Let There Be Light, Part 2
July 18, 2010
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
13And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
Note: The Official Blessing and Dedication of the Marian Housten Memorial Windows will take place at the services of worship on 10 October 2010. Pictures of the windows are available in Part 1 of this sermon series.
Our title and our topic for today is: Let There Be Light, Part Two.
We are celebrating light, Godís remarkable gift of light, the incredible series of high level vibrations that brings light to our eyes. We are celebrating light in a particular way, through this wonderful gift our church has received, these beautiful stained glass windows. These are the Marion Housten Memorial Windows. We are so thrilled to have them. Through them we celebrate Godís gift of light. Sunlight comes through them and illuminates their remarkable colors. They tell us stories about Jesus and about our church. The windows are a gift from one of our members, Reverend Dave Housten. I am thrilled that Reverend Dave allowed me to design these windows in cooperation with stained glass artist Richard Buswell of Lynchburg Stained Glass Studios, and I am so happy to be talking about them today.
Last week, we talked about the idea that this series of windows is a calendar. It is a calendar that represents the church year. We go from one season to another in the church year, just as the regular calendar does. The church year begins with Advent, next goes to Christmas and Epiphany, and then comes Lent and Holy Week, then Easter and Pentecost, then Kingdomtide, the time after Pentecost which is the time we are in right now. The "Liturgical Year" also reflects the events in the life of our Lord Jesus.
This morning, I would like talk about the windows and their message; but first, I would like to talk about how they were made. (Children come forward and gather around Pastor Tony)
There are three ways to make a stained glass window. There is the traditional way, with lead channeling. Pieces of glass are cut and sometimes painted. By the way, do you know the reason that you canít scrape the paint off of a stained glass window? Well, it is really not painted. The design that you see in most stained glass windows is a mixture of oil and lamp black, gum Arabic and ground glass, glass which is ground into a fine powder. This is all mixed together. The artist paints on the glass and then the window is put into a very, very hot oven. Just when the surface begins to shimmer, it is taken out and cooled. Lead channeling is cut and soldered at the edges to keep the glass together. This is the traditional way of making glass.
A second way of making stained glass windows is called the Tiffany technique. Pieces of glass are cut and then a copper tape (shiny on one side and adhesive on the other) is put around the pieces and then solder is melted between the joints of the pieces to hold it together. It was pioneered in America by Louis Comfort Tiffany. A lot of Tiffany windows are popular especially in New York City and around the country and they are very, very beautiful.
The third way to make stained glass is called "faceted glass." That is what our windows are made of. Faceted glass looks like cubes of richly colored ice - or like big slabs of glass nearly an inch thick. They are formed then cut and then chipped and chiseled. That is what gives it a sparkling quality and that is the way that our windows were made. When the windows came in and were lined up against the wall, we werenít sure what they were going to look like. We thought, ďThere is too much grouting in between.Ē But when the windows are in place, lo and behold! They are just right. It is as though the light curls around the glass, and the effect is thrilling. The light shimmers though these pieces of chipped - or faceted - glass. (Pastor passes around samples of the glass to the children and the congregation)
I would like to talk with you today about hidden symbols in the glass. Let's talk about the color blue in the background. The blue is for - beauty.
There is a cathedral in France, not far from Paris, called Chartres Cathedral. It was built around the year 1250. Most art historians agree that the Chartres Cathedral has the most beautiful stained glass in the world. It has a certain quality of blue that the artist at Lynchburg and I were trying to capture. We call it Chartres Blue. That is the blue that you see in the background of all of our windows. It is a remarkable, breathtaking quality of blue. The facets or chips in the glass make it appear to be like shimmering water. It is made to look as if it is 3-D. Someone was in church this past week, and they said, ďPastor, are you sure that the images in those windows arenít two or three inches in front of the blue part?Ē ďNo, I answered. They are absolutely a flat plane.Ē The way they are designed it is as if you are looking through 3-D glasses. It looks like those images are coming forward towards you.
Let us take a look at this first window. There is a rose in the first window. What does that symbolize? In the book of Isaiah, we read that a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. From his roots a branch will bear fruit. The prophet felt that the nation of Israel was like a cut down tree from which nothing will grow. But he said something good will come of this. A shoot will come from that cut off branch. That shoot is Jesus. The rose represents the coming of Jesus, the coming of the Saviour from the cut down tree of Israel.
If you look in your hymnal at hymn number 216, a writer put it this way:
Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming
As men of old have sung
It came, a floweret bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night
Isaiah 'twas foretold it
The rose I have in mind
With Mary we behold it
The Virgin Mother kind
To show God's love aright
She bore to men a Saviour
When half spent was the night
So the promise of the Christmas rose, that means the coming of Jesus, is symbolized by the rose in this window. The four candles in the window represent the four Sundays before Christmas, the four Sundays of Advent. There are two blue candles then a pink one. The pink one is the symbol of joy, because we are halfway to Christmas, we are almost there. The full wreath is lit on the fourth Sunday to indicate that the Saviour is almost here. You see that there is a wreath made of holly leaves and holly berries. That is meant to symbolize the wonderful Christmas Carol, the holly bears the berry, red as any blood and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good. The red berries are the symbol of the love of God in Jesus Christ.
We see a vine that starts over by the rose and then comes in and out of all the other windows. It connects the windows all the way through. There is a very special reason for that vine.
The vine symbolizes the quotation from St. John where Jesus says, I am the vine and you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. What does that mean? That means as long as we stay connected to Christ, we are like little branches off the great energy vine of Jesus Christ. Jesus is saying, "Stay connected to me, stay with me in consciousness, keep your mind on me, keep your love deep for me, and keep your commitment deep to me. If you do this, much good will come into your life. Much good will be accomplished by your life. Much joy and blessings will come to you and others because you are connected to me." The vine of Christ runs all the way through all of these windows.
What about these grapes? The grapes symbolize the abundance that we have in our lives because we are connected to Jesus Christ. Isnít there a joy from having Him in your heart? Grapes are the symbol of joy. It was very, very dry in the summer in the Holy Land, with very little rainfall.
But all of a sudden in September, a remarkable thing would happen: the grapes would ripen, and there would be much joy and feasting. Grapes meant joy and hospitality. The grapes in these windows symbolize the abundance of joy and hospitality that comes from being connected to Him.
Letís take a look at the Christmas window. There are several remarkable symbols here. We see the angel telling the shepherds to go and see the baby. We see the Christmas star that the Wise Men saw. We also see a little bird, perched on the roof of the manger. We are told that Jesus was born in a manger, a place where the animals lived. The symbol is Christ is the lord of all creation, and calls us all to be responsible for creation and calls us all to be faithful stewards of Godís gift of the world. There is a wonderful Latin poem that existed in Medieval times. It celebrated the mystery of the animals at the birth of Christ.
"O Magnum Mysterium, et admirable sacramentum, ut animalia viderunt natum Jesum Christum". Translation: "Oh Great Mystery and admirable and Holy thing, that the animals should witness the birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ."
The little bird is an acknowledgement that all of creation is worshipping Christ at His birth. There is also a wonderful Christmas song about a bird, perhaps you know it.
"I, said the dove from the rafters high, I cooed him to sleep that he would not cry, we cooed him to sleep my mate and I, I said the dove from the rafters high."
In addition, our donor is very, very fond of the birds of the air, so in the symbol of the bird we have a salute to him too.
Next, the symbol of light, all through these windows you see the symbol of golden light. The light of the candles getting brighter and brighter as Christmas approaches. The light of the star shining on Christ. The spiritual light shining from the cross of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The radiant light of the sunrise on Easter morning. We see the light of the Holy Spirit. We are told that the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire that hovered above each of the disciples. The radiant love of God becomes so intense that it becomes red in this particular window. We see the light of the sun, perhaps the summer sun, the light that comes to us every day a symbol that God's love is shining upon us every day.
One more thing. In this last window you see a rose. It is the symbol of Christ that we saw in the first window. Jesus said, I am the alpha and the omega. The first and the last, the beginning and the end. I am with you always. The symbol of the rose at either end of the vine symbolizes to us that Jesus is always with us, even to the end of time. The rose is red. What emotion does red usually symbolize? Love, of course. Jesus Christ is the symbol, is the transmitter, and is the bringer of the love of God to each and every one of us.
Next week is the most important message of our stained glass windows, come back then for that one, wonít you?
God loves you; I do too, Have a wonderful week.
© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski