Window Words

Communion in Logsdon School of Theology Chapel

When I arrived at Logsdon Seminary this morning I was pulled into the Chapel by the Window

It’s the day after the collapse of the last sliver of hope in being rescued from an impending disaster. But the brilliant sunlight flows blindingly through the window this morning. It is unstoppable. And the message of the window is just as constant today as it has been for the 31 years that it has been in preaching to us in Logsdon Chapel. 

God said at the beginning: “Let there be light. And there was light.” And as John said of the light, “The darkness cannot overcome it.”

The Window’s light preached to me this morning, as it has so many mornings. The message today is a strangely comforting one of dissent and disorientation.

The strong steel grid that upholds the Window speaks of the structures of institutions that are the means to carry the light. But institutions invariably implode. It has been true through history — the institution that is the means to the end invariably becomes the end in itself, subverting the dream that the institution was created to support.

But the Window isn’t the steel grid.

The individual glass shards that convey the colored light of the Window are not in themselves geometric or orderly. And the shapes the light create come together to declare something that is subversive.

The cross in the Window looks so traditional — that classic SBC style of depicting it with the just-right proportion and with tapering toward the ends of the cross pieces. It looks like classic Baptist cross-style. But the cross is tilted. It does not center on the steel grid. It’s out of kilter. Almost as if intentionally being out of bounds, maybe to force us to see how God does not line up with the typical human processes of order and symmetry. As if God is reminding us that God has no interest in simply upholding our human structures. In fact, God is often subverting them.

And the depiction of the Bible in the Window. It’s very traditional in shape; something about it seems old-fashioned. But the Bible is open and riotous shades of light pour through the open pages in a never-ending kaleidoscope of changing shades and intensity as the sun moves through the day, as if to say the word is not static, but ever alive. A living word that is constantly beaming light into the changing context of the world — a light you cannot capture in a creed or hold in orthodox declarations.

Then there’s the more subtle shape of the moving dove, wearing what’s always looked to me like a  baseball cap. The dove is a wonderful symbol that the mystery of the Spirit is constantly coming into our world and our lives at every moment in every place. The Spirit is on wing — always, endlessly moving — and surely capable of working just as potently in ballparks as in chapels.

Then there are the big organic black circular bands of the Window. They seem to be moving out from the cross and then back into the cross, singing of creation, ever coming from Christ and ever consummating in Christ. Yet the general symmetry of the thick bands is also subverted at places by asymmetry. That’s part of the message, too. And those big black bands are interspersed in the Window with thinner black lines moving in yet different directions. The pulsating, dancing black movements simply will not be contained by any rational efforts to fill the steel grid with obediently symmetrical order. The Window is alive with movement that testifies to something ineffable

And of course there are the colors. Fire in the middle at the cross, moving to coolness at the center of the Bible and dove, and then fire again at the edges, yet also going clear in the corners. The whole spectrum. Almost pulsating. Ever moving out and drawing back to the center of the cross. Yet, somehow, also having their origin from above, as the blue colors hint.

Of course, the steel grid is necessary to support the structure, and yet the shapes and hues of the Window cannot be contained. The colors and symbols are alive and acting. Unstoppable. Moving imagination into mystery. Declaring the boundlessness of God.

And the point of it all?

That is too big a question to answer adequately with words, which is why we have stained glass.

But for me today at least some of the message is:

God is alive within you and creation, and you are alive within God and creation.

Joyfully go wherever the breath/wind/spirit inspires you.

And never cease to be awestruck by the Mystery of the Window.

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