The fifth Lenten Luncheon, sponsored by the Ministerial Alliance of Vandalia, was held in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church.
The pastor of the host church, the Rev. Terry Westerfield welcomed the approximately 80-90 guests who were seated at tables decorated with spays of spring flowers arranged on clear glass plates in the center of the round tables. Melody Freeman played hymns on the keyboard.
Following the meal provided by the ladies of the church, the speaker of the day, lay speaker Duane Houghtaling, representing First Church of God, was introduced.
Houghtaling began his message with mention of several hymns of the cross.
He then focused on the cross in Matthew :27-43, which contains graphic descriptions of both the agonizing physical and verbal abuse, torture, taunting and humiliation that Jesus chose to endure before and on the cross for us.
Houghtaling reminded all that Jesus felt all of the cruelties, persecution and pain, the worst being the separation from His father, when He took on all of our sins, and cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He spoke of us, as Christians, taking up the cross. He gave alarming facts about other countries persecuting Christians today.
He said that while he is thankful for our religious freedom, he doesn’t take it for granted.
Our cross could be an illness, issues and pressures of today’s life, the loss of loved ones, an addiction, bad habits or even bad attitudes, and they affect people around us and/or even the church.
Houghtaling challenged all, as well as himself, to examine their focus. “Are you bearing the cross that God wants you to, and is it giving glory to God?”
His closing included a reminder that, as with Christ, the cross is not the end – “Joy comes in the morning,” and the Scripture 1 Corinthians 15:51-56.