Let There Be Light, Part 1

July 11, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church


Genesis 1:3

3And 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


Prologue and Thanksgiving for the Marian Housten Memorial Windows:


Friends, we are celebrating an historic moment in the life our church. It is the first Sunday morning of worship when we embrace the gift of the new stained glass windows. The windows are installed on the "South" wall of the church (to the right as you face the altar and cross), at the transom, or clerestory level.  They were a long time coming, and a great deal of love and work went into these windows.


About two and a half years ago, Reverend Dave Housten came to me and said, “I would like to make a memorial to my wife Marian and a gift to this church. Let it be to the glory of God, and let it be enduring and appropriate and something that is mindful of Marion’s role as a teacher and as a deeply devoted Christian.” 


I am deeply grateful to Reverend Dave for his generosity in making this gift to the church and for the opportunity and challenge to design a series of stained glass windows that would meet those requirements.  I appreciate that opportunity very much.


I want to thank Reverend Dave, not only for his generosity but also for his outstanding patience in the development of these windows. They went through many revisions and there were many preliminary drawings and corrections to be made over a long period of time. But now, here they are! I am remembering a story I saw in the movies many years ago of the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. (a low murmur of laughter from the congregation) I see many of you are remembering. There were many scenes of the Pope coming into the Sistine Chapel amid all the scaffolding. Michelangelo would be on his back, painting furiously away on the ceiling. The Pope would call out, “Is it done yet? Are you almost done?” Michelangelo would reply, “Not quite yet.” Well, Reverend Dave never bugged me about the windows but I know that he waited very, very patiently for the windows to be completed. I appreciate his patience in enduring the development of them. Reverend Dave, we are grateful for your generosity and foresight. (Congregation applauds)


Introducing the Windows:


I want to read a Scripture today from the beginning of the Bible.  Genesis Chapter 1.

 In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was formless and empty and the darkness covered the deep waters. The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, Let there be light! And there was light. God saw that the Light was good. He separated the separated the light from darkness. He called the light, day, and the darkness, night. Evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. This is the world of the Lord, Thanks be to God.  Amen.


In exploring these windows, we are exploring the remarkable gift of God's light.  The light of the sun, filtered through the rich colors of this glass, the blue, and red, and green and gold, are used to tell the greatest story ever told… the story of the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


We are going to begin to celebrate these windows today. I would like to bring you the first in a sermon series about them this morning.


Let me tell you a little bit of background about stained glass windows. First of all, historically, stained glass windows in churches had a very specific purpose as a teaching tool. In the middle ages, when very few people could read, the clergy of the church would gather the people together and explain the stories shown in the pictures in the stained glass windows. Every time people came to church they would be reminded of the Bible stories that they had heard about. The stained glass windows have always been a dramatic teaching tool - and so are these.


This particular set of windows is a calendar of the Liturgical year, the church year. This Sunday I would like to tell you of the overall theme and plan of the windows. Next Sunday I will bring a sermon to you called the Hidden Symbols in the Glass.


A Calendar of the Liturgical Year

These windows are a calendar of the events of the church year. Today let’s talk about the overall themes of the windows. In the first window we have the season of Advent; in the second, two seasons: Christmas, and the Epiphany (the three kings); the third represents the season of Lent, culminating in Holy Week.  That leads to Easter, the central season of the church year and our central window. That leads to Pentecost, the birthday of the church, in the fifth window. Pentecost leads to the peaceful season called Kingdomtide, symbolized in the sixth and last window. When Kingdomtide ends, we're back to Advent.


Let us look at each window individually. First is the Advent window.

We see four candles on an Advent wreath. Each of the four Sundays in Advent, we light a candle in the Advent wreath.  That is what these four candles symbolize. At the conclusion of Advent, we move to the second window

to celebrate two seasons in one window: Christmas, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; also, Epiphany, the celebration of the visit of the three kings. That season is followed by the third window, representing Lent,

the time when we remember the time when Jesus meditated and fasted in the desert. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, and concludes with Holy Week. You see palms, commemorating Palm Sunday.  Holy Thursday is symbolized by the bread and cup of Jesus’s institution of Holy Communion. Good Friday, which is the remembrance of Jesus’s sacrifice for us on the Cross, is represented by the radiant cross of the Lord, surrounded by the crosses of the two men crucified alongside Jesus.


But our story doesn’t end with Good Friday. Friday is here, but Sunday is coming. In the fourth window,

we have the remembrance of Easter.
In this picture we see the tomb of Jesus, and Jesus emerging from the tomb in the garden with the sunrise of Easter morning. It is the Easter moment! Jesus says the name of Mary who has come to look for him. In this picture we see Mary lifting her hands with joy and saying, “My teacher, my teacher!” Easter has arrived, Jesus is risen!


 In the next picture panel we celebrate the season of Pentecost.


Jesus has risen to Heaven, and the Disciples are alone and fearful. They are in the upper room surrounded by fear, they are trapped in the closed door of their own fear. But then Pentecost comes. The Holy Spirit comes in the form of a descending dove. The light of the Spirit of God bursts forth upon the Disciples. They are filled with courage and enthusiasm and come bursting out of the room with their arms upheld and speaking in many languages. They go into the town of Jerusalem. Toward the right of this picture, we see figures looking at them and wondering what is going on, and they are beginning to be touched by the light of God’s love. "What is going on?" these visitors seem to say.


After Pentecost comes the season of the Kingdomtide, which is represented by our sixth and final panel. 

Jesus loved the idea of the Kingdom of God.  Think of how often He began a story with, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like…"


Isaiah 6:25 says, 25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bull. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

            In an article entitled "The Lion and the Lamb," author Greg Albrecht writes:

 RECONCILIATION and renewal. Peace and harmony. These images of peace t
hat God inspired through the prophet Isaiah have captured the imagination of millions for more than 2,500 years. Writers and artists have been motivated to create their own portrayals of the scene based on these symbols. Some have founded their interpretations on the child and all seven animals mentioned by Isaiah. Most artistic re-creations of this vision contrast the lion and the lamb. A close reading of Isaiah 11:6 will reveal that linking the lion and the lamb is an artistic liberty. Isaiah pairs the wolf and the lamb, and the young lion and the fatling. But the lion and the lamb is a dramatic picture, the intimidating, conquering, invincible lion living peacefully with his prey, the innocent, helpless, pastoral lamb. And both lion and lamb are symbols used throughout the Bible. God continually inspired Isaiah and the other Hebrew prophets with visions of a new age when righteousness and justice would triumph over sin and inequity. The prophets dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, when weapons for killing would become tools for farming, when the crooked would be made straight and the rough places smooth. The prophets employed beautiful word pictures to depict a time of peace and brotherhood. Mountains and valleys leveled, tears wiped away, children playing in the streets. Of all these portraits, the lion and the lamb remains the most enduring and captivating. It illustrates a coming time of salvation so complete that only a miraculous change in the natural order could describe it, an age and time when the most ferocious and the most vulnerable coexist.

What better symbol for the Kingdom than the lion and the lamb? It is a reflection of the message of Isaiah, and reflects the spirit of the Lord's concept of the Kingdom.   It is a time of fruition and a time of togetherness.


I think that these windows have a wonderful future. I can see children being brought here to have the church year explained to them. They can have an overview of the life of Jesus explained to them by means of these windows. Perhaps confirmation classes, even from other churches, will come here to learn about the life of Jesus, and how it is reflected in the Liturgical Year.


 I hope you will bring friends to this place and tell them about the symbolism in these windows. I can see people feeling connected to the church because they know what is going on in these windows. They are a wonderful teaching tool. They are also a wonderful carrying on of the religious teaching of Marian Housten and Reverend Dave.


Next week we will talk about the hidden symbols in the glass. For instance, why are these candles different colors? What is the symbolism of the holly? What is the symbolism of the red berries on the Holly wreath? Why is there a rose in the beginning and ending windows? What is the symbolism of the bird on the manager? What is the symbolism of the vine and grapes that run through all the windows?  What is the symbolism of all the different colors? What is the symbolism of the sun? Come back next week and we will find out.


God loves you; I do too. Have a wonderful week.


© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski