Over the past months, I have written about the windows in our church. We learned together about the beautiful teachings from Scripture that are reflected in these works of art. We have looked together at all of the windows in the front of our sanctuary, and now it is time to examine the tall window in the narthex.
It really is quite remarkable. It reaches from floor to ceiling, filling the narthex with color. The West side depicts the glory of God as He makes us His children by baptism into Christ. The East side depicts the glory of God as He gives us the true body and blood of Christ under the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins in Holy Communion.
Some of the images in this window are what you would expect to find. The deep and shimmering blue of the water of dripping from the shell. The smooth ripples of the river of the water of life depicted around the shell. They remind us of Christ, who washed us clean in His blood, shed on the cross. They remind us that baptism is a washing that continues to cleanse us, as we are united to our Savior who continues to forgive us.
We also expect to find the purple grapes, deliciously ready to be crushed into the golden chalice so that we might drink. The slender sheath of wheat rising up behind the chalice is ready to be harvested and ground and baked so that we might eat. They remind us that when the word of Christ is spoken, what He said happens, and He feeds His weary people. He gives us Himself, under bread and wine.
But there is one thing in this window that is not expected. There is a wide, arcing swath of deep red glass that sweeps down from on high, behind the wheat, the cup, the grapes, the shell and the flowing water. And it is this swath of red glass that makes this window more than just a window about baptism and communion
To understand why, we have to take another look at the main window inside the church – the uppermost window above the altar. This window was the centerpiece of our sanctuary when it was built. Some of our other windows were added years later, but the main one above the altar, and the baptism/communion windows were there from the start.
This main window depicts the glory of God as He created all things. It shows His glory in giving and sustaining life. It shows His glory in giving us eternal life. On the East side of the window is a depiction of the seven days of creation in Genesis 1. On the West side of the window is a beautiful butterfly – the symbol of Jesus’ resurrection, and of our certain hope to rise again in Him. In between these two scenes is a large swirling ball of red glass, highlighted by gold. This glass has so much energy that it almost looks like it is in motion. This depicts the glory of God – who is, and who was, and who is to come. He is the God who truly is. And His work and attention and glory are depicted by arcing swaths of red glass the go from the center, out to the scenes of what He has done.
The red swath of glass the sweeps out behind the depiction of creation tells us that God in His glory made all things and that He still cares for us. The red swath that sweeps out behind the butterfly tells us that Christ our Lord died on the cross to pay for our sins, but that He was raised by the Father, and that all who believe in Him have eternal life. That is why the beams of red flow down from the upper window to the lower window. One beam shines down on the path Christ walked on Palm Sunday. The other sweeps past the cross and the empty tomb. The message is that God’s glory is active and powerful even in those sad, terrible hours that Christ hung on the cross, for there He was paying for the sins of the whole world.
So when we then leave the sanctuary and look at the window in the narthex, we see that swath of bright red glass. We know that it is not just decoration. Rather, that swath of red is telling us that the eternal God who created in the beginning, who raised His Son from the dead, is the same God who is acting in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The God who created all life is the One who makes you a new creation in baptism by joining you today to Christ who was raised from the dead. The God who created the wheat and grapes and gives them to us has this day shown His glory by uniting the word of His Son to them so that the benefit of Jesus death is given to us – the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
That swath of red glass confesses the truth, that God’s glory is not shown only in things that happened a long time ago. His glory is shown today as He recreates us, He washes us, He feeds us, He saves us – all in Christ Jesus our Lord. When you look at that window, dear friends, you see a confession of faith depicted in glass, that God lives and He is the God who gives life in Christ. And you are invited to join in that confession, even as you have been baptized into Christ. And you are invited to feast on Christ who comes to you in Communion, just as He promised. Thanks be to God!