(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on August 12, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the tenth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)
Over the last weeks we have been looking at the reminders of God all around in the symbolism of our church building and stained glass windows. Today we come to window number 9 in memory of James and Ella Russell and window number 10 in memory of Mr and Mrs N.M. Jackson.
A. Balcony Cross
Window Number Nine (in memory of James and Ella Russell) in the Balcony is divided by the cross, seen more distinctly from the outside of the church, is a contrast in its simplicity and carries out the arched theme seen throughout the sanctuary.
James G. Russell, Sr was born June 15, 1879 in Blanchard, Isabella County, Michigan. He died Oct 11, 1967 (aged 88) in Winnfield.
His obituary reads: Jame G. Russell, Sr., 88, retired accountant of Winnfield, died at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday, October 11, 1967 in a local hospital after a lengthy illness. The deceased was a native of Blanchard, Michigan, but moved with the Tremone Lumber Company to Winnfield 65 years ago. For the past several years he was employed as bookkeeper for a local wholesale grocery.
Mr. Russell was an active member of the First Methodist Church where he served on the board of stewards for many years. He had taught Sunday School classes, all ages ranging from 6 to 60 years.
Funeral services were conducted in First Methodist Church with Rev. Richard Walton officiating, assisted by Rev. R. H. Staples and Rev. Edgar Dufrense. Survivors include three sons, J. G. Russell, Jr., of Winnfield, Lawrence Russell of Alexandria, and Donald Russell of Bossier City; three daughters, Mrs. Max Allen of Winnfield, Mrs. Clyde Corley, Bastrop, and Mrs. Charles Dark of Cleveland, Texas; 10 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.[i]
Clara Ella Gibson Russell was born Feb 22, 1886. She died Dec 6, 1954 (aged 68). She is buried in Winnfield Cemetery.[ii] Rusty and Ellen Russell are James and Clara’s grandchildren.
All of the windows are beautiful, but this is window is one of my favorites. It is the most visible window to me from the pulpit while being hidden from many of you in the pews. It’s simple image of the cross is a reminder to me to always center what I do and say on Jesus and what he has done for us.
As many of you know, I was not raised a Methodist. I did not set foot in a Methodist church until I was in college. When I was deciding if I wanted to be a Methodist and was called to be a United Methodist pastor, a man named Dan Solomon was the Bishop in Louisiana from 1996-2000. I met with Bishop Solomon in his office in Baton Rouge and we had an honest and fruitful conversation. It is one of the reasons I am standing here this morning.
Bishop Solomon was an excellent preacher and many of the times I heard him speak, he reminded his listeners to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” The Russel window is a constant reminder to me to keep Jesus and the cross the main thing in my life and preaching, that, like the arched theme and cross, I might point others to Jesus.
The lone sheep window in the stairwell near the Sanctuary in honor of James’ son, Jim. This window was made by Betty Lawson’s sister and was given by the church and the community in October of 1993 for Jim’s 80th birthday. The Russell windows reminds us of their faith, to keep the main thing the main thing, and to point others to Jesus.
B.Good Shepherd Window
Window Number Ten, lighted throughout the night, depicts Christ as the good shepherd. Recalling the beautiful passages of Psalms 23, we see the depth of Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays clown his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). The life of service that Jesus lived and his sacrificial death have inspired the figure of a stalwart young man carrying a lamb. On the walls of the catacombs of Rome where the early Christians went to escape the Roman soldiers. there is found over 150 times the picture of the shepherd, reminding the faithful scattered sheep of their Good Shepherd whose care was unfailing at all times.
The good shepherd window is in memory of Mr. and Mrs. N.M. Jackson. Napoleon M. Jackson was born Feb 16, 1870 in Ruston. He died Jun 4 ,1939 (aged 69) in Winnfield. He is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.
His obituary reads: N. M. Jackson, 69, prominent citizen of Winnfield, died suddenly Sunday morning at about 4:30 as he was about his usual task of caring for his dairy cows. His grandson, Harold DeBray, who assists him during vacation time, seeing milk flowing down the hallway of the barn, went to see the cause and found Mr. Jackson dead.
Mr. and Mrs. Jackson moved to Winnfield in November, 1909, coming from the old Jackson farm near Ruston, where Mr. Jackson was born and reared. Here they reared and educated their family, taking an active part in the religious and civic life of the community. Mr. Jackson had been a member of the Methodist Church since a youth and had been a member of the Woodmen of the World for many years.
Last rites were conducted from the Methodist Church Monday morning with the pastor, Rev. G. A Morgan, officiating. He was assisted by the Rev. Alwin Stokes, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and Rev. W. T. Strain, Baptist minister of Simsboro. The floral offering, coming from friends throughout the state, was one of the largest ever witnessed in Winnfield, attesting to the esteem in which the family is held. Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise (Winnfield, LA), June 8, 1939[iii]
Ella McIntosh Jackson was born Mar 23, 1874 in Waxahachie, Texas. She died Nov 25, 1960 at the age of 86 in Winnfield.
Her obituary reads: Mrs. N. M. Jackson, 86, died at a local hospital early Friday morning, November 25, 1960. She had been in failing health for the past two years. Last rites were conducted at the First Methodist Church with the pastor, Rev. R. H. Staples, officiating. He was assisted by Dr. W. L. Holcomb of the First Baptist Church and by Rev. P. M. Carraway of Shreveport, former pastor of Winnfield. Burial was in the Winnfield Cemetery under direction of Southern Funeral Home.
The deceased was the former Miss Ella Olyce McIntosh, born in Waxahachie, Texas, on
March 27, 1874. She was active in the religious and civic life of Winnfield and took a leading part in various clubs and groups. Mrs. Jackson was a charter member of the Methodist WSCS and served as its president for four years. She was also a charter member of the Readers Review Club, the Garden Club, and Methodist Orphanage Society, of which she served as president many years. Other organizations of which she was a charter member included the P. T. A., and the Delphians.
Mr and Mrs Jackson had six children. They are the grandparents of John Glen Jackson and great grandparents of Jan Shell Beville and Fran Shell Walton. Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise News-American Winnfield, LA), December 1, 1960[iv]
The most represented image in catacomb art is of Christ as the Good Shepherd. In the ancient world sheep provided wool, milk, cheese and meat and the shepherd of the sheep was the person who led the sheep to good pastures, risked his life to protect them from wild animals, gave help to the sheep who were injured, kept an accurate account of them, looked for those who were lost and made sure they were safe at night
The kings of Israel were expected by God to be shepherds of His people (II Samuel 5:2) and the New Testament word for “pastor” from the Latin pastorem literally means “shepherd. The sculptures and images are meant to evoke passages in Scripture about Christ as the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, finds it and brings it home as well as the shepherd who protects, pastures and lays down his life for his flock:
In John 10:11-15 Jesus says 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. The early Christians used the Biblical metaphor of the Good Shepherd to show the redeeming work of Christ and of His care for believers—Jew AND Gentile.[v]
If you are like most people today, chances are you do not know any shepherds. Think about their job. First, to better understand the purpose of a shepherd during the times of Jesus, it is helpful to realize that sheep are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon the shepherd. Sheep are always subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of the shepherd as they graze. Rushing walls of water down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls may sweep them away, robbers may steal them, and wolves may attack the flock. David tells how he killed a lion and a bear while defending his father’s flock as a shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:36). Driving snow in winter, blinding dust and burning sands in summer, long, lonely hours each day—all these the shepherd patiently endures for the welfare of the flock. In fact, shepherds were frequently subjected to grave danger, sometimes even giving their lives to protect their sheep.[vi]
A shepherd tended his flock day and night. He would gather the sheep into a sheepfold at night for their protection. The sheepfold was a pen, a cave, or an area backed by stone walls. Since there were no doors, the shepherd would often sleep or sit in the opening, ready to guard his sheep from harm.
The good shepherd was different than a hired hand who might run away in the face of danger. The good shepherd would stay and defend them. He had a genuine loving concern for what belonged to him. In chapter 10, Jesus illustrates how the shepherd cares for his flock, protecting them from weather, thieves, and predatory animals. He loved and shielded them and if necessary, he would lay down his life for them. [vii]
A shepherd knows his sheep well. There is a personal relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus knows each of us by name. On the other hand, we respond to his voice and do not follow the voice of strangers who may lead us to harm. When Jesus gave Peter the responsibility of leading his Church, he again used shepherd imagery. He told Peter, “Feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). The image of shepherds is that they are kind, loving, patient, strong, and self-sacrificing. They are a good image for Jesus. And sheep, who can be rather stupid and foolish creatures, are a good symbol for us![viii] The good shepherd window reminds us that Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for us.
We love our stained glass windows and we should. But what do people see in us? Does the light of Christ shine through us? The balcony cross reminds us of the Russell family and to keep Jesus the main thing. The good Shepherd window reminds us of the Jackson family and that Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for us. The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?