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

IMG_2327

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.

Caring For God’s House

IMG_1044(Author’s note: this article originally appeared in the June Edition of the FUMC Winnfield newsletter The Cross and Tower)

We are blessed to have beautiful church facilities at FUMC Winnfield. Our Family Life Center, Fellowship Hall, offices, classrooms, and sanctuary provide a beautiful place for us to experience God and serve the community. The parsonage is one of the nicest homes in which we have lived. We are blessed that those who have gone before us had the foresight to leave us such a beautiful place to worship, learn, play, fellowship, and work.

It is our responsibility to maintain and add to the functionality and the beauty of our facility.  Our buildings are no longer young. The main building that houses our Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, Offices and most of our classrooms was built in in 1952, 66 years ago. The last major renovation in that building was 1980, 38 years ago. The Family Life Center was built in 1982,36 years ago, and has undergone few changes with the exception of a new coating to fix a leaky roof in 2017, which cost more than $30,000. The trustees committee believes that the time has come to help our buildings continue to be both beautiful and functional.

The trustees will be bringing a proposal to Administrative Council on June 10 to replace all carpet downstairs in the main building, the stairways, and in the hallway upstairs. The cost for this renovation should be about $10,000. The trustees have also approved a new security door for the Fellowship Hall to protect us and our children which should be in place soon. A new one compartment sink in the Fellowship Hall kitchen has also been approved. The playground project has started with several new picnic tables and we are almost 75% of the way to our $20,000 goal. We would like to replace the flooring in the FLC, but this appears to be a project that would cost at least $15-30,000 and would stretch our funds to the limit.

In Exodus 35, God’s people willingly gave of their own resources to outfit God’s tabernacle. Gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, oil, acacia wood, spices, onyx, jewels and other resources were given by a people camping out in the wilderness near Mt. Sinai. If they gave of their resources to build God’s house, it seems that we should follow in their footsteps and in the footsteps of all who have gone before us at FUMC Winnfield to care for and beautify God’s house. Here’s a few ideas how you can help.

(1) Make a gift to the Capitol Improvement Fund. This dedicated fund is used to fund many of the improvement projects, such as the carpet replacement, at our church.
(2) Help us keep our building clean. Even small things, such as throwing away your bulletin after Sunday service or cleaning up after yourself can add up to be a big time and money saver.
(3) Be a good steward. Turning off lights when you leave a room, or turning the thermostat up on the air conditioning when you leave, can help us save money on our utilities.
(4) Give your time. The trustees are planning a church work day in September when you can volunteer a few hours of your time to maintain and beautify our building. No special skills required, but if you have some abilities you would like to volunteer or see needs at our facility, please let us know.

We are truly blessed to have such beautiful and functional facilities. We are grateful for those who came before us who provided God’s house for us to use, enjoy, and worship. Like the Israelites, and those who came before us, we are called to provide for and care for God’s house. Will you help us? For our sake, for the sake of those that passed this heritage on to us, and for the sake of those that will come after us, I pray that you will help us care for and beautify God’s house.

Caring for God’s House,
Kevin Smith

For the Beauty of the Earth

(Author’s note: This article was written for the May 2018 Newsletter “The Cross and Tower” for First United Methodist Church Winnfield)

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Azalea cluster closeup from the author’s yard March 27, 2018

If you are a musician or even a fan of music, you probably recognize the title of this article. It is from a hymn by the same name, number 92 in the United Methodist Hymnal. The first stanza reads “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. Lord of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.” Each stanza of the hymn paints a picture of gratitude embodied in some aspect of God’s creation: the earth (stanzas 1 and 2), the senses (stanza 3), “human love” (stanza 4), the church (stanza 5), and the gift of God as manifest in Christ (stanza 6). (source: For the Beauty of the Earth History)  The writer of the hymn was Folliot S. Piermont in 1864 and the music by Conrad Kocher in 1838.

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White Bearded Iris from the author’s yard on April 15, 2018 

Indeed, it has been a beautiful spring. My neighbor, Mrs. Price, has some azaleas in the front of her yard that bloomed so profusely that the plants seemed ablaze with red flowers for several weeks. In my own yard, my bearded irises bloomed for the first time in several years, my azaleas bloomed beautifully, my roses are just now having their first flush of blooms, and I have flower scapes on my daylilies. The days have been markedly cooler, albeit too cool for some, (especially those in the Northern US who have received FEET of snow in April). But I’m trying to enjoy these cool days because I know that all too soon August will be here and it will be hot again. Even many of the sunsets and sunrises have been beautiful this winter and into the spring.

Sunday, April 22, 2018 was Earth Day. But God was showing His beauty through the earth, long before there was an earth day. Consider these scriptures. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Eccleasiastes 3:11 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31.

These are only a few of the scriptures that speak of the beauty of God’s creation. The next

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Rose from the author’s yard April 6, 2018.

time you see a flower, or a sunset, or a flying bird, or the beautiful stars, or maybe hear a beautiful hymn, take a moment to enjoy and say thank you for the beautiful earth that God has graciously given to us. Even as we enjoy God’s creation, we know it is also our responsibility to protect the earth and pass all of these beautiful things on to those who come after us. Notice and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, but protect it so that others can experience “the beauty of the earth” and experience God in the same way.
Noticing God all around me,

Kevin Smith

Eating With Ghosts

luke 24_36-48(Author’s note:  this is the introduction to my sermon “Eating With Ghosts” from Luke 24:36-48 on April 15, 2018 at FUMCWinnfield)

A company once hired a recent immigrant and put him to work in the mail room. To the foreman’s shock, the guy was a whiz. He stood in front of the sorting racks and shuffled the letters into slots with amazing speed. The foreman had never seen anything like it. At the end of the day, the foreman shook the new man’s hand, thanked him and said, “I’ve never seen anyone who could sort mail as fast as you.” The new immigrant smiled and said, “You think I’m good now, you wait until I can read English.” (source: The Jokesmith)

Maybe that explains some of the mail in my mailbox. My apologies to anyone who works in the post office. But the truth is that we are cynical and skeptical. Too many times we have been let down. Too many times promises have been broken. And yet, every once in a while, we get pleasantly surprised. Something that seems too good to be true.

That’s the scene in today’s scripture. The disciples are huddled together and Cleopas and his companion enter and add word of their encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. (you can read that story in Luke 24:13-35). Luke describes the scene like this: “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost” (v. 36). Imagine how we would have reacted to this first appearance of the risen Christ after his resurrection. This account picks us up at a point where — were we to be present at Easter’s ground zero — we also would have been “startled,” and “terrified.” But Jesus seeks to calm their fears. He reassures them that it is he, inviting them to touch him, and then does a simple act that no ghost would ever do- he asks them for something to eat, then eats the food in their presence. Suddenly it becomes evident to the disciples that this is no ghost that they are eating with. It is the resurrected and living messiah, son of God. How would we react? What would we say if Jesus suddenly appeared to us? If one that we thought was dead, was a ghost, showed up to eat lunch with us? Here’s how the first disciple’s reacted.

Cheering and Encouraging Others

SO_Louisiana_Mark_XXX_XXX-21(Author’s note: this article originally appeared in the April edition of “The Cross and Tower” newsletter from FUMC Winnfield.  The entire newsletter can be viewed at http://www.fumcwinnfield.com)

On March 15, 2018, I was invited to speak for a few moments at the Winn Parish Special Olympics at Stokes Walker Stadium on the campus of Winnfield Senior High School. I also led the athletes and spectators in the Special Olympics pledge “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” It was a great privilege to play a small part in this special event for these special needs students from all over Winn Parish.

I was touched by so many volunteers, adults, teachers, youth, who made this a special day for these students. I was touched by the big smiles on the faces of the students as they ran, jumped, and were awarded medals for competing. I was touched by the crowd that cheered and yelled as each student competed in the events.

But what really got my attention was the finish line of the races. As each competitor raced, student volunteers held up and waved signs of encouragement. Other volunteers cheered and applauded. Each competitor received hugs, high fives, and a medal as he or she crossed the finish line. Inevitably, whether the finish was in first place, second place, or even last place, smiles and joy was the result for the competitor.

As I watched, I wondered what would happen to us if we intentionally tried to be encouraging. How would the world change if we smiled more, gave more high fives, a few more hugs, and cheered for one another? This world is full of criticism, disappointment, trouble, and frowns. But what would happen if we learned from these special Olympians and those volunteers to cheer for and encourage others rather than discourage and marginalize others?

There’s no way to know what would happen, but my guess is that if we truly cheered for and encouraged others, we would have fewer tragedies like 17 students killed in a high school shooting. We would likely see violence decrease. Maybe we would remember what we have in common rather than our differences. Maybe our world would change, one person, one special person, at a time.

Can you imagine what would happen in our church if we made a habit of cheering on and encouraging others? If we patted people on the back and said “great job” instead of criticizing and cutting down? It seems like this is God’s design for His church. I Thessalonians 5:11, written by Paul to the church at Thessalonika, says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Paul’s clear expectation for the church is that we are already cheering for, helping, and encouraging each other.

Who are you cheering for? Who are you encouraging? Cheering and encouragement made a difference for these special needs children and it will make a difference in the lives of those you help. Thank you to the Winn Parish Special Olympics for allowing me to help. And thank you for reminding me how important it is to cheer on and encourage others.

Looking to Cheer for and Encourage Others,
Kevin D. Smith

Will You Join the Parade?

palm_9427p(Author’s note: this is the conclusion of my message titled “Will You Join the Parade” on March 25, 2018 [Palm Sunday] at FUMC Winnfield.)

When the Salvation Army first went to India, the British authorities were concerned about them, and issued an order that no open meetings and no parades were to be held. But Commissioner Tucker of the Salvation Army decided that order must be defied. One day the Salvation Army came marching down the street. They were met by soldiers. The officer in charge said, “In the name of her majesty, the Queen of England, I order you to disperse.” But Tucker replied, “In the name of the King of kings, I order you to stand aside.” They stood aside.

One day, one palm-waving day, Jesus marched right into Jerusalem, the Holy City, and said to everything unholy, “Stand aside.” And he is calling us to join him in the parade, and to say to everything keeping us from him, “Stand aside.” When we dare to do it those things will stand aside. His kingdom will live in us, and we will help spread his rule in his world.

Palm Sunday. It reminds us of how Jesus came, humble and riding on a donkey and that God has need of even us. It reminds us of the reaction of the crowd, that they cried “Hosanna” one day and shouted “crucify him” a few days later. And it reminds us that it still has meaning for us to worship and follow Jesus. Would you dare to do it? Will you join the parade?