Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
During the Lenten season we learn to abstain, to fast, to repent, to prepare. In doing so we are not attempting to earn favor with God, obtain a special recognition, but rather to discipline ourselves to be content with what we have, to resist the desire for more, to appreciate the gifts we’ve been given, and in doing recognize that things of this life are fleeting and be prepared for that which is eternal. This Lenten season we will then take time to appreciate and learn from what we have, especially in our stained glass of our sanctuary, the story and narrative that leads us not to more for ourselves and our desires but appreciation for our fleeting life in the midst of the eternal gospel.
Stained glass in congregations used to be the norm, every church had them. Some more others less elaborate. Their purpose was to teach. Given that the life of worship was much more than merely an hour on Sunday and perhaps a little more in Bible Study or Sunday School or special services, but rather daily in the morning and the evening all year round, it followed that the art and architecture of the church was used to teach. People saw it every day.
Without quick access to books, google searches, and stained glass could be used to recall details that told a story. Our stained glass is no different. The purpose is to tell a story, the Gospel story. So it is fitting that we prepare in receiving the Gospel, that we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus for us, in learning more of the story.
As we prepare, be it during Lent, in our Divine Service, and in our Christian life, it is always with an eye toward the end. Lent looks to Holy Week and Easter. We worship in receiving the tangible gifts of Jesus in Word and Sacrament with an eye towards the forgiveness we know and trust to receive and the life of the new creation to come in resurrection light. And so we begin with a look at the end.
It is quite common for many to worry about the end. Part of this is the reality of what we know, that which we confess, and that which we see in our glass… the scales of life are tilted. If our life and judgment were to come on the heals of our deeds that fire underneath the scales would be quite hot. Oh sure, we pray. We look up and know our need for God. But a look at our life is that the scale it tilted. We’ve spent more time, more effort, looking down here below. Usually focused downward and if we are bold enough to be quite so honest, most often focused upon money or some other form of our obtaining and hoarding more. Where we often fail is in the direction of our looking, down upon our things, our earthly kingdoms and not upward in faith toward our Lord.
The direction we face also clouds our view and what we see. It is not just a better life, more riches, that we look forward to in our Lord’s return. It is something as simple as the detail illustrated on the window, just below the sun. It is the return of creation from Eden, the new creation, where there is expanse between the waters and the waters, the waters that were above and the waters below called seas. Those waters which were burst at the time of Noah and the flood, the restoration of creation that is beyond what we see now.
What the Law of God does is what a spotlight tonight does, it shines and reveals that our scales are imbalanced, that we deserved death and hell. What being here now, receiving God’s Word, is brighter yet and reveals a different form of justice. This Lenten season leads us to see the end where we get not what the scales of justice in our lives reveal but that which is at the end, resurrection life and hope with our Triune God, with Jesus at the center.
Thanks be to God we are judged and promised on a different scale but on the scale of the narrative that is revealed through our window story, all that leads to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For we are judged by Jesus who takes our place and gives us His glory which is to come in resurrection glory. Our window story, our church story, our life’s story is the story of redemption, our debt removed, weighted by the blood of Jesus which forgives and lifts us to life everlasting.
This narrative is what surrounds our life together. Everything taught, everything proclaimed, is with an eye towards this end, the resurrection and life with God forever. It is in every single window, 12 dots on each side in the center, from the Revelation to St. John: 24 elders seated around the throne of God, 12 tribes of the Old Testament, 12 apostles of the New, all of creation and all of time brought together with our triune God; “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.” 12 on each side along the river and water of life.
And so we live in the middle of this narrative, with an eye toward the end, forgiven by the blood of Jesus, given what we do not deserve, and promised resurrection life with Him forever. Amen.