Sunday, April 24, 2011

Childhood Easter in Liberty

Easter Hymns have always been an important aspect of Easter in Liberty.  My childhood favorite was, "Low in the Grave He Lay",  "Christ The Lord is Risen Today" was a close second and is my adult favorite Easter hymn.  These hymns resonnated well in the Liberty EUB Church on Easter Sunday.

The community often got an early start at the Easter Sunrise Service sponsored by the community churches in the township (Bearcreek Church of the Brethren) and villages of Ellerton and Liberty.  This service often was held at the Jefferson High School stadium, with 3 crosses propped on the field in front of the bleachers.  This was a great time to see school friends like Donnie Smith, Mike Maxwell and Dan Maxwell and their families, appreciating the community pastors gifts and enjoying the Easter breakfast together in the school cafeteria.

We went to early service followed by Sunday School where we sang more Easter hymns and, in later years, went to late service, too.  The choir, which I later joined, would sing at both services on Easter Sunday, affording four sessions of worship and singing.  This was uplifting and fulfilling.  It felt right. 

Jesus Lives! was the message for all.  The story of the Resurrection was powerful.  The empty tomb and Jesus appearing after "He arose the victor from the dark domain" were joyous testimony that "He lives forever with His saints to reign".  Children could understand that and Believe! We would sing together in the closing hymn, "Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!  Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!  Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!  Hail the Resurrection Thou, Alleluia!"  Amen.

The specialness of Easter was enhanced by the childhood delights of Easter Eggs and Easter Egg hunts.  The chocolate Easter bunnies added to the tastiness of the day.  Were the hollow ones better than the solid milk chocolate?  The yellow chickies were made of marshmallow like material, pretty but not as tasty as the chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs.  Candy pleased us, but we also got new clothes for Easter.  Nice tradition, well supported by having both sets of grandparents living next door and across the street.

The whole family got together at one of the grandparents homes after church.  Art and Mary, Bill and Fanny, Esther and Scud, Jerry and Joy, Mike and I gathered for an amazing feast and conversation.  Ollie and Clarbel Webb were often included as members of the family, too.  Grandpa Jonas made the most incredible mashed potatoes and Grandpa Clayton could make delicious swiss steak.  The ham and green beans were great, too.  But the pies were a special delicacy.

The Easter message for children in Liberty was magical for me.  It wasn't the candy, the egg hunt or even being with family, all of which I enjoyed.  Jesus died and rose from the dead for me.  And you, too.  We are forgiven.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Esther's Birthday. Stories of Jesus in Stained Glass and Music

Esther Jean Clayton Jonas celebrated her birthday one day after the event with her sons, daughters in law, several grandchildren and great grand children on Sunday April 3rd by worshiping together in Liberty. When she was born in St. Ann's Hospital in 1926, her future husband Art ("Scud") Jonas,  already lived in Liberty on Back Street.  Growing up in Dayton on Orchard St. just down the street from Roosevelt High School, she might not have dreamed of a life in the country, but Liberty called and she's still there.  As her 20th birthday present (one day later on April 3, 1946) I was happy to grow up in Liberty, and pleased to celebrate my 65th birthday on April 3rd with family in the Liberty Church.  It is a church with a great history and hopefully a unique future, as God wills.

In the sanctuary of the Liberty United Methodist Church, two beautiful stained glass windows enhance the meaning of each service on the sides of the worship area and one more looks over the congregation from the back.  On the right window labeled to honor the donor, "The Ladies Aid Society", Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gesthemane. In the garden, Jesus prayed alone, then was betrayed and arrested.  

Among other thoughts as I looked at that window last Sunday, I recall that one of my Grandma Mary Jonas' favorite songs was "In the Garden".  (Words and music here) It was in the United Brethren Church hymnal but not in the Methodist Hymnal until they merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB, which came after UB) by the way.  The chorus of the song proclaims, "And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known."

The second verse includes, "And the melody That He gave to me, Within my heart is ringing."  There was always a melody ringing in my Grandma's heart, in fact she really enjoyed singing, "In My Heart There Rings a Melody".  (words/music here)   It could be the title of her biography, should it ever be written.

The stained glass window on the left as one faces the alter is the image of Jesus knocking on a door, carrying a cane in His left hand while knocking with the back of His right hand.  I had forgotten the cane, but remember, "Behold I stand at the door and knock."  The door has no handle since we're supposed to open it from the inside for Him when He knocks at our hearts.  In the lowest part of the stained glass are the words, "By the Children of the Circuit".

The image in the rearmost stained glass window is Jesus holding a lamb in the crook of His right arm. The story is found in Matthew and Luke:
Matthew 18:12-14 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Luke 15:4-7 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

The story is beautifully depicted in the window and the hymn is in the United Brethren Hymnal (and not in the Methodist Hymnal, where the Wesley's rule).  (words/music "The Ninety and Nine" Here).  This song has some awesome recordings on YouTube if you want to hear other versions (e.g., Tennessee Ernie Ford).
Who knows the donor names on the bottom of this window?  

When you come to Liberty United Methodist Church, check out the beautiful and meaningful stained glass windows.  They will tell you  a story when you're ready to listen.  May God continue to bless this church, its people, it's windows and their message.  Peace.

Pat Jonas