James and Ella Russell Window and Good Shepherd Window

(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.)

I. Introduction

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.

II.  Body

A. Balcony Cross

IMG_2770Window 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 russell 2officiating, 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

IMG_2768Window 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 img_1773.jpegSunday 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.

img_1766.jpegHer 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

IMG_6556

Mr. and Mrs. N.M. Jackson

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.

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 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?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58955130/james-g.-russell

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27341643/clara-ella-russell

[iii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54395312/napoleon-m.-jackson

[iv] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54395075/ella-jackson

[v] https://earlychurchhistory.org/christian-symbols/symbol-of-christ-as-good-shepherd/

[vi] https://www.gotquestions.org/Good-Shepherd.html

[vii] https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/jesus-the-good-shepherd.htm

[viii] https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/scripture-and-tradition/jesus-and-the-new-testament/who-do-you-say-that-i-am-names-for-jesus/the-good-shepherd

Carolyn Sue Smith Window (Lyre-Dove with Olive Branch and Ark- Lamb on Book of Seven Seals)

IMG_2741(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on August 5, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the ninth 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

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 8 in memory of Carolyn Sue Smith.

Carolyn Sue Smith was born March 23 1939 in Winnfield.  She died Sep 6 1950 (aged 11) in Winnfield.  She is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.

Her obituary reads: Tragedy struck suddenly this week in Winnfield with the untimely death of Carolyn Sue Smith, 11 year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Smith. Carolyn became very ill Tuesday afternoon at her father’s store, the Jitney Jungle supermarket, and was taken to a local hospital, where she died at 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Funeral services were conducted at the First Methodist Church with the pastor, Rev. P. M. Caraway, the former pastor, Rev. Fred S. Flurry, of Hammond,, and Rev. Alwin Stokes, officiating. The Methodist choir sang, “Lead, Kindly Light.”

Carolyn was born in Winnfield on March 23, 1939 and had lived here all her life. She was in the sixth grade in Winnfield School, where she was especially interested in science and math and did excellent work in this field.  She was everyone’s friend, having a sweet disposition and a habit of being kind to everyone. Her classmates loved her and showed this by electing her to several positions of honor in her classes.

She was a member of the elementary chorus and the band at school, and was a member of the Girl Scouts. She was active in the Junior Department of the Methodist Church and was a member of the Methodist junior choir.  Surviving, besides her parents, are one brother, Troy Lynn; her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. F. O. Lattier, Winnfield, and Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Smith, Timpson, Texas.[i]

Carolyn was the sister of Troy Lynn Smith- Missy Smith’s husband. She had an Aneurysm upstairs at the store and died next day.  Died Sept 6 on Missy’s birthday, whom she had just met. It was a tragedy that affected their family for many years to come.  But even in her few years on this earth, she seems to have made a positive impact on those around her.  We remember and celebrate her short life, as well as the beautiful gift of this window in her memory.

II. Body

A: Lyre

IMG_2733The lyre again represents praise or worship. Psalms 33:2 reads, “Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings!”

The lyre dates from before the Bronze Age (400-3200BC) and may have evolved from ancient harps.  “The fundamental difference between a lyre and a harp, is that in a harp, the strings enter directly into the hollow body of the instrument, whereas on a lyre, the strings pass over a bridge, which transmits the vibrations of the strings to the body of the instrument – just as on a modern guitar.”  Concerning the number of strings, each lyre varied in design. Typically there were three, four, seven and sometimes ten strings, each representing certain patterns of frequency (sound) considered appropriate in the design of the instrument i.e. meaning and purpose of the communication.[ii]

The ancient Hebrews had two stringed instruments, the “kinnor” (harp) and the “nebel” (lyre).  In both instruments the strings were set in vibration by the fingers, or perhaps by a little stick, the plectrum (as Josephus says). The strings were made of gut, metal strings not being used in olden times. The body of the instrument was generally made of cypress (II Sam. vi. 5) or, in very precious instruments, of sandalwood (I Kings x. 11; A. V. “almug”).

The kinnor and nebel are often mentioned together. As in the case of all instrumental music among the Hebrews, they were used principally as an accompaniment to the voice. Instruments were used on joyous occasions, such as banquets and festive processions (Gen. xxxi. 27; I Sam. x. 5; II Sam. vi. 5; Isa. v. 12), and especially in the Temple service (Ps. xxxiii. 2, xliii. 4; Neh. xii. 27; I Chron. xvi. 5); here also in accompaniment to songs of praise and thanksgiving (I Chron. xvi. 16; II Chron. v. 12; Ps. xxxiii. 2, lvii. 9, lxxi. 22). They were never used on occasions of mourning (Isa. xxiv. 8; Ezek. xxvi. 13; Lam. v. 14; Ps. cxxxvii. 2; Job xxx. 31). The nebel, the lyre, seems to have been reserved exclusively for religious occasions (Amos v. 23; Ps. cxliv. 9). In connection with secular events (Amos vi. 5; Isa. xiv. 11), its use appears to have been regarded as unseemly and profane. It is evident from the Old Testament that the lyre could be played while the performer was walking (I Sam. x. 5; II Sam. vi. 5; Isa. xxiii. 16); hence they must have been easy to carry.[iii]  The lyre reminds us of the joy of music and praising God through song.

B:  Dove with Olive Branch and Noah’s Ark

IMG_2735The dove with olive branch is a symbol of peace. When Noah’s ark is used, it stands for salvation or more particularly the salvation which the Church affords. Thus it is often used as a symbol of the Church.

We already examined the symbolism of the dove on two prior windows, so this morning I’m going to focus on what Noah’s Ark Represents. This morning we shall examine briefly certain aspects of the story of Noah’s ark and how it relates to Christ. If we fail to see Christ in the story of Noah’s ark, we miss the point.  The image of Christ portrayed in the Ark offers many parallels.

-The ark was constructed of wood.  The cross upon which Jesus died was constructed of wood.

-Noah was instructed to make a single door in the side of the Ark; it was the only entrance into the Ark, and access was controlled by God.  Likewise, Jesus said that He is the door, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

-The Ark carried all of its passengers safely to the destination that God had prepared for them.  Jesus said:  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)[iv]

-The word Noah means rest or comfort. Christ is our comfort and rest (Heb 4:4-11).

-Noah built the ark according to God’s revelation, not his own wisdom or imagination (Gen 6:15). This is symbolic of Christ and Christ’s workers, building the church according to God’s plan and not their own plan (Matt 16:18, John 6:38, 1 Cor 3:10-15, Eph 2:20-22).

-The dimensions of the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (Gen 6:15).  We lose the significance of these measurements when we translate them into English dimensions. The number 3 signifies the Trinity (Matt 28:19). The number 5 signifies the creation (four, Rev 4:6-9) plus God (one). 5 (four plus one) is creation in God, or strengthened creation. God created humans with 5 fingers, 5 toes and 5 senses (hear, see, smell, taste, touch).

-Like Christ, the ark was for the salvation of all living things, not just mankind (Col 1:20).[v]  Pictures depicting the ark can even be found in the catacombs where the early Christians gathered.[vi]  Noah was saved from the water, but through the waters of baptism we are saved.  The dove with olive branch and Noah’s ark reminds us God’s salvation through the ark and through Jesus.

C: Lamb on book of seven Seals

IMG_2738According to John 1:29, when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This and a similar statement in John 1:36 have brought into being two of our most meaningful symbols of Jesus Christ. One form of this symbol shows a lamb reclining on the Book of the Seven Seals mentioned in Rev. 5:1. The Easter banner symbolizes Christ’s victory over death.

The lamb represents Jesus. A lamb summed up all the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  A lamb was described it as “the theological shorthand for all the sacrifices of the Old Testament.” This lamb showed the evidence of having been killed, yet it was alive! Here is Jesus, the One spoken of in prophecy; He is a man, yet sinless; He has been crucified and has been resurrected! Death could not hold Him! He is worthy to break the seals and shower blessings upon the human race by redeeming it.  A lamb is the epitome of weakness. As the Lamb of God, Jesus portrayed perfect weakness – He did nothing in His own power; He remained on the cross and died for His enemies!

What do the seals signify? Only the Lamb, whose very life has overcome death, is worthy to open the seals and to redeem humanity. [vii]  This seems to be an appropriate end to the windows ringing our sanctuary, for this window panel, more than any other, looks toward the victorious second coming of Christ when the lamb shall become the lion of Judah.  The lamb reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus and that he is coming again.

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 us?  The lyre reminds us of the gift of music and the songs of praise to the Lord. The dove and Noah’s ark remind us of God’s salvation through Noah and Jesus. The lamb and the seven seals remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice and the day when he will return.  The short life of Carolyn Sue Smith reminds us that there are no guarantees in life and that we can impact lives in only a few short years.    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/59211940/carolyn-sue-smith

[ii] https://designconsciousness.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-significance-of-lyre.html

[iii] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7266-harp-and-lyre

[iv] http://www.icr.edu/what-noahs-ark-represents

[v] https://www.talkjesus.com/threads/the-significance-of-noahs-ark.49679/

[vi] https://earlychurchhistory.org/christian-symbols/the-deluge-as-a-biblical-symbol/

[vii] http://www.thegoodseed.org/insights/revelation5.html

Bevill Family Window (The Harp/House on a Rock/Trumpets)

IMG_2731(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.)

I.  Introduction

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.

II.  Body

A: The harp

IMG_2722The 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

img_2725.jpgA 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.

C: Trumpets

img_2727.jpgThe 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.

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 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?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52834755/martha-ellen-bevill

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52833986/james-riley-bevill

[iii] https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/harp/

[iv] http://www.biblesearchers.com/temples/jeremiah11.shtml

[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.

[vi] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=moron, accessed 9/25/14.

[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.

[viii] https://bible.org/seriespage/12-storm-warning-matthew-724-29

[ix] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-a-mighty-fortress-is-our-god

[x] http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/conway/the_trumpet-symbol.htm

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

New Every Morning

daylily collage

A few pictures of the author’s daylilies from the yard.

Gardening has been a part of my family’s life for as long as I can remember. Some of my best memories took place in a garden, picking carrots, blueberries, blackberries, pears, and many other fruits and vegetables. We also spent many hours fertilizing, spraying, and caring for flowers like roses, calla lilies, and many other varieties.

Gardening not only connects me to my family, but also to my faith. The creation story in Genesis takes place in a garden (Genesis 2-3). The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed in an olive garden, the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Following his crucifixion, Jesus is placed in a tomb in a garden (John 19:38-42). After his resurrection, Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener (John 20:11-18). In Jerusalem, I visited the Garden Tomb, which could be the place where Jesus was placed, and where people from all over the world gather to worship. In death, many caskets and funerals, are graced with stands, sprays, and wreaths of flowers or live plants as a symbol of life even in the midst of death.

I have several plants in my garden. Roses, bearded irises, Louisiana irises, lantana, gladiolus, and annuals such as zinnias and salvinia to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. But my favorite is the daylily. I like dayliles for several reasons. First, they are tough. My daylilies have survived several moves, transplants, and other challenges that would kill many flowers. Often, they have bloomed in the boxes or bags in which I moved them! They grow almost anywhere, in almost any soil, though they do best with lots of sun. Second, there are many varieties and variations. If you don’t believe God likes variety, look at the daylily! Daylilies can be found in almost all shades of the rainbow (except blue). Some are small (as small as 2 inches), others are large (as big as 10 inches), while most fall somewhere in between. Daylilies have many forms.  Some have eyes or colored edges, others have rounded forms or long, spindly arms (usually called spiders). Daylilies have many varieties and variations.

My favorite thing about daylilies is that they are new each day. The scientific name (hemorocallis) literally means “beauty for a day.” And that is what they do. Bloom for one day. Only. Then they die. When I walk through my garden, one cultivar that was a beautiful flower yesterday is now a dull, lifeless husk. Conversely, one bud that yesterday was only the promise of a bloom has blossomed into a beautiful flower. Here today, gone tomorrow. Just like life. Just like us. The daylily reminds me of what lasts, and what does not. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” Isaiah 40:8. I am reminded, that like the lilies are new every morning, so is God’s mercy. “22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

The next time you see a beautiful daylily, beautiful for only a day, think about what lasts and what passes away. Maybe, like me, you will find a blessing that is new every morning.

Putting Down the Pen . . . and Picking it Up Again

After my trip to Israel last month, I was asked to share my pictures and experiences.  I replied that I planned to put my daily journal that I wrote while on my pilgrimage and some of my favorite pictures on my blog.  “Good,” he replied, “I noticed that you hadn’t written anything for a while.”

fountain pen on paperHe was being kind!  When I looked back, I realized that I had not written anything in over 10 months!  Maybe there was not much to write about, I thought.  No, that was definitely not true.  I had seen God working all around me and had plenty of things that I could have written.  No, I had just put down my pen and had not been disciplined enough to pick it back up again. I had become busy and had not taken the time needed to practice the discipline of writing.

Isn’t that just like what happens in our spiritual lives?  We have good intentions about how we are going to go to church, read our Bible, spend more time in prayer, even spend more time writing, but life breaks in and all of our good intentions are set aside.  These things that keep us connected to God are not particularly difficult, but they must be practiced regularly for maximum effectiveness.  I wonder if these simplicity of these practices may actually impede consistent exercise of them.  “I can read the Bible tomorrow, today is really busy” we think.  Or “It’s already Sunday!?  I’m tired.  It’s been a long week. I think I’ll just sleep late instead of attending church.”  Using these practices is like strength training for Christians.  Maybe that is why they are called spiritual disciplines.  Because it takes discipline to make the things of God something we attend to regularly.  If we are not careful, intentional, and disciplined, in approach to spirituality and Christianity, then before we know it, months have passed and we have not attended to our spiritual lives.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was very disciplined in his life and practice.  He wrote many books, but maybe his most amazing work was his journal that includes almost daily entries from October 14, 1735, to October 24, 1790.  In case, like me, you are not a math major, that means that Mr. Wesley wrote in his journal for over 55 years!  I am amazed and astounded at the discipline and commitment it takes to do one thing for over 55 years!  I dare say that there are very few things in our lives that we will do for that long!  Of course, John Wesley was disciplined in his life and faith in many more ways than just his writing, that’s how he came to be called a Methodist.  Even today, those of us who seek to follow Jesus in the footsteps of Mr. Wesley are still called Methodists, though I sometimes wonder how methodical we really are, but that sounds like a topic for another day.

So following Wesley’s example and inspiration, I have put down my pen for far too long.  I pick it up again to follow his example and hopefully to be more disciplined in my writing and my faith.  The good news, for me and for all of us, is that Wesley was a staunch proponent of God’s grace, grace that gives us a new start, grace that is present even when we aren’t looking for God.  So claiming that grace, I pick up the pen again, hoping and praying that I will have the discipline to attend to the things of God consistently and praying God will use what I write to impact your life and faith.

By the way, if you are interested in reading more of John Wesley’s journal, you can find it to read online or download to your e-reader at John Wesley’s Journal at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Things to consider:  When is the last time you have attended to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship attendance, and other things that keep you in touch with God?  How can we be more disciplined in practicing the disciplines of Christianity?  What disciplines have you set aside that you need to pick up again?