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.