In our reading from Genesis today we hear how Jacob has a dream of a ladder that reaches heaven with the angles of God ascending and descending upon it. From the Book of Revelation, we read of how a war breaks out in heaven and Michael and his angels fight valiantly to throw the Dragon, aka Satan, to the Earth. I don’t know about you, but when I first read that I couldn’t help but think, “hang on a minute Michael, I don’t really want the Devil here with us . . .” In our Gospel today, Jesus says to Nathanael that he will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
Such drama and intrigue in today’s selection of readings. It is not often that the lectionary aligns exactly to provide us with glimpses of not only heaven, but the drama that can unfold with the heavenly powers. Heaven it seems is an active place with lots going on. Angles ascend and descend and the occasional war that breaks out from time to time.
Not unlike what is happening in our readings, we live in a world that seems to feed on drama of one sort or another every day. Wars still happen. There remain forces of good and evil in this world. Angles continue to ascend and descend changing lives of people. Yet through all this, people still dream, and heaven and God’s glory is opened to them. For me, this is in part what stained glass windows have to offer.
It is hard to justify the installation of a new stained-glass window on many levels. There are economic, social and other strains that demand our time, energy and resources for sure. We too may be perceived as being disconnected from the world around us as we focus on things beautiful and extravagant and ignore a world that is broken and hurting, hungry and lost. But here are a few reasons as to why stained-glass windows and any form of art is important and has a place in world such as ours.
A young boy sat in a quiet church one Sunday. He was early and therefore sat alone in the pews as clergy, servers and others busied themselves in preparing for the Sunday Mass. After several moments one of the priests came over and sat next to the boy. After the usual pleasantries and introductions, the priest asked what the boy was looking at. “I’m looking at the saints” he responded. After a few moments the priest asked, “Who are saints?” The boy thought about this and replied, “Saints are people who let the light shine in.” The two of them continued to admire the stained-glass windows for a while depicting images of saints and themes from Scripture before it was time to say Mass.
Truer words have never been spoken I dare say. Saints are indeed people who let the light shine in. Through the glass it is not just any light passes through. The light is changed and reflected. It takes on color and shape as it passes through the window into the church where the faithful gather. They are radiant, splendid and as their colorful glare illumines the church they offer us a gateway to the Divine where our world is connected to the heavenly realm where people of all color and shape live in harmony.
Stained glass windows, like many forms of art, serve to tell a story and point beyond the medium itself to something greater and deeper. Our stained-glass windows remind us of themes and scenes within Scripture. They help tell the story of our faith. In so doing they become ways in which we can engage with the world around us to tell others the story of our faith. Above all, they, like saints, allow God’s light to shine through in new, dynamic and colourful ways.
Through the representations in stained glass windows we are reminded of who we are and who’s we are. They offer an opportunity for us to gaze and dream where heaven is opened to us and the glory of God is revealed.
As Anglicans we take pride in our buildings, art and icons that point us beyond this world to the world beyond. Through the beauty and design we are reminded that God’s beauty and Kingdom is not a far-off distant land, but rather is a place that is experienced in our world, here and now.
In a world where we are surrounded by noise, distraction and drama of one sort or another, we need to be reminded that we are all called to be people who let the light shine in. The beauty of stained-glass windows and art is not something that should be hidden and stored away. Rather they need to be shared with the world and point to the deeper mystery and how to live as a people of faith in this world.
And so, without further ado it is time to bless and dedicate our new stained-glass window. A window that offers an interpretation of The Transfiguration and is dedicated by the Wee family to the Glory of God.