Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Lord be with you.
Last month we began an observation of the four stained glass windows which are to your left as you face the altar. We talked about how the four windows on the outside edges tell a story to us. Each recounts a beautiful Bible story, which individually reminds us of the Glory of God, but together also work to teach us something important.
To review, this is what is in each window: 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).
Last month, we also talked about how windows 1 and 4, the outer windows, go together. They both tell about miracles that Jesus did with food. Each of them have often been seen by the Church as reminding us of the blessing Jesus gives us in Holy Communion. Certainly seen together, these miracles in which Jesus provides bread and wine to believers do remind us of His grace and mercy as we gather weekly to receive the gift of His body and blood under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins.
This month, we will talk about how windows 2 and 3, the inner windows, go together. These two inner windows both depict events that happened between Jesus and His disciples in boats on the lake. In Window 2, the net full of fish depicts the time when Jesus got into a boat to teach the crowds by the shore. Afterward, He asked Peter to put his nets out for a catch. Peter protested that they had fished all night and caught nothing, the idea being that in the day there would be little chance for a catch, and the work would not be worth it. But in obedience to Jesus, they put out their nets, and pulled in so many fish the boat was about to sink. There, in the middle of a little boat, surrounded by flopping fish, Peter fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). They were astonished and afraid at the catch of fish, for these fishermen knew that this was a miracle. Jesus replied, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (5:11). Immediately, the disciples left their boats and followed Jesus.
This window speaks comfort to each one of us as we enter to worship. For we all confess to Jesus that we, like Peter, are sinners, and Jesus has mercy on us by His grace. But there is more. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the Church is the preaching and teaching of the Apostles as they shared what they had witnessed and heard and learned from Christ. As Peter and the others went out to be fishers of men, we know that they trained others to take up the Office of the Holy Ministry to be fishers of men as well. And the ongoing spread of the Gospel, as it was preached and administered in the Sacraments, had the wonderful result in that you yourself were caught up by the love of Christ Jesus as He saved you by His grace. His grace flows to you in baptism. His grace is proclaimed into you in the Word and as it is preached. His grace is fed to you in the Supper. He called the Apostles to be fishers of men because He wanted the Gospel spread to you and to all the world.
That precious Gospel is preached here, those sacred Sacraments are given to people here at Gloria Dei, and we all have a role in helping that to happen. We work together to support the Gospel here in our congregation, and we share it in the vocations God gives each of us. Window 2 reminds us that what Jesus began as He called the Apostles has continued on till we too have rejoiced in the fruit of His salvation. His work still continues on as we proclaim Christ, and as we train up another generation to continue the work of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments.
And then there is window 3. It depicts the tortured twisting of waves of blue and brown that rise and fall in a storm through the still glass. Look at it and you can imagine how it feels when you are swimming in the ocean and a wave knocks you under and tosses you about. This is the window that depicts the storm on the sea, when Jesus slept in the back of the boat and the disciples feared for their lives. They woke him with a complaint, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38) Jesus woke, spoke to the wind and the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and there was a great calm. The smooth, orderly, calm glass at the bottom of the window depicts that peace that Jesus spoke into the storm.
The unique beauty of this window is that it doesn’t show you a boat in the storm. It depicts the storm all around you, as if you were in the boat with Christ and the disciples that day. Indeed, in a way you are, for this window was put in our church to remind everyone at Gloria Dei that storms arise, problems arise, that test our abilities and also overwhelm them. We wonder at times how we will survive the storm, we wonder if God sees our trials, we wonder if God cares. As individuals, and as a congregation, while in the midst of the storms that arise, we cry to God for help. It takes great faith to believe He is there, and that He will help. But thanks be to God, He is there. Sometimes He ends the storm. Often, He speaks peace into our hearts, by the Gospel, while we are in the midst of the storm. No matter how He helps us, Christ is with us, and that makes all the difference.
So now that we have heard about the four windows, we can see how they fit together. Jesus gave His salvation to the people by the Word and Sacraments, which convey the salvation He won on the cross (Windows 1 and 2). He called the disciples to continue the work of giving the Word and Sacraments which convey the grace of Christ, so that His Gospel is given to people all over the world (Window 3). This includes us at Gloria Dei. Thanks be to God! Jesus gathers us as a congregation where the Word is preached and Sacraments are given to our community and people in our day, so that work continues – to the glory of God. But it is not always easy (Window 4). At times we have joy! At times we are afraid, or weak, or weary. In good times or bad, our comfort is in Christ Jesus, who is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)! If we are to continue this work of the Word and Sacraments, we have to depend on Christ, our Savior. No storm is too big for Him.
These four windows testify to the grace and mercy of Christ that come to us in the Word and Sacraments. They give us comfort. They lay a roadmap to us to continue on with the work of Word and Sacrament. They remind us to depend on the grace of Christ that comes to us by these gifts when we are in times of trial. Thanks be to God for His wonderful gifts that He gives to His dear Church around the world, and to all of us gathered here at Gloria Dei.