Stained Glass

By Susan Fish

High on the walls of my church are a series of stained glass windows depicting events from the life of Jesus. One of my Sunday morning rituals is to look up randomly at one window or another and to ponder how the particular image might speak to my life.
I remember one morning when the light was just right and the windows cast rainbow prisms on the carpet and pews all around the church.

But, stand outside any day and look at the same windows and they look merely darkened.

One evening last fall, though, I was riding my bike on the trail that runs beside the church when I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Something was going on inside the church, so all the lights were on. This meant that no longer were the colourful glass scenes for those on the inside. Instead, those outside the church got to see the glowing jewel tones, all the more stunning because of the contrast with the darkness around the church.

A city on a hill, Jesus said, cannot be hidden. Neither does someone light a lamp only to hide it under a basket. You are the light of the world, Jesus tells His followers, illuminating the darkness. It’s the one time He says the same of the church as He says of Himself. We may be told to feed others, but we are not the bread of life as He is. Nor are we the vine or the good shepherd.  But like Him, we are called to be the light, to shine, to live our lives before others in such a way that they will see God and glorify Him.

When we live in the light, it can be easy to forget just how dark things can be outside, or instead to be afraid of the dark and what might lurk in the shadows. But instead, Jesus invites us to shine like that city on the hill, like that lamp, like the stained glass shining out beautiful colours and life-giving light on a cold, dark night.

Unlike bread, light does not need a miracle to be shared. It only needs us not to block it, to open the doors for those who are tired of journeying in darkness, and to welcome them in.

I read a book about money this week. It suggested we tend to believe happiness comes from buying large screen tvs, even though it is proven that happiness increases far more when we give money to benefit others. The same can perhaps be seen here when it comes to community. It’s very human to huddle together around the fire at night, to cozy up together in the light, safe from the things that inhabit the night. But Jesus says the light is not meant for the church alone, but also for those riding past or standing outside it. Our community grows better by opening the doors, by sharing the light. 

In fact, one of the reasons we don’t put a lamp under a basket is because we know what can happen if we do: either the flame will be snuffed out by lack of oxygen or there will be a conflagration, a dangerous fire, rather than what Jesus intended, a beautiful beacon of hope for those out on a dark night.

High on the walls of my church are a series of stained glass windows depicting events from the life of Jesus. One of my Sunday morning rituals is to look up randomly at one window or another and to ponder how the particular image might speak to my life. I remember one morning when the light was just right and the windows cast rainbow prisms on the carpet and pews all around the church.

But, stand outside any day and look at the same windows and they look merely darkened.

One evening last fall, though, I was riding my bike on the trail that runs beside the church when I suddenly stopped in my tracks. Something was going on inside the church, so all the lights were on. This meant that no longer were the colourful glass scenes for those on the inside. Instead, those outside the church got to see the glowing jewel tones, all the more stunning because of the contrast with the darkness around the church.

A city on a hill, Jesus said, cannot be hidden. Neither does someone light a lamp only to hide it under a basket. You are the light of the world, Jesus tells His followers, illuminating the darkness. It’s the one time He says the same of the church as He says of Himself. We may be told to feed others, but we are not the bread of life as He is. Nor are we the vine or the good shepherd.  But like Him, we are called to be the light, to shine, to live our lives before others in such a way that they will see God and glorify Him.

When we live in the light, it can be easy to forget just how dark things can be outside, or instead to be afraid of the dark and what might lurk in the shadows. But instead, Jesus invites us to shine like that city on the hill, like that lamp, like the stained glass shining out beautiful colours and life-giving light on a cold, dark night.

Unlike bread, light does not need a miracle to be shared. It only needs us not to block it, to open the doors for those who are tired of journeying in darkness, and to welcome them in.

I read a book about money this week. It suggested we tend to believe happiness comes from buying large screen tvs, even though it is proven that happiness increases far more when we give money to benefit others. The same can perhaps be seen here when it comes to community. It’s very human to huddle together around the fire at night, to cozy up together in the light, safe from the things that inhabit the night. But Jesus says the light is not meant for the church alone, but also for those riding past or standing outside it. Our community grows better by opening the doors, by sharing the light. 

In fact, one of the reasons we don’t put a lamp under a basket is because we know what can happen if we do: either the flame will be snuffed out by lack of oxygen or there will be a conflagration, a dangerous fire, rather than what Jesus intended, a beautiful beacon of hope for those out on a dark night.