(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.)
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.
A: The harp
The 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
A 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.
The 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.
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?
[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.
[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.