Dear Friends in Christ,
The Lord be with you!
We took a break from our series on the stained glass windows in our church building during Advent and Christmas. Now, during the season of Epiphany, when we celebrate the light of Christ shining forth to us and the world, it is a good time for us to return to the windows. We will turn our attention to the windows to the west of the altar.
These windows show forth the glory of God in how He gives us His Holy Law and how He is a righteous Judge over His creation. But these also show forth His glory in that He is gracious to us and has brought us into His Holy Church, where He daily and richly forgives the sins of all who believe in Jesus.
Remember that these four windows are meant to be seen together because they show us two important concepts that are meant to be held in harmony. Window 1 is the closest to the altar. It shows the two stone tablets onto which God carved the Ten Commandments. The Roman numerals for 1 and 10 are on the two tablets. Window 2 shows Noah’s Ark boldly plowing through the waters of the great Flood. Window 3 shows the dove whom Noah released after the flood returning to the Ark with an olive branch in its beak, showing both that the waters had receded and that the peace of God was toward them. Window 4 shows a set of scales. This image reminds us again that God is the Judge, who will justly judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.
Just as in the windows to the East of the Altar, windows 1 and 4 match together, and windows 2 and 3 match together. We start with windows 1 and 4. It is important to remember that God’s glory is indeed shown forth in the Law that He has given. It is a beautiful and just Law. It has as its goal that we would love the LORD our God and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God commands us to do is good and beautiful. And window 4 also shows forth His glory, because He is a just and perfect Judge. He does not show partiality. He is not swayed by favoritism. He does not pervert justice against some. He is not confused by the trials and troubles of our lives into throwing up His hands. This is no small thing. We have a just God. This is an important part of why we can trust Him.
Of course the truth and beauty that God has put into His Law is not the whole story for the world. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Law is true and just and holy, but due to sin, we are not. We have fallen and are corrupt. When the Law shows forth what we should do and how we should be, it shows us how we have failed to do and be as we ought. It shows the heights from which we have plummeted, and it also shows us that we do not have the strength or the ability to climb back to where we ought to be.
If this were the end of the story, then window 4 would be a source of doom and terror. For the Last Day will certainly come. When it does, God will judge everyone. If all we had were the Law, we would have no hope at all.
But thanks be to God, the Law is not the end of the story. In His great love, the Father has sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who became a man. He is the Savior of the world. He lived a perfect life under the Law. Then in perfect love, Jesus died on the cross to bear the punishment for the sins of the world. He rose again from the dead. All who believe in Him, who trust that He paid for their sins, have eternal life. In Christ, we pass from death into life, from certain judgement to certain forgiveness, from alienation from God due to our sins to adoption into eternal life through baptism into Christ.
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, God can be a truly just Judge, and also be the One who justifies all who believe in Jesus. God’s love and glory are amazing! Only He had the wisdom and the power to know how to be just and how to save the world whom He loved so much! Only He could rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and transfer us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love! (Colossians 1:13) Thanks and praise be to God forever, amen!
Now we come to windows 2 and 3, and how they connect to 1 and 4 makes so much sense in the light of the cross of Christ. For in the Flood, God judged the sinful and rebellious world of old, but He also saved Noah and his family on the Ark. God is still rescuing people from judgement by bringing them into the Ark of the Church. (1 Peter 3) He has rescued you by bringing you into the Ark of the Church. For the Ark is a picture of the Church. Eight souls were saved in the Ark, but people of every language, tribe and nation are saved in the Church. You were brought into the Church through Holy Baptism (or if you haven’t yet been baptized, you can be.) You now live in the grace of God through faith in Christ. You rejoice in His forgiveness, you hear His Word, you are fed His Holy Supper, He keeps you in the faith in the Ark of the Church.
It is the Holy Spirit who has brought you into the Ark of the Church through baptism. He has created and sustained faith in your heart. He has rescued you by bringing you to Christ Jesus. The Spirit gives you the gifts of Christ in the Ark of the Church every day of your life. Window 3, showing the dove with the olive branch teaches you about the work of the Holy Spirit. It was not by accident that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ at His baptism in the form of a dove. By doing so the Holy Spirit not only strengthened Christ and testified of Him to the world, the Spirit also testified to you that in baptism He speaks forth peace to you through Christ Jesus. Just as the dove with the branch was a testimony that God had brought the Ark through judgement to peace and blessing, so too the Spirit testifies to you that in the Ark of the Church you are brought (through Christ Jesus) from death and judgement in to peace and eternal life.
Windows 2 and 3 testify to all of us at Gloria Dei that we are part of Christ’s Church. That we are redeemed. That the Spirit is actively giving His gifts to us in the Church to draw us to Christ and keep us in Him. Windows 2 and 3 testify to us that we need not fear the judgement on the Last Day, for Jesus has already brought us from death into eternal life through being joined to His death and resurrection in Holy Baptism (Romans 6).
So glory be to God for His Law. Glory be to God that He is a just Judge. Glory be to God that He has sent His Son, who died to bring us out of death into eternal life. Glory be to God that He has brought us into the Ark of the Church and that He keeps us there. Glory be to God that He has poured out the Holy Spirit who not only brought us into the Church, but guards and protects the Church all the way to the end. Glory be to God for the Law and the Gospel! Glory be to God for the blessed Sacraments! Glory be to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – now and forever! Amen.