Dear Friends in Christ,
Last month we began a series where we look together at the windows in our sanctuary and learn about what story they depict and what message they show us as we worship. This month we will continue with that series. Last month we heard about the four windows that depict the Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Those Evangelist windows are flanked on each side by windows that depict stories from the Bible.
Curiously, the windows on each side of the Matthew window depict stories that do not come from Matthew. So too down the line. Why would that be? Pastor Richard Orman sheds light on this from the history of our congregation. He said that when the church was built, the Bible story windows were there from the start, but the center panels were empty. The Evangelist windows were added later on.
So if the Bible story windows were not chosen to depict scenes from particular Gospels, what was the meaning behind why they were depicted? Was it just random? Or were these chosen to depict an ongoing message of encouragement to the generations of believers who would worship at Gloria Dei? Without a doubt, the windows do work together to proclaim the glory of God and to encourage us all to believe in Christ our Savior and to confess Him boldly. (As we heard last month, all of the windows depict scenes which give glory to God, since our church name, “Gloria Dei” means “Glory to God” in Latin.)
This month we will begin to examine the message which the four windows to the left of the altar have to tell us. Window 1, the farthest from the altar depicts the large jars of water which Jesus turned into wine at His first miracle at the Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11). Window 2 depicts a net full of fish. It depicts the time when Jesus worked a miraculous catch of fish for His disciples, and then called them to become “fishers of men.” (Luke 5:1-11) . Window 3 depicts the towering waves and raging winds that afflicted the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. The smooth glass laying flat and orderly under the twisting waves depicts how Jesus spoke and calmed the storm. Mark 4:35-41. Window 4 depicts the five loaves and two fish which Jesus used to miraculously feed the 5000. (John 6:1-13)
Each of these miracles has something important to teach simply standing on its own. But there is a pattern in them as well. Windows 1 and 4 each depict miracles that Jesus did using food, and both of these miracles have traditionally been seen as teaching us about the blessings given us in Holy Communion. Windows 2 and 3 both depict miracles that Jesus worked while on the water in boats with His disciples. Windows 1 and 4 go together and windows 2 and 3 go together. (This pattern is repeated in the windows on the other side of the church. Take a look at them sometime and think about what the connections are.)
When you look at window 1, you see several large jars. You remember that Jesus had gone to a wedding, and the hosts had run out of wine. Mary came and asked Jesus to help. He responded by having the servants fill six stone water jars each holding between 20-30 gallons. This would have taken a lot of work! Then the servants were ordered to take some to the master of the feast. When the master drank, he tasted the most delicious wine. Jesus had turned anywhere between 120 to 180 gallons of water to wine. John 2:11 tells us, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (ESV) This window testifies that Jesus is true God and true man. He had the compassion to care about a wedding feast, He had the body of a man to drink of the wine. But as God He had the power to work this miracle, and He had the generosity of God to give wine in abundance. Jesus is still true God and man. He still has compassion on you, and He still works His almighty power to save you. For in another miracle Jesus worked, He took a cup of wine, and by the power of His word, He made it also His true blood. And each Sunday you kneel only feet away from this window and partake of the tremendous generosity of Christ your Lord as He gives you the feast of His body and blood, given and shed for you on the cross, for the forgiveness of your sins.
Window 4 depicts the miracle where Jesus had compassion on the crowds gathered around Him. He took a small meal, five loaves and two fish and broke and gave them to feed over 5000 people. Again this miracle depicts the divinity and humanity of Jesus. It shows His compassion and His power. It reminds us that every week we kneel next to this window and Jesus works a miracle through His word. Under the bread He also gives us His body, crucified – once for all – for the forgiveness. When you eat, the blessings He won for you on the cross are given to you as you partake of His body.
These two miracles have much in common. A miracle with bread. A miracle with wine. Generous amounts made in a miraculous way to feed the hungry believers, to quench the thirst of the wedding guests. Together these windows stand as a testimony to all of us at Gloria Dei. They remind us that Jesus has compassion on each of us little ones in His church. He works His power to care for the needs of His flock. (Romans 8:28). Jesus Christ who worked these feasts for people in His day still looks out for you and for the needs of His little flock, the Church, in our day.
But most of all, these two windows testify to the glory of God that we witness every Sunday. For the miracle that Jesus worked on Maundy Thursday and fulfilled on the cross on Good Friday is ongoing. His death is done, He is truly risen and lives forever. And His word, spoken in the liturgy, does what it says. The body and blood of Christ, under the bread and wine, is given to His people. He feeds us, He gives us drink. He forgives our sins. He gives us eternal life. All the blessings He won when He died on the cross are given to us when we partake of His body and blood.
Does not the miracle of Holy Communion exceed the glory of the Wedding at Cana? Is not the miracle of Holy Communion greater than when Jesus fed the 5000? These windows remind us all of the true majesty that is underneath these humble pieces of bread and sips of wine. Christ our king comes to us, in victory, in mercy, in love. And He promises to you when you eat and drink, that He forgives you and will raise you up on the Last Day. Just as surely as He gives Himself to you in the Divine Service, so too He will be faithful to you on the Last Day and give you eternal life.
Next month we will hear about the encouragement we receive from the message in windows 2 and 3, and we will tie the four of them together to hear how they relate. It is encouraging to think of how much good teaching was put into our church when it was built. Thanks be to God for the skilled workers and believers who shared this blessing with us. May God give us wisdom to understand, and hearts to believe, so that we may be bold to confess Christ crucified now and always!