Dickie and Buddy Heard.  The Heard’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

Body

A: The eagle denotes the Evangelist, John.

IMG_2352Formerly considered to be the Apostle John, he is like an eagle soaring to the Throne of Grace. Reference to the eagle is found in Rev. 4:6-8, and Ezek. 1:10.

“Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.”  Ezekiel 1:10[ii]

“Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle.” Rev 4:6-7 These scriptures from Ezekiel and Revelation are usually interpreted to represent the four gospels.  Consequently, each of the gospels has been assigned a symbol based on those scriptures.  We’ll get to all four symbols eventually but today we begin with the eagle of St. John.   St. John was one of the original twelve apostles and has been traditionally taken to be the author of the fourth gospel. The eagle is often used as a symbol representing him. The eagle goes back at least to Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew, which says it signifies “John the Evangelist who, having taken up eagle’s wings and hastening toward higher matters, discusses the Word of God” (55).[iii]  John’s Gospel begins with the “lofty” prologue and “rises” to pierce the mysteries of God, such as the relationship between the Father and the Son, and the incarnation: “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. He was present to God in the beginning. Through Him all things came into being, and apart from Him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:1-3). And “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father filled with enduring love” (Jn 1:14). The Gospel of St. John, unlike the other Gospels, engages the reader with the most profound teachings of our Lord, such as the long discourses Jesus has with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, and the beautiful teachings on the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd. In John, Jesus identifies Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” and anyone who embraces Him as such will rise to everlasting life with Him. iv

The eagle of St. John reminds us of his gospel, his lofty teachings and language, and to rise up to meet God.

B: The baptismal font

IMG_2358“The baptismal font is a vital part of the furnishings of the sanctuary. If the font has seven sides, it represents creation; eight symbolizes the new creation-—regeneration; a circular font indicates the beginning of eternal salvation. A quadrilateral shape speaks silently of people coming from four directions.  It is seen on stained glass windows as a symbol of the regeneration of man.”

In her wonderful book, A Place for Baptism, Regina Kuehn reminds readers that the baptismal font’s shape reveals baptismal truth, and the font points to baptism’s key element, water. She invites churches to think more about baptism’s sacramental weight and “the radical nature of our baptismal promises,” than about whether the font is pretty.  “The baptistry is an abiding reminder of what we once were, what we now are, and what we shall one day yet be,” she states.

Kuehn says that putting more thought into the design of a baptismal font can “make a permanent visual imprint on our memory… Such a font will not escape our mind and memory; our one-time baptismal event then will develop into a baptismal way of life.”  Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

In the United Methodist Church, we also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil or water. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”  The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to be baptized without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, the baptismal font marks the journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

C: The winged ox

IMG_2361“The winged ox is a symbol of patience and service.  The ox is used for St. Luke because he points out the atoning sacrifice of Christ, beginning with the sacrifice of Zachariah in the temple in chapter 1. Luke was the devoted physician of Paul who wrote the gospel of Luke, the book of Acts.”  The ox is also a symbol of sacrifice, service and strength.

Oxen were often used in temple sacrifices. For instance, when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, an ox and a fatling, a cornfed animal, were sacrificed every six steps (2 Sam 6). St. Luke begins his Gospel with the announcement of the birth of St. John the Baptizer to his father, the priest Zechariah, who was offering sacrifice in the Temple (Lk 1). St. Luke also includes the parable of the Prodigal Son, in which the fatted calf is slaughtered, to celebrate the younger son’s return, and foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice for us to forgive our sins. The winged ox reminds us of the priestly character of our Lord and His sacrifice for our redemption.

St. Luke is believed to be the author of the Gospel that bears his name as well as of the Acts of the Apostles. According to Eusebius, he was probably born in Antioch , Syria of a prosperous Greek family and was trained as a physician.  His gospel is considered the most poetic and beautiful of all. He uses the best grammar and the most eloquent and correct Greek of the New Testament. He shows Jesus not as the Jewish Messiah, but as the world’s Savior and Lord. He was a man of prayer, for this gospel is pre-occupied with the power of prayer. He had a high regard for the dignity of women for they played an important part of his writings.

Luke accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey and doubtless had the care of Paul’s health. Luke was with Paul in his last days and final imprisonment in Rome .  After writing those famous words to Timothy, “the time of my dissolution is at hand, I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith….Paul goes on to say, only Luke is with me.  What happened to Luke after Paul’s martyrdom in unsure. But according to a fairly early and widespread tradition, he was unmarried and wrote his Gospel in Greece at Boeotia , where he died at age 84.  Because the gospel which bears his name was believed to be an accurate account of the life of Christ and especially of Christ’s birth, Luke became the patron saint of notaries. The ox represents the sacrificial aspect of Jesus’ ministry and the wings remind us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to travel throughout the world.iv

Conclusion

People are a lot like glass.  Glass can reflect, like a mirror, or transmit light, like a window.  Our windows are at their most beautiful when they permit the light to flow through them.  The light also shows the flaws and quality of the glass.

Like glass, we need to have the light of God shining through us.  Like glass, we can merely reflect, or transmit light.  Jesus offers inner light to those who accept him.  He is the light of the world according to John 1.  We can accept the light, or reject it.  If we believe, that inner light becomes ours.

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through?  The eagle of St. John reminds us of his soaring prologue and taking the reader to the highest truths of God.  The baptismal font reminds us of the regeneration through baptism and the new beginning that baptism offers us.  The winged ox reminds us of the steadiness and service of Luke’s faith and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. The Heard window reminds us of their faith and generosity.    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/54263776/joseph-ruffin-heard

[ii] http://www.religionfacts.com/eagle

[iii] http://www.christianiconography.info/john.html

[iv] https://catholicexchange.com/the-symbols-of-the-gospel-writers

Hyde Window: Cross and Vines/Dove and Light/Bible and Lily

IMG_2310(Author’s note:  This is the manuscript for my message on June 10, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the second in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield.  I tried to include my sources but my end notes did not transfer well.  You’ll find the sources 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
Stained Glass Window by Clay Crosse (1987)  That song “Stained Glass” by Contemporary Christian musician Clay Crosse was released in the summer of 1997. The final verse of the song says: There’s a stained glass window, in the soul of man, A pattern of perfection, that was made with Holy hands With the light of Heaven, pouring through each pane Truth in all its splendor, is revealed and will remain Truth in all its splendor, is revealed and will remain [1]

So it is with the stained glass windows in our sanctuary. They reveal God’s truth to us. “The WINDOWS within the sanctuary are, beginning on the left as we face the altar, windows one through three. On the right are windows four through eight, and behind us above the balcony is window number nine. Above the entrance to the educational IMG_2289.jpgbuilding is window number ten, the lovely portrait of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
The windows are beautiful memorials to the Christian faith. Within the sanctuary we find that windows one through eight repeat the Latin cross in the upper half. The red circle behind the cross is a symbol of eternity. The bright colors are not only lovely to behold; they, too, have religious significance. Red depicts divine zeal on the day of Pentecost and refers to the blood of martyrs of the church. Green is the universal color of nature, signifying hope; gold refers to worth, virtue, the glory of God, and the Christian might. White is the symbol of the Creator”, light, joy, purity, innocence, glory, and perfection. Violet denotes mourning and penitence, humility, suffering, sympathy, and fasting. Purple is the regal color referring to the triumphal entry of the King of Kings, who was of royal (Davidic) descent, and who is the ruler of many hearts. Purple also represents penitence, referring to the purple garments put on our Lord when they mocked him (John 19:2; Mark 15:17). These colors change, varying with the light filtering through them. During the day they have a brilliant effervescence; at night, they acquire deeper, muted tones.”

Today we will examine Window Number One (Cross and Vines/Dove and Light/Bible and Lily) in Honor of Mr. and Mrs. J.M Hyde. James M Hyde came to FUMC in 1902 by Certificate of Transfer, died 2/23/55 while Luther L Booth was Pastor. According to the obituary, James, Son of the late Henry Hyde and Callie Harper Hyde of Grant Parish, Mr. Hyde came to Winnfield in 1902 to manage the M. M. Fisher Dry Goods Co., and later the Grand Leader, large mercantile firms. Shortly afterward he entered the mercantile business for himself and remained in that business until about 1935 when he retired and looked after his real estate and finance interests.

Mr. Hyde was a veteran steward in the First Methodist Church and had held every office that could be held by a layman at some time during his life. He had also been active in civic affairs, serving as a member of the Winn Parish School Board and the Winnfield board of aldermen at various times. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias.

Mrs James M Hyde came to FUMC 3/16/19, died 8/31/1958 while Rev. RH Staples was Pastor. The obituary states that she was the former Miss Addie Scarborough, native of Natchitoches, and a member of a prominent Central Louisiana family. Mrs. Hyde had been a resident of Winnfield since 1902 and a long time member of the First Methodist Church. They were survived by two children Mrs. Tracy Harrell, of Winnfield; one son, James Hyde of Natchitoches. Their daughter, Vermell, was the pianist and organist at FUMC for several years. They were the grandparents of Tracy Lee Harrel. The Hyde’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

II. Body
A. Cross and Vines

IMG_2305“The Latin cross is the most commonly seen cross. This is the form on which it is said our Lord was crucified. Protestants usually display it as being empty, without the body of Christ, representing Him as the risen and living Christ. The vine is referred to by Christ in John 15:5, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’”

The Vine Cross refers to John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Jesus calls himself the vine, and Christians are the branches of that vine. Even those of us without ‘green fingers’ know that it’s the branches that bear fruit. Jesus (the vine) mediates between God and man.

And we also know that fruit will grow if, and only if, the vine has roots which can deliver moisture from a rich soil. In our analogy, the root of the vine resembles the Holy Spirit. The root is unseen, but we know it’s there because the plant flourishes and bears fruit.
If we imagine God having a gardening role, nourishing the vine, then if a branch bears no fruit, the gardener cuts it away. It is good for nothing except to be consumed by the bonfire. However, if the branch bears fruit then the fruit is harvested and as a result, the branch is in a stronger state to produce yet more fruit.

There are many branches yet we all share the same vine and the same root. And the same Gardener tends to each branch. God loves us all, whatever our position may be. And the grapes? These are the products of our Christianity; whatever God has called us to produce. The grapes on the vine represent Christ and His disciples and the unity of the church.

B. Dove and light
IMG_2308The Dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. In all four gospels it is recorded that the Holy Spirit came as a dove from Heaven, making it the most widely recognized symbol of the Spirit. The dove has long been a symbol of peace but the dove has great symbolism in the Bible too. It is mentioned 46 times in Scripture. In addition to its symbolism for the Holy Spirit, the dove was a popular Christian symbol before the cross rose to prominence in the fourth century.

The New Testament is not the only place we see a dove depicted. In Genesis 8:8-12, after the ark has landed on the mountains of Ararat, Noah sends out a dove three times to see how far the flood waters have receded. The first time it found nothing and returned to the ark. The second time it brought back an olive leaf, so Noah could see that God’s punishment was over and life had begun again on the earth. (The image of a dove holding an olive branch continues to be a symbol of peace to this day.) The third time, the dove did not return, and Noah knew that it was safe to leave the ark

Dove imagery is also utilized in several of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. The low, cooing sound of a dove served as mournful imagery to evoke the suffering of the people of Judah (see Isaiah 38:14, 59:11; 11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.) But doves were more than just a soundtrack for a people who had fallen away from God; they were also an instrument of atonement. Several passages of the Torah (especially Leviticus) specify occasions that require the sacrifice of two doves (or young pigeons)—either as a guilt offering or to purify oneself after a period of ritual impurity (including the birth of a child). Several columbaria, or dovecotes, have been excavated in the City of David and the Jerusalem environs (by crawford). These towers were undoubtedly used to raise doves for sacrificial offerings, as well as for the meat and fertilizer they provided—a popular practice in the Hellenistic and Roman periods that continued into the modern period.

Thus, by the time of Jesus, the dove was already rich with symbolism and many interpretations—as a representation of Israel, atoning sacrifice, suffering, a sign from God, fertility and the spirit of God. All these meanings and more were incorporated into the Christian use of dove iconography. Doves appear in the New Testament at scenes associated with Jesus’ birth, baptism and just before his death. The Gospel of Luke says that Mary and Joseph sacrificed two doves at the Temple following the birth of Jesus, as was prescribed in the law mentioned above (Luke 2:24). Yet in the Gospel of John, Jesus angrily drives out all of the merchants from the Temple, including “those who sold doves” to worshipers there (John 2:16).

But perhaps the most familiar dove imagery from the New Testament is recounted in all four of the Gospels (though in varying forms) at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. After Jesus came up out of the water, the [Holy] Spirit [of God] came from heaven and descended on him “like a dove” (see Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). The baptism story built on the pre-existing symbol of the dove as God’s spirit (and its many other meanings) and firmly entrenched it as the preferred representation of the Holy Spirit. The dove represents the Holy Spirit that also indwells every believer after they have repented and trusted in Christ, as well as how God has moved throughout history. The Light is a symbol of God, the Creator.

C. Bible and Lily
IMG_2309“The open book often pictured on stained glass windows in the church refers to the Holy Bible. the word of God. The book shown open indicates that the Bible is accessible throughout most of the world in over 1,000 tongues. The Easter Lily, a symbol of purity, is a common symbol of Easter and blooms at that time of the year.” We will look more closely at the symbolism of the Easter Lily in the Dickerson window, so this morning I’m going to focus on the Bible.

The Protestant Bible is 66 books. The Catholic Bible is 73 books since it includes the Apocrypha (hidden books). The Bible was written over thousands of years and by many different authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It was not until the 5th century that all the different Christian churches came to a basic agreement on Biblical canon. During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, books not originally written in Hebrew but Greek, such as Judith and Maccabees, were excluded from the Old Testament. These are known as the Apocrypha and are still included in the Catholic Bible. Today there are more than six billion Bibles are in circulation around the world, printed in 484 languages. As the reach of the Bible has spread, Christianity has grown with it. Today, there are more than 2.18 billion Christians in the world studying the Word of God.

III. Conclusion

People are a lot like glass. Glass can reflect, like a mirror, or transmit light. Our windows are at their most beautiful when they permit the light to flow through them. The light also shows the flaws and quality of the glass. Like glass, we need to have the light of God shining through us. Like glass, we can merely reflect, or transmit light. Jesus offers inner light to those who accept him. He is the light of the world according to John 1. We can accept the light, or reject it. If we believe, that inner light becomes ours.
We love our stained glass windows and we should. But what do people see in us? Does the light of Christ shine through? The Hyde window reminds us of their faith and generosity. The cross and vine remind us to stay connected to Jesus and what he has done for us. The Dove and light reminds us of the Holy Spirit and Jesus, the light of the world. The Bible and Lily remind us of the good news that we are called to share. The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47661001/james-milton-hyde
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47664543/addie-hyde
http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/crosses/vine.html
https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/the-enduring-symbolism-of-doves/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/07/13/what-does-a-dove-mean-or-represent-in-the-bible/
https://www.history.com/topics/bible
https://blog.mychristiancare.org/the-history-of-the-bible-and-christianitys-global-influence

Surrounded by Symbols- Joshua 3:14-4:8

Picture1(Author’s note: This is the complete manuscript and powerpoint pictures for my message at FUMC Winnfield on June 3.  This is message #1 of my sermon series “Windows to the Soul” about the church building and stained glass windows at FUMC Winnfield.  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.)

Introduction
It was bound to happen. God knew it. Joshua knew it. Someday, a child playing along the banks of the River Jordan would stub their toes on a pile of weather-beaten, sun-bleached rocks and ask, “Daddy, why these stones?” After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, feeding on manna and worshiping in a tent, Moses brought the people to the Jordan River, carrying the bones of Joseph with him. They came just within sight of the Promised Land, and Moses passed the torch of leadership to Joshua. When the people were ready for the final crossing, God told Joshua to pick up twelve stones, carry them over and pile them up on the other side, “And when your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’…then, ah then, you shall tell them what the Lord has done for you.” These stones became symbols of what God has done and point us to God.

Likewise, every time we walk into this church and into this Sanctuary we are surrounded by symbols that are designed to point us to God. Like the simple stones in Joshua, they can be easily overlooked unless we are paying attention. This Summer, I will be preaching about the symbols of God that are all around us in our own building. My main source is this little book from 2012 that describes the symbolism in our building and in our windows, though I also plan to dig a little more in depth than this book does, to think about what these symbols mean and why they are important. Like stones on the side of a river, I hope it will open your eyes to God all around us. What does it mean to be surrounded by symbols?
II. Body
1. Symbols look back and witness to what God has done.

The stones in Joshua are a witness to God’s deliverance and salvation, a memorial to God’s gracious care, a reminder of God’s steadfast love. Our buildings are a reminder of what God has done for us. We pile up stones and bricks as a witness to God’s great love in Jesus Christ so that our children and all the people in our town will know of God’s redemption.

And every time we gather in this space, Every time we baptize a baby or break the bread together, Every time we share the cup of grape juice or a cup of coffee, Every time we receive an offering or fill a bag for the food pantry, we do it as a way to remember and give thanks for all God has done for us.

When you see the stones of this church’s ministry, how can we help but give thanks to God? When your children ask, “Why these stones?”, “Why does church matter?” tell them what God has done. Why these stones? They look back and witness to what God has done in the past,

2. These symbols look forward to what God will do in the future.
The main verb in this passage is the Hebrew word abar “cross over.” It is used 21 times in Joshua. Commentator John Hamlin says: The word emphasizes the decisive nature of this moment in the history of the Hebrew people—the link between the past and the future. “Why these stones?” They mark the point of “crossing over,” the movement of the people of God from the past into the future.

It’s not enough for the people of God to look back in memory. The Church is not a historical society, even though our history is vitally important. We cannot live on the past—preserving old buildings for their own sake, hanging on to old patterns and practices for their own sake, unwilling to risk new ways of being a church. The calling of God always lays out there somewhere ahead of us in the unknown future, and we are called to “cross over.”

During a stay in England some years ago, a pastor visited a wonderful village church dating back over 500 years…a lovely sanctuary with a high vaulted nave and glorious stained glass. To the eyes of a first-time American tourist, it was a mini-cathedral. He complimented the priest on the beauty of the place and the excellent condition of the ancient building, and his response was, “Oh, we Anglicans know how to care for old buildings.” But on Sunday, the beautiful building was silent and empty! What good is taking care of old buildings, piling up old stones, remembering what God has done in the past, if we aren’t connecting with people today and claiming the future for Jesus Christ?

The stones look back and give thanks, but the stones call us to “cross over:”
Earlier in the service we sang an old American gospel hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The second verse says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, my pile of stones, my signpost along the way.”  As a child, I always wondered what Ebenezer Scrooge had to do with the hymn. It has to do with placing a sign to remember that “Hither by thy help I’ve come.” It is to say, “I’m marking the path right here, right now. I’ve come this far by the grace of God, and I have confidence to trust him for the future.”

The pile of stones on the riverbank symbolized the forward movement of the people on the journey of faith. The very act of piling them up affirms confidence in the hope that there will, in fact, be another generation of children to ask the question. They piled up the stones as a bold act of faith, a witness of hope in God’s promised land. These stones witness to God’s calling to cross over and discover the land God has prepared for us.

3. There are symbols surrounding us

The word “Symbol” is derived from two Greek words, “sym,” meaning together, and “ballein,” meaning to throw. A symbol “throws together” the known and the unknown, throwing our thinking beyond the symbol itself. Symbols speak their own language, and the understanding of the beholder measures the impact of their message. The Christian church since its beginning has had a multitude of symbols to help persons experience the deepest meaning of the Christian faith.

Symbolism in the church reached its height in the Middle Ages and was used for the purpose of education. Books were very expensive and scarce at that time, and few people could read, so medieval artists and craftsmen made every church edifice a great, glowing picture book of church history and church doctrine. By means of symbols skillfully wrought into stone, wood. painted glass, metal, canvas, tapestries and needlework, great truths met the eye in every direction and proclaimed their spiritual messages to the assembled worshippers. Worshipers could look at these symbols and receive a spiritual message from them. The parts of the church, as well as the church building itself, are symbolic.

IMG_2317The CHURCH BELLS convey an inner meaning, calling worshipers to come and give the worship and adoration that are due God. The STEEPLE or spire, pointing toward the blue of Heaven, is a silent witness to the one true God whom the people come to worship in the church. Our steeple culminates in the cross at the top, signifying that God loves the world and is reconciling the world unto Himself through the worship, meditation, prayers, and hymns of the people in the church below.

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The CHURCH DOOR may remind one of Jesus, who said, “I am the door.” In our prayers we approach the Creator “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” When a door IS open, it welcomes everyone, bidding all to advance into the church to worship, learn and serve. The ARCHES above the doors and windows have significance. Since the arches join together the pillars and walls of the church, they are reminders of Jesus Christ and the sacraments by which God and man are joined together. The arch is also said to be Symbolic of the love of God and the hospitality of the Christian faith.The STEPS signify the Christian pilgrimage, or the pathway of the Christian who seeks to worship God and to learn his ways.

IMG_2323The NARTHEX, or vestibule, is entered by the main entrance stretching across the entire end of the church and prepares the worshiper for entering the sanctuary, separating him from the hustle and bustle of the material world, readying him for the quiet of the House of Worship. The NAVE is from the Latin word “navis”, which means ship. The earliest symbolism IMG_2337associated with the church is that of a Ship. It returns us to the ark, and the church in comparison is the “ark of safety.” It was natural that the early church buildings were in the form of a ship. So today the nave is the central division of the church in which the congregation is seated.

The AISLE is the way that leads to the Throne of God. As IMG_2324we approach the altar, we find at intervals ascending levels and steps leading upward until they reach the altar. We note that the carpet is somewhat worn, reminding us of the many persons who have walked this way —- young couples taking their marriage vows, members of the church family who have

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professed their faith or who have come to partake of the elements which are the symbolic body and blood of the Christ, funeral processions completing the cycle of life on earth. The PEWS are long seats with a back but without divisions. On the end of the pews in our church are two symbols: the wheat representing Holy Communion, “the bread of life,” and the cluster of grapes, also for Holy Communion. The LIGHT FIXTURES overhead have the quatrefoil symbol, a decorative feature in the shape of a leaf with four foils or lobes, each bearing the symbol of one of the four Gospels- Matthew, Mark. Luke, and John. The trefoil in the chain is for the trinity.

IMG_2329The BAPTISMAL FONT, Latin for “fountain,” is an octagonal receptacle of wood which stands on a pedestal and contains the water for baptism—outward sign of inner change. The cover of the font is crowned with the Cross Pate’e which if formed by four spearheads touching at the center. The eight outer points symbolize the eight Beatitudes and the regeneration of man. The PULPIT, Latin for “raised platform,” is used in delivering sermons. The LECTERN, the desk which stands opposite the pulpit, is usually smaller than the pulpit and used for reading the scripture.

The ALTAR, most important furnishing of the church, is a table placed in the Sanctuary IMG_2334facing the congregation. It may be against the wall or free-standing. At the altar the Holy Communion is consecrated and administered and worship is conducted. Here the hangings, blue cross above the altar, the altar cross, and candles are placed.  The HANGINGS, or frontals, are of fine cloth hung on the front of the altar, pulpit and lectern, depicting the divisions of the church year by their color.

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Green for the seasons after Epipany and Pentecost. Purple for Lent and Advent. Red for Pentecost. White for Christmas, Easter, and Trinity Sunday. The cross in lights above the altar is the popular Latin style most used of all symbols representative of Jesus’ crucifixion. The ALTAR CROSS is Latin style and stands on three steps, signifying faith, hope, and charity (love). The CANDLES signify Jesus Christ, his human and divine nature when two are used as we see on our altar. Three refer to the trinity. Worshippers should enter the sanctuary in reverence responding to the purpose of its furnishings.

III. Conclusion

There are symbols of God surrounding us. They look back to what God has done. They look forward to what God will do. They remind us of God and all that have gone before us. When you notice these symbols in our church and in our sanctuary, may they remind you of the God who surrounds us and what God has done for us.

Caring For God’s House

IMG_1044(Author’s note: this article originally appeared in the June Edition of the FUMC Winnfield newsletter The Cross and Tower)

We are blessed to have beautiful church facilities at FUMC Winnfield. Our Family Life Center, Fellowship Hall, offices, classrooms, and sanctuary provide a beautiful place for us to experience God and serve the community. The parsonage is one of the nicest homes in which we have lived. We are blessed that those who have gone before us had the foresight to leave us such a beautiful place to worship, learn, play, fellowship, and work.

It is our responsibility to maintain and add to the functionality and the beauty of our facility.  Our buildings are no longer young. The main building that houses our Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, Offices and most of our classrooms was built in in 1952, 66 years ago. The last major renovation in that building was 1980, 38 years ago. The Family Life Center was built in 1982,36 years ago, and has undergone few changes with the exception of a new coating to fix a leaky roof in 2017, which cost more than $30,000. The trustees committee believes that the time has come to help our buildings continue to be both beautiful and functional.

The trustees will be bringing a proposal to Administrative Council on June 10 to replace all carpet downstairs in the main building, the stairways, and in the hallway upstairs. The cost for this renovation should be about $10,000. The trustees have also approved a new security door for the Fellowship Hall to protect us and our children which should be in place soon. A new one compartment sink in the Fellowship Hall kitchen has also been approved. The playground project has started with several new picnic tables and we are almost 75% of the way to our $20,000 goal. We would like to replace the flooring in the FLC, but this appears to be a project that would cost at least $15-30,000 and would stretch our funds to the limit.

In Exodus 35, God’s people willingly gave of their own resources to outfit God’s tabernacle. Gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, oil, acacia wood, spices, onyx, jewels and other resources were given by a people camping out in the wilderness near Mt. Sinai. If they gave of their resources to build God’s house, it seems that we should follow in their footsteps and in the footsteps of all who have gone before us at FUMC Winnfield to care for and beautify God’s house. Here’s a few ideas how you can help.

(1) Make a gift to the Capitol Improvement Fund. This dedicated fund is used to fund many of the improvement projects, such as the carpet replacement, at our church.
(2) Help us keep our building clean. Even small things, such as throwing away your bulletin after Sunday service or cleaning up after yourself can add up to be a big time and money saver.
(3) Be a good steward. Turning off lights when you leave a room, or turning the thermostat up on the air conditioning when you leave, can help us save money on our utilities.
(4) Give your time. The trustees are planning a church work day in September when you can volunteer a few hours of your time to maintain and beautify our building. No special skills required, but if you have some abilities you would like to volunteer or see needs at our facility, please let us know.

We are truly blessed to have such beautiful and functional facilities. We are grateful for those who came before us who provided God’s house for us to use, enjoy, and worship. Like the Israelites, and those who came before us, we are called to provide for and care for God’s house. Will you help us? For our sake, for the sake of those that passed this heritage on to us, and for the sake of those that will come after us, I pray that you will help us care for and beautify God’s house.

Caring for God’s House,
Kevin Smith