O ne of my favorite creative worship concepts is Stained, an Easter series I produced while on staff as Creative Director at Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church in 2010.
The concept was based on an idea that began with my business partner Jason Moore and I at Midnight Oil Productions, our worship media company.
For several years, Jason and I had discussed creating an Easter video using the metaphor of stained glass. We never finished it partly because we never made it a priority and partly because we could never fully agree on the concept. We saw the metaphor in two distinct ways. Jason liked to think about it from the perspective of the “blood-stained cross” and focused on the line “for our sins Jesus was stained.” I didn’t disagree with that angle, but preferred to think about the metaphorical implications of stained glass; namely, that we are broken shards, useless on our own, but put together and illuminated by the love of Christ into a beautiful creation.
While planning for Easter at Trietsch in the winter of 2009, I told my worship team about the concept. The team loved it so we produced a series around it. The series included a three-part video of an associate pastor building a stained glass cross in his home studio, a thematic cover of a Jars of Clay song, and several other elements. Here is the introductory spoken word piece I wrote and delivered at my church for the series.
When you think about church, what sort of images come to mind? (Answers included crosses, steeples, stained glass.) Welcome to Stained, our newest experience here at Trietsch. Today is the first of three weeks, ending on Easter.
Stained glass is one of the most identifiable images of Christianity. For centuries, the story of Jesus has been portrayed through broken pieces of colorful glass. Yet for all of its familiarity, stained glass has much to teach us.
Believe it or not, at one time, the idea of stained glass was actually controversial. Some thought images of any kind were idol worship. Others, meanwhile, believed images served a faith purpose. In stained glass these competing viewpoints found a compromise. Over the centuries, it became the standard for images in sanctuaries and sacred spaces.
What was this compromise? It was the necessity of light to complete the image. See, the beauty of stained glass is not in the individual pieces. When seen by themselves, these segments are plain. But when seen together, as a complete image, with light shining through, they transform into something beautiful.
We are pieces of glass, often broken as part of a broken world. Yet, if not for our brokenness, it wouldn’t be clear that the light which illuminates us is Christ’s and not our own. When we put ourselves in God’s hands, the master creator can remake us into something more beautiful than we can ever imagine for ourselves. Then the Holy Spirit, shining through us, illuminates us as the beautiful image that God had intended.
Do you want a colorful, vibrant life picture? Let the light of Christ shine through your broken and stained shards of experience, making you whole and beautiful.
The highlight of the series occurred after the sermon on Easter morning. We played a feature animation summarizing the theme and moved directly into a combined orchestra and band cover of Third Day’s “King of Glory.” My Midnight Oil partner created the animation, and I think it’s the most beautiful piece he’s ever made.
You can buy the clip on the Midnight Oil site.
We are stained glass, broken images of God’s creation, dependent on the light of Christ to illuminate us. Jesus was stained, bloodied for our brokenness. He took our stains at the cross, and became stained himself, so that his light could shine through our brokenness and illuminate us.
We are all broken images of our Creator, stained by our own hubris, stumbling through the dark and needing the light of Christ.
Do you want a colorful, vibrant life picture? Let the light of Christ shine through your broken and stained shards of experience, make you whole and beautiful.
- Week 1 – Romans 5
- Week 2 – Passion story, 2 Corinthians 5 – new creation; once blind, now I see.
- Week 3 – Resurrection story
- Stained series animation and matching art
- Video interviews in 3 parts – making stained glass
- Jars of Clay, “Art in Me”
Notes for the sermon: 2 Corinthians 5
We are all broken images of God’s creation, dependent on the light of Christ to illuminate us. Paul’s metaphor for this is the jar of clay. We are earthen vessels, cracked by the pressure of the world. This is a part of us and in ongoing. As Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Cor 4:8-10)
There is beauty in the stained glass. Not in the glass pieces themselves, which are plain and without purpose by themselves. But when seen together, and when the light shines through it, they are transformed into something beautiful. If not for our brokenness, it wouldn’t be clear that this all-surpassing power is God’s, and not our own. When we show ourselves to be good and beautiful, it is not us that is doing the good work. It is the Holy Spirit shining from within us, making us beautiful images. “For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) And in letting the light of Christ shine through our broken shards of experience, we are transformed into a new creation. (2 Cor 5:17)