Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
For those at St. Peter’s here in Arlington, WI we have been going through our church’s stained glass, highlighting their detail as well as the the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they tell. This is a major purpose behind much of stained glass. Now, we have usually printed the pictures on the bulletin as well as people can look at them, but given our current situation, we thought it best to simply have said stained glass in your view.
In times such as this, we certainly need this reminder, that the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is our life and narrative. A beautiful thing being inside the church is this reality that we are living within the Gospel story.
And what wonderful timing this is for our window tonight. A time to remember our baptism as we reflect on Jesus’ baptism. Our stained glass beautifully highlights the baptism of Jesus in simple and artistically profound ways. At the center of our stained glass window for Jesus’ baptism is a triad of symbols often together, the cross, an anchor, and a heart.
Especially of note for us tonight is the anchor. The anchor became a key symbol of Christianity in times of persecution. As Christians were forced to hold services in secret, symbols came into use for other Christians to locate each other to gather for worship. The fish, ICHTHUS, is probably the most well known of these symbols. The Chi-Rho, the first two letters for Christ, as noted on our window for the Mount of Transfiguration. And as others who would persecute the church took notice, Christians adjusted. So the anchor came in vogue. After all it was easy to adjust crosses and etch out an anchor.
Now we are not persecuted at this time in the midst of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we are not being prevented from worshipping, though for the public good and out of love for others we are asked to refrain from gathering together in one location for this time. We can look for signs and still live as the people of God. We can serve our neighbor, we can gather through new means for now, I know it’s hard but we can give a phone call or write a letter and encourage one another. If you are around here, or wherever you are, though remember the church is the place where God’s Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments given. And so Jesus is here, in Word and in Sacrament. Come, even in these times and receive it. Be the people of God, receive His gifts.
This after all what baptism is, our identity in Christ. At a time when the world finally seems to realize that all people at all times need to be clean, it ought to give us pause of what this reality is that we are facing. It is not just a virus that is our concern. No, a virus is just a symptom of the greater concern and the sin that infects us all. And more than any cleaning toilet paper can accomplish, more than hand washing, more than bleach or hand sanitizer (and certainly you should be using proper hygiene products to remain clean and healthy, not just now but always), more than any of those things we need to be made clean from our Lord who washes your sin and makes you clean in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Our artist notes indicate a beautiful reality in our window. In baptism, we see the hand of the Father, which is also the dove of the Holy Spirit. Done in such a way that they are indistinguishable. And note above, the cross for certain, but the white linen. Leading us to look to the death and resurrection already. For baptism itself buries us with Christ and raises us with Him in newness of life, as told to us in Romans 5. For our Father, through His Son, gives us His Holy Spirit which creates in us clean hearts and a renewed spirit.
The Father’s voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” The same voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism as He was getting out of the water. “This is my beloved Son, my chosen One, my Servant who will suffer for the world to save it.” Not Moses. Not Elijah. They pointed to Jesus; they prepared the way for Him. But only Jesus has the words that save from sin and death.
Even as Christ’s appearance changed on the Mount of Transfiguration to a greater glory from that which was seen before, so also Christ’s appearance changed on the Mount of Crucifixion to a greater glory that even that of His transfiguration.
In Christ’s death, the love of God was revealed to the dark world – the darkness is gone, the light has come. On His cross, Christ accomplished what His Father sent Him to do – redeem you from sin, death, and Satan – and to restore you to His Father. The Son of God was pleasing to His Father at His Baptism and at His Transfiguration. Christ was pleasing as He goes about His work to His death. For in His death and in the shedding of His blood, he has drawn you out of the dark pit of death into the light of Life, and restored you to His Father.
In His cross we understand that the message of the Transfiguration is a message for us. The Transfiguration is meant to be seen through the lens of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. This glory will one day be ours with this Transfigured King.
And this is where we are being lead through this Lenten season. With Jesus as He takes our sins. For He is our anchor, in these chaotic times, the comfort and promise and hope we have in Christ leaves us unafraid and the peace of Christ comes upon us. He is our anchor that keeps us steady in these times. He is our Rock. As proclaimed at these two events, Jesus is the beloved Son of God, pleased by the Father.
And so we progress through Lent, scattered about, but anchored in Christ. There is hope there is life to come. You know it, even if you don’t see it clearly. It’s like the tree that is growing from the rock. May God give us faith and strength, that only rests in Him, as He comes to us and as we live as His baptized children.
In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.