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“Sermons in Stained Glass: Holy Spirit”
Ephesians 4:3-6

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—July 29, 2012

Hymn: “Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven”

Holy Spirit, the dove sent from heaven,
Ever one with the One who is Three,
From the Father You came,
Words of peace to proclaim,
Come and comfort us, speak tenderly.
You, the fragrance of life we are seeking;
Fill Your temple, Your altar make clean.
Joyous shelter of love,
Gracious friend from above,
In Your care we are resting, serene.

Holy Spirit, the fire celestial,
Who on Pentecost came as foretold,
To descend from on high
And the Church occupy
As the cloud filled the temple of old;
All the baptized You seal with Your promise,
All believers Your gift there receive,
So that all the elect—
All in Christ—may expect
To enjoy what by grace they believe.

(Lutheran Service Book 502, verses 1-2)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This morning we conclude our summer sermon series on the stained-glass windows of our church.  The three largest windows at the front of our sanctuary represent the Three Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the primary work of each Person of the Trinity, Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification; and the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed.

For today’s sermon you will need to look at the front cover of the bulletin.  This is the proposed design recently approved by the congregation for the final large window that will someday be installed in our sanctuary, representing God the Holy Spirit; his primary work of Sanctification; and the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit. . . ”

Our Holy Spirit window begins with a dove, which is the primary symbol for the third Person of the Trinity.  The biblical origin of this symbolism is at Jesus’ baptism, as the Gospel of Mark reports: “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” 

It’s this Christian symbolism that is also the reason why the dove has become a universal symbol of peace. Last Friday doves were released at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which has been a tradition at every Olympics since 1920, as a symbol of world peace.  But, the peace which the dove really represents is not just any peace, not a worldly peace, but specifically spiritual peace through Christ.  As Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”

In Ephesians, Paul describes our sin as “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between us and God, and he concludes, “we were by nature objects of wrath.”  On account of our sins, we deserve not peace with God, but punishment from God.  But, Paul goes on to tell us the Good News about Jesus: “He himself is our peace, who has . . . has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

You’ve probably heard the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom.”  An interesting twist in modern Hebrew is that a bill which has been “paid in full” is stamped with the word “shalom.”  I remember checking out of a hotel in Tel Aviv, and when I paid the bill the desk clerk took a red stamp and in Hebrew stamped the bill “shalom.”  When they use the word “shalom” that way it means, “we are at peace, because you don’t owe me anything anymore.  Your debt has been paid in full.”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. . .  He himself is our peace, who has . . . has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Jesus established “shalom,” perfect peace, between you and God. He gave his life as a ransom for you, destroying the barrier of sin separating you from God by paying off completely the bill for your sins.  On account of Jesus’ own perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead, God the Father has stamped on the bill for your sins “shalom,” “paid in full”—stamped it in red with the blood of Christ.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  That is the real meaning of the dove as a symbol of peace, spiritual peace through Christ.  As Paul says in Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hymn: “O Day Full of Grace”

Oh day full of grace, which now we see appearing on earth's horizon,
Bring light from our God that we may be replete in His joy this season.
God shine for us now in this dark place, Your name on our hearts emblazon.

God came to us then at Pentecost, His Spirit new life revealing;
That we might no more from Him be lost, all darkness for us dispelling.
His flame will the mark of sin efface and bring to us all His healing.

(Lutheran Service Book 503, verses 1, 4)

Just before he ascended into heaven Jesus promised the disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The next scene in our window symbolizes the fulfillment of that promise when the Holy Spirit miraculously came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.  The book of Acts reports: “When the day of Pentecost came . . . suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and . . . they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. . .  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked. . . ‘How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?’”

This is the biblical origin of the second most common symbol for the Holy Spirit, tongues of flame, as portrayed in the design for our stained-glass window.  These tongues of flame also represent the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers, as Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.”

The disciple in the center is Peter, who on the day of Pentecost preached the first Christian sermon, which resulted in about 3,000 converts.  The two other disciples are the brothers James and John.  The designer chose these three as representative of the first Christians because in the New Testament they are listed first among the apostles, Jesus chose these three to accompany him for such special occasions in his ministry as the Transfiguration and his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and in Galatians Paul describes Peter, James, and John as the “pillars” of the church.

These three apostles are facing different directions to symbolize the spread of the Good News about Jesus out from Jerusalem and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Hymn: “God Has Spoken by His Prophets”

God has spoken by His prophets,
Spoken His unchanging Word;
Each from age to age proclaiming
God the one, the righteous Lord.
In the world's despair and turmoil
One firm anchor holds us fast:
God is king, His throne eternal;
God the first, and God the last.

God is speaking by His Spirit,
Speaking to our hearts again,
In the ageless Word declaring
His own message, now as then.
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standing fast;
God abides, His Word unchanging;
God the first, and God the last.

(Lutheran Service Book 583, verses 1, 3)

The five stained-glass windows at the front of our sanctuary were designed as a coordinated set.  Since the architect included the two clerestory windows it seemed natural for those to represent the two Sacraments of the Christian Church, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  But, we also wanted of feature prominently somewhere in this set of windows the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, which in addition to the Sacraments is the other “means of grace” through which the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts.  As Paul says in Romans, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation for everyone who believes.”

The Holy Spirit window seemed the natural place to include the Holy Scriptures in this set of windows, because the Bible tells us that the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is a special work of the Holy Spirit.   As Jesus says in today’s Gospel Reading, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

It is through the divine inspiration of the Bible that the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of what that Jesus said.  Paul says in 2nd Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  And Peter puts it this way, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Old Testament and the Law of God are symbolically represented by the two tablets with the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew.  The New Testament and the Gospel are symbolically represented by a scroll with John 3:16 written in Greek: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Hymn: “For All the Saints”

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor's crown of gold!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(Lutheran Service Book 677, verses 1, 3)

The final scene in the stained-glass window will be an enormous, golden crown.  At the Olympics over the next few weeks the winners will receive a gold medal.  But, in the original Olympics back in Bible times the winners received a crown of laurel leaves.  This imagery is used throughout the New Testament to symbolize the ultimate prize of eternal life.  Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  Peter says, “You will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”  And Jesus promises in Revelation, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

You may also have noticed that the background of the window gets progressively lighter, from blue at the top, to a golden hue at the bottom.  That symbolizes we are now in the sunset of our world, and very near the dawn of eternal life.  As Paul says in Romans, “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.”  Amen.

Hymn: “For All the Saints”

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon, to faithful warriors cometh rest.
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(Lutheran Service Book 677, verses 6, 8)

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