I like stained glass windows. Like music, art speaks to the non-rational parts of the human brain. What I want to see in a church’s stained glass windows – or really, in any of its works of art – are pieces that depict scenes from the great Biblical drama.
Abstract designs that create a vague religious impression are often pretty, but I think they take the contemporary church in the wrong direction. In our post-modern culture, there are plenty of people who want to have religious feelings but are scandalized by the Bible’s specificity.
Depictions of Biblical characters divorced from the context of the Biblical narrative also, in my opinion, fall short. Are these people to be worshiped? To be imitated? To be admired?
The focus, I think, should be on what God has done. Just as a mental exercise, I imagine commissioning twelve stained glass windows that together tell the story of God’s salvation.
If you had to choose themes for twelve stained glass windows for a church’s worship space, what would they be? Here’s my list: six from the Old Testament and six from the New Testament.
- God creates Adam and puts him in the garden. (Genesis 2:7-8)
- Adam and Eve leave Eden (with the tree of life in the background). (Genesis 3:21-24)
- Abraham and Isaac climb Mount Moriah. (Genesis 22:1-18)
- Moses brings the tablets of the Law (with the Sea of Reeds in the background).
- The prophet Nathan confronts David King. (2 Samuel 12:1-14)
- Ezra and the returned exiles offer sacrifices in the restored Temple. (Ezra 8:35)
- Jesus feeds 5000 who came for teaching and healing. (Luke 9:10-17)
- Jesus eats the Last Supper with his disciples. (Luke 22:13-23)
- Jesus dies on the cross. (Luke 23:26-49)
- Women find the empty tomb. (Luke 24:1-9)
- Peter baptizes Cornelius and his household (with signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence).
- The Son of Man comes in glory to judge the world and reign over creation.
What 12 stained-glass windows would you want in your worship space?