The Liturgy and Christian Life
The “Word and Sacrament” windows on the south wall depict not only our journey through the Liturgy, but also our journey through Christian life. It is a journey that begins in the water of Baptism, continues on the Way illumined by God’s Word, and receives Christ’s life-giving sustenance in the Holy Supper until we come at last to the Benediction where Jesus gives us peace for life everlasting in His kingdom.
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:5
We enter into the Christian life and into the Liturgy of the Church by way of our Baptism “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Just as “the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters” at creation (Gen 1:2), He is shown hovering over the waters of New Creation at the font where we are reborn in “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Taking our places in the everlasting 8th Day represented by the eight-sided Baptismal font, we begin our journey home, back to Eden, back to the paradise of heaven foreshadowed here by “the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb,” with “the Tree of Life on either side of the river yielding its fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:1-2).
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
As we make our journey through Christian Life and through the Liturgy, God lights our way by His Word. From the mouth of the Lord comes our knowledge of salvation through the revelation of Jesus Christ (John 5:39). This Word which “delivers from the way of evil and shows the way of good” (Prov 2:12, 20) is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit… and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). God’s Word of Law and Gospel, shown here over the center of the Sword which divides the two sides of the window, comes for us by way of the “Preaching Office,” the “Office of the Keys” by which sins are bound and loosed according to Christ’s institution (John 20:23). Represented by the Stole enclosing both sides of the Pulpit and the Keys at the lower center of the design, this Office of the Holy Ministry is an extension of the Prophets and Apostles by which God’s Word and Sacraments are given out for our life and salvation.
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
In the same way that God once provided manna to sustain His people on their journey to the Promised Land, He gives us the Bread from Heaven that sustains us on our way as well. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). Jesus is our Passover Lamb whose blood sets us free from sin and death. In, with, and under the bread and wine depicted here by the wheat and rich clusters of grapes, Jesus locates Himself in His flesh and blood that takes away our sins, strengthens our faith, and nourishes us for life everlasting in His kingdom. The blood that pours from His side is the very blood of the New Covenant that gives us peace with God. It is this Communion which unites us with one another in Fellowship (Koinonia), represented here by the “ICHTHUS” at the top of the Chalice, the ancient sign for Fellowship in the Church. (“ICHTHUS,” which is the Greek word for “fish,” is also an acrostic for the confession, “Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior”).
The Benediction and Resurrection
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Our journey through the Liturgy concludes with the Benediction, the blessing from God that proclaims our reconciliation and peace with Him through the forgiveness of sins. Likewise, our journey through Christian life which began at the Font comes to its fulfillment in the fullness of Christ’s Benediction when He raises us from the dead and gathers us into His kingdom for life everlasting. Here, our risen Lord Jesus Christ, whose image is superimposed over the Chi-Rho monogram identifying Him as our Messiah, proclaims His blessing for the life of the world. (Chi-Rho are the first two letters in Greek of the word “Christ,” which means “Anointed One,” or in Hebrew, “Messiah.”)
Jesus said, “I AM…”
The seven “I AM” windows on the north wall represent those seven occasions in the Gospel of St. John where Jesus applies the Divine “I Am” to Himself, revealing Himself not only as God, but as God WITH US to be our Good Shepherd; to be the Door of the sheep that opens into paradise; to be the Vine apart from which there is no life; to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life who alone leads to the Father; to be the Light of the World who lights our way through the darkness; to be the Bread of Life who gives life to the world, and to be the Resurrection and the Life who will indeed raise us again to life everlasting.
The Bread of Life
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
The Lord’s Table where our Shepherd provides His feast for our life and salvation is set against a backdrop of green pastures and still waters, combining elements of John Chapter 6 with Psalm 23. For it is in the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and two fish that Jesus identifies Himself not only as our compassionate Lord and Shepherd, but also as the Bread of Life who provides a life-giving feast for all who receive this true Bread from heaven that gives life to the world (John 6:33).
The Light of the World
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Jesus Christ is the true Light which gives light to every man (John 1:9). And even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4). For the Lord who comforts us and prepares a table for us is also our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1). He has come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Him should stay in darkness (John 12:46). We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, for He has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9
Together, this window and the Good Shepherd window provide a full picture of Christ. The two windows are united by the halo and cross that identify our Lord’s sacred head, and on this side we find the path that leads to eternal life passing through the narrow door which is Christ Himself. “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (Rev 3:8). “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). “For if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
The Lord is our shepherd who carries us forever (Psalm 28:9). He will gather the lambs in His arms, and He will carry them in His bosom (Isa 40:11). He will seek out His sheep and rescue them from all places where they have been scattered (Eze 34:12), and He shall feed them and be their Shepherd (Eze 34:23). He knows His own and His own know Him (John 10:14), and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 7:17).
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26
Shortly before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus reassures Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection from the dead. As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22). And all who have been buried with Him by Baptism into death shall also walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Rom 6:3-5). Here we find not only the bandages falling from the resurrected hand of Lazarus, but also the image of new life rising from the water of Holy Baptism.
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
“The Way,” which was depicted as a cobblestone path leading to eternal life through “the Door,” is seen again here, this time beginning in the water of Baptism at the lower left of the “Resurrection Window,” continuing with and under the Alpha and the Omega who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and passing finally through death as the consummation of our Baptism (upper left) where we have the promise of resurrection to life everlasting. “Teach me your Way, O Lord, that I may walk in your Truth” (Psalm 86:11). “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling” (Psalm 43:3).
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Jesus tells us we are “clean already because of the Word He has spoken” (John 15:3), and it is by this washing of the water and the Word through Holy Baptism that we are grafted into the vine, united with Christ in the new life He gives. As we continue in this new life, abiding in His Word as a branch clings to the vine, we come to full fruition, bearing the fruits of faith and thriving in the abundance of His grace.
CLICK BELOW FOR DETAILED IMAGES
Like King David, the Baptized continue to seek after the sanctuary of the Lord’s house, the place where heaven meets earth as God comes for us with His gifts to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Like sheep who follow their shepherd to quiet waters and green pastures, we follow our Good Shepherd into His sanctuary where He gathers us to Himself and feeds us with the Bread of Life. Here is the Door that opens to paradise. Here is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Here is where we abide in the Vine who is indeed the Resurrection and the Life. And as we come into His sanctuary and take our places in the Light of Christ, we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord all the days of our life.
Just as God once called His people to set apart the Tabernacle using the richest materials and finest craftsmanship available, He has blessed us with the means to install the beautiful stained glass windows that now preserve for us the holiness of this space, depicting for us the transcendent reality of His presence and enveloping us in the awareness of His love as we take our places with all the company of heaven around His throne for life everlasting.
Of course, it is not the works of our hands that beautify the sanctuary, but Christ Himself who is the Light of the World. It is His Word that illumines the beautiful stained glass to proclaim His gifts for our life and salvation. And as Christians who value this sacred space where God meets us with His gifts, we rejoice and give thanks for these windows that will forever proclaim to those at Christ Lutheran Church and to the world around us, “God is here with His gifts! If it is Truth you seek; if it is Light you seek; if it is the Good Shepherd with His gifts for your forgiveness, life, and salvation that you seek, you will find Him here!” Soli Deo Gloria.
Rev. Dr. James R. Holowach, Pastor
Christ Lutheran Church, Jackson, Mississippi
Feast of Holy Trinity, 2013