A local poet says Jesus' voice wasn't the only one uttering last sayings from the cross during his Crucifixion.

The cross also had a voice, said Leola Davies, a Baton Rouge minister and poet.

Davies shares those words in her Easter poem, "The Voice of the Cross."

"When you read the Bible, it gives you the perspective of what the people witnessed, what Christ witnessed, but this basically is the cross speaking," said Davies, a member of Bethel Christian Church.

The poem begins:

I come from a rich and stately background, raised to praise my Creator, my God.

I have always stood tall, but this day, Oh, this day I would be appalled; at what I was to witness.

When I saw Him, I immediately knew who he was.

As He gripped me, I could feel His life strengthening mine as we climbed.

His steps were labored, but his footing sure as we came closer to more of what he had to endure.

Then I felt another set of hands, ones I did not recognize but somehow knew their destiny and mine were just as connected too.

These hands ordained to serve fulfilled their assignment to bring some relief, no matter how brief.

Davies, 65, said the poem has deep meaning in this Easter season.

"It's very personal to me because I am a child of God, and it's important to me that the message of the cross be expressed at this season and not be caught up with eggs and chickens and bunnies," she said.

Davies said God actually gave her the poem in her early morning mediation during the 2015 Christmas season.

"When it comes toward the end of the year, I really start reflecting on that year and really seeking God and what he's saying to me for the upcoming year," she said. "So, I was just really opened to the voice of the Lord at that moment, and the words just began to flow. I was just writing, and it wasn't until I went back and read everything that I had written that the impact really hit me."

Davies said she wasn't surprised at the outpouring of words about the death of Christ at a time when the world was celebrating his birth.

"His whole life had purpose," she said. "This (Easter) is rebirth for us. His dying gave us life."

Davies said she hopes it will encourage readers "to make a personal connection and commitment to the Lord."

For those who have walked away from God, Davies said she hopes they can recommit — much like she did after a difficult season of her life.

"I really became committed to God about 15 years ago and really started seeking his will," said Davies, who was raised in a Christian home and lived most her life in California before moving to Louisiana eight years ago. "It was a matter of getting God back into his rightful position — No. 1 in my life."

That commitment led to her call into the ministry on Aug. 8, 2011. She questioned God about her calling.

"I gave him every reason in the world why he had made a mistake," she said. "Once I said yes to God, then things started happening to discourage me."

But that helped Davies to grow — and serve. The longtime Sunday school teacher is also active in prison ministry and ministry to the elderly.

"I'm just enjoying how the Lord is using me and growing me," she said.

Another area is in her writing.

The last lines of "The Voice from the Cross" are:

Even in His last hours as tangible darkness filled the sky His love for them continued to flow.

What they had said, what they had done, was it not enough!?

No, they had to take one last blow.

They pierced Him in His side and as the warm blood and water flowed, I knew it would soon be time for Him to go.

I had the privilege and honor of feeling my God release His last breath.

I knew then that I had been part of something so grand that no ordinary man could have had command.

Then they took Him from me.

Gently they laid Him at my feet.

Yes, the foot of the cross not where life was lost but gained.

What He has done for mankind will always remain.

This tree will always say “To God Be The Glory” for the part He chose for me to play. 

By faith

Faith and resiliency have enabled Faith Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge to rebuild after the flood of 2016.

Easter has an extra special meaning for the church, which will celebrate at its 10:30 a.m. service Sunday, its anniversary since moving back into its renovated sanctuary at 12855 Old Hammond Highway.

"The flood was devastating to this church because we're a small but mighty church family," said Jill Wild, one of the church's elders. "We made sure that our church families were taken care of first in their homes, and then we worked on the church."

Wild, 57, said several families were affected by floods in their homes.

After the flood, Faith Presbyterian members didn't stop assembling.

"One of our church members was gracious enough to let us worship at her home," Wild said. "So we went back to the how many churches began — in the homes. And 18 months and into the 19th month, we made it back here."

The renovated facility looks magnificent but is still a work in progress, said Jack Summerell, another church elder.

"It has been wonderful," said Summerell, 71. "We're continuing with minor things we have to do with the sound system, lighting and the usual office equipment and tables and chairs and stuff. … It's been a year of continued integration and movement toward completing the church. We still got a few things we need to do. That's OK, we'll get them done."

Another change was the Rev. Steve Wallace taking over as pastor in 2017.

"He's been a blessing," Summerell said.

Faith Presbyterian Church was formed in June 2001 after the merger of Sherwood Presbyterian and Covenant Presbyterian.

Capitol honor for Bilberry

The Rev. Jesse B. Bilberry Jr., who celebrates his 90th birthday on May 12, made it up the Hill.

Bilberry, who retired last month after more than 35 years as the pastor of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, was honored April 10 in an event hosted by Louisiana U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Bilberry offered the opening prayer of the House of Representatives.

Other Baton Rouge pastors joining Bilberry at the Capitol included the Rev. Ronnie O. Blake, who will succeed Bilberry at Mount Pilgrim; the Rev. Rene Brown, pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church and president/moderator of the Fourth District Missionary Baptist Association; the Rev. S.C. Dixon, of Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church; and Bishop Raymond Johnson, of Living Faith Christian Center. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attended the event.

"Speaker Pelosi graciously joined us to honor Rev. Bilberry's lifetime commitment and dedication to pastoral service and educational leadership," Richmond said on Twitter.

Bilberry was an educator for more than 30 years, including at Southern University, before taking over as pastor of Mount Pilgrim.

Bilberry will be the guest speaker for Blake's installation service at 3 p.m. April 28 at Mount Pilgrim. Blake is a former associate minister at the church. 

'Mocking Jesus: 'Who hit you?'

The quickly moving Luke 22 gives us the events of Jesus' last hours. He shared with the disciples in the Last Supper. He got away for prayer. He was disowned by Peter and betrayed by Judas. He was interrogated by the high priest. And it didn't take long for the Roman soldiers to start their abuse of Jesus on their way to crucifying him.

Luke 22:63-65 says, "The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him." It's hard just imagining them teasing him, mocking him, ridiculing him and then blindfolding him and playfully asking "Did you see who hit you, Jesus?", "Did you feel that, Jesus?", "Come on, prophet, tell us what's going on." They immediately started abusing him like the criminal they believed he was.

They were heartless and hateful — and it was just the beginning of his suffering. Sometimes it can feel as if we are the ones mocking him, hurling the insults. Our sins put him on the cross. That is why we are so grateful that he didn't give up for our sake — give up like many of us do when people ridicule us, when the pain seems unbearable, when the job gets too hard, when the grief gets too heavy, when the sickness gets serious, when the spouse acts a certain way, when the bills get too much, when the addiction gets so demanding, when the child wanders away.

The enemy constantly mocks us, like he mocked Jesus. But thank God, Jesus didn't give up because he had his focus on you and on me. 

 

The Voice of the Cross

I come from a rich and stately background, raised to praise my Creator, my God.

I have always stood tall, but this day, Oh, this day I would be appalled; at what I was to witness.

When I saw Him, I immediately knew who he was.

As He gripped me, I could feel His life strengthening mine as we climbed.

His steps were labored, but his footing sure as we came closer to more of what he had to endure.

Then I felt another set of hands, ones I did not recognize but somehow knew their destiny and mine were just as connected too.

These hands ordained to serve fulfilled their assignment to bring some relief, no matter how brief.

With a jolt I realized movement had stopped and I had been dropped.

His torn scarred body now resting upon me I could feel Him as he took each breath.

The smell of His sweat and the taste of His blood I will never forget.

How can they do this to His hands and His feet?

Do they not know who He is?

It’s by Him that we all live and breathe and have our being.

I, Yes, I cried out loud when the hammers came down.

His body quivered with each stroke.

I could not believe the view as we were raised to see all of those He had healed, delivered and fed now yelling and screaming they wanted Him dead.

As if what He had done for them had no meaning.

They slammed us into the ground, the ground who had no desire to be part of this scene so profound.

The earth received her Lord and made it’s embrace, to assure He stood tall and would not fall.

Even in His last hours as tangible darkness filled the sky His love for them continued to flow.

What they had said, what they had done, was it not enough!?

NO- they had to take one last blow.

They pierced Him in His side and as the warm blood and water flowed, I knew it would soon be time for Him to go.

I had the privilege and honor of feeling my God release His last breath.

I knew then that I had been part of something so grand that no ordinary man could have had command.

Then they took Him from me.

Gently they laid Him at my feet.

Yes, the foot of the cross not where life was lost but gained.

What He has done for mankind will always remain.

This tree will always say “To God Be The Glory” for the part He chose for me to play