A cross embedded in a stained glass window is a beautiful idea. A cross reflecting and refracting God’s light captures a very important dynamic, I think. At night, the cross stands with a heaviness and weight. But in the morning the light pours through the pane, creating a breathtaking moment as it changes our perception and vision of something that represented death and sacrifice just a few hours before.
And though my church doesn’t have any stained glass windows, I can imagine a church that has a cross prominently displayed on a window just above the altar. I can imagine how the cross captured the attention of a congregation first introduced to its beauty and power. But over time, I wonder how many risk growing accustomed to seeing it every week.
Images of crosses are everywhere these days. While we ought to be thankful to live in a culture that allows us to express and share those ideas and symbols which are important to our faith, it’s easy to come to the place where we post them and wear them as casually as an image of a Christmas tree.
We must be careful. We live in an age of glossy icons, and these icons are insidious because they often begin meaning one thing, but then we tend to attach new meanings to them without realizing it. We also have a tendency over time to substitute the icon itself for the ideas they originally embodied.
Today I was reading through the final days of Jesus’ life here on earth. A few days before His death, a disciple pointed out to Jesus the magnificence and splendor of the Temple. I believe this had more to do with more than architectural esthetics, however. This disciple must have been spiritually aware on some level that things were growing darker, more dangerous for the ministry of Jesus. There was a lot of uncertainty. Especially during this politically and spiritually tumultuous week.
And so the Temple’s majesty must have appeared permanent and safe to the disciples, as well as to a larger people gripped under Roman occupation. After all, there the Temple stood in the distance, representing God’s work on earth. People could point to it and be encouraged. However, this disciple was missing God’s vision. Most likely, the eyes of his flesh were still in denial.
“And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” Mark 13:2
The cross represents death — even to our best ideas. It puts a decisive and unavoidable end to all worldly securities, no matter how innocently or justifiably we cling to them.
But God’s Light will shine again in the morning and pierce through our mess, making all things new. Very, beautifully new.