OUR STAINED GLASS TREASURES
This information has appeared in the newsletter before, but we have had many requests for the information, so I decided to include it again. This was written by Pastor Jeff Rasche.
Our church has a real treasure…the stained glass windows. I spoke of them during a sermon recently, and so many people commented about it or urged me to write down my thoughts about them that I will do so here. I hope you’ll have a chance to see them soon with the following thoughts and a Bible, in hand—-these comments will mean more if you can look at the windows and read the Bible stories at the same time.
If you normally see the windows only on Sunday mornings, try coming into the church around dusk sometime, too. The soft glow is truly breathtaking. Shelly and I once took a class in making stained glass. The class did not make us experts but it did help us appreciate the exceptional level of art and craftmanship in the church’s windows, and I wanted to say a little bit about that, too.
First, there is a difference between simple “stained glass” and “painted glass:. Our church windows are a mixture of both. “Stained glass” involves cutting colored pieces of glass into specific shapes and reassembling them using soft, bendable lead in the shape of an “I” beam. Each piece of lead must be carefully cut to size, bent to the shape of the glass it holds and then soldered into place. It is a time-consuming process, like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle and cutting out the pieces at the same time. Even a small miscalculation in the curve of a piece of glass will let light through and create an obvious error. On the other hand, if there is not enough room between two adjacent pieces of glass, the lead holds them apart and throws the whole assembly off. Even something as simple as a straight criss-cross pattern, with no flowers or curves, is amazingly difficult to cut, grind and fit together. Just to give you an idea of value, today’s stained glass makers charge around $150.00 per square foot of window! (Editor’s Note: Keep in mind this was written I 1996. Imagine what the cost would be in today’s market.)
Glass painting, on the other hand, is nearly a lost art. Our church is fortunate to have a lot of it. Whereas stained glass is tinted throughout the glass, painted glass begins as either clear or colored glass but paint is added to the surface. The paint is often fired in a kiln to fuse it to the surface of the glass, but this often changes the color of the paint. Besides a skillful painter, it takes a highly experienced and patient craftsperson to guess, ahead of time, how the colors will look after they’ve been fired in the kiln! You can easily tell the difference between stained glass and painted glass. Unlike stained glass, painted pieces of glass do not have any lead lines between the colors.
By the way, while some of the windows in our church are rate or possibly unique (like Jesus’ birth window, and the window above the organ), the subject of others are well-known; similar windows have been installed in other church buildings. Thus, you might be interested to know that a resurrection window just like ours was entered in a national “beautiful stained glass window” contest and won second place!
I don’t think the placement of the windows in the church building is any accident either. For instance the window in the entryway of the church pictures, Jesus knocking at the door, based on the scripture, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me.) (Rev. 3:20) It is a window that tells us God always wants to be a part of our life; Jesus is always knocking the door to our hear. It is a perfect thought as we enter the church to worship. It is also no accident that in the pastors office, the window given in honor of the kindergarten class reminds the viewer to take care of the sheep.
In the sanctuary along the back wall, closest to the organ are three windows, each divided into two scenes. They illustrate the parable of the sower. (See Luke 8:4-15. It is also found in Matthew 13 and Mark 4). The outermost four panels picture the four types of soil (representing the various conditions of the human hear as interpreted by Jesus in Luke 8:11-15.) The first panel says (in German) “Some seeds fell along the way.” As you can see, the birds are already there, ready to eat the seed that feel on the hard path. The second panel says, “Some seeds fell on rocky ground.” On the other side of the center window the other two types of soil are pictured: “Some seeds fell among thorns,” and “Some seeds fell in good soil”.
The quote in the central window of the set, however, is not directly taken from the Bible. It is like a little sermon. The left panel pictures Jesus sowing seeds as he walks along, and the right panel shows an empty field ready to receive the seeds. Under Jesus’ picture the German Words make an analogy, “Jesus is the sower,” and under the field, they read, “We are the fields.”
In this center window of the group, the left panel shows God’s activity while the empty field in the right panel silently asks us, “Since we are God’s field, what kind of soil will we be?” The four choices are pictures all around; hard, rock and thorny are option; but hopefully, we will be receptive to God’s message like the good soil.
The set of three windows on the north wall of the sanctuary, briefly describes Jesus’ life. Again, the four outermost panels are more informational, but the middle two panels silently question us. Beginning on the left side, the first panel pictures the star over Bethlehem (a beautiful, unique window.) The next panel shows the Jordon River. The left panel of the window on the right features a scene of boats on Lake Galilee (which I think must have been broken and redone at some time in the church’s history), and the right panel shows three crosses on a hill in the distance. Together, the captions of these four panels read”
Born in Bethlehem
Baptized in the Jordon
Preached in Galilee
Crucified at Golgatha
The center window in this group does not have any words. The left panel shows Jesus praying the in the Garden of Gethsemane; the right panel shows the disciples falling asleep, unable to stay awake when the Lord asked them to pray with him (see Matthew 26:36-46, the same story is also in Mark and Luke. Like the series of windows featuring the parable of the sower, the center window of this set pictures Jesus’ faithfulness in the left and panel and seems to ask the view of question in the right panel—-”Will you stay awake, be faithful and pray with me?”
The two large windows high up in the sanctuary do not ask any questions-instead, they are wonderful proclamations of good news. The resurrection window shows the power of God over death. ( get a sense of the shock and awe of the moment, look at the posture and reaction of the three women-one has spilled the burial ointment; another is shielding her face; all are recoiling in fear and amazement.) The angle is saying to the women (in German!) “He is risen!” The artwork most closely illustrates the resurrection story found in Mark 16:1-8.
The other large window illustrates Jesus leading the sheep, and even carrying a lamb in his arms (see Psalm 23; John 10:1-16). This biblical image is a favorite of many people, and assures us of God’s tenderness and personal, individual care.
Taken together, these two windows symbolize God’s awesome power, and yet they also testify to God’s love and companionship in our lives. The “good Shepherd” window, which faces the sunset has a glow in the late evening that is both peaceful and comforting.
Finally, the window above the organ is quite unusual. I have never seen it in any other church anywhere in the country. The subject matter is a little obscure, too. Many people, when they first see the red cloak, assume the figure if Jesus, but apparently it is not. It pictures a large rock cross
Cross on solid land in the midst of a raging sea. A woman is clinging to the cross for safety, but as far as I can determine, she is not meant to personify any particular character in the Bible—still the window effectively communicates the message that in the stormy times of life, we can cling to the cross—to our faith—for help in our time of need. (Particular scriptures that come to my mind when I see it are Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 14:22-33; Psalm 46 and Luke 8:22-25, though none of these match it exactly.)
Someone once asked a child what a saint was. The child had been looking at the people pictures on the stained glass windows of her church, and so she replied, “A saint is someone the light shines through.”
As we appreciate the fine art and craftsmanship of our windows, it is good to remember this child’s definition of a “saint”. As beautiful as our windows are, they are only made of glass. How much beautiful it is when God’s love and light shines through our lives! More than stained glass, that’s what the church is really about. So let God’s love and light shine through you!
Pastor Jeff Rasche
We invite everyone to view the windows. I have had the opportunity the last couple months to bring in visitors to see the windows. I am happy to do so for anyone wishing to see our “stained glass treasure”. Nancy