(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.)
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.
His 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.
A: The dove with the olive branch
The 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
The 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
No 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]
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?