Having watched the process of removing our beautiful stained-glass window in our Sanctuary day by day, until it was completely removed, reminded me of a picture etched into my mind forever. Many of you know I served after college with the LCMS Board for Missions in St. Petersburg, Russia, for one year. Slightly knowing the language was a bit intimidating. I lived there at a point when communism had just ended and transition and change were in the air. There were many churches that were beginning to make physical changes to their property, as they had now received their churches back from being used for purposes other than a church (swimming pools, movie theatres, soccer/volley ball factories, headquarters, etc.). The stories are amazing, but one transformation stood out for me. Kazan Cathedral was designed to look similar to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Completed in 1811, it was consecrated as a Russian Orthodox Church. Throughout Communism, it was taken over and used as the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism. Though, all the Russians I knew referred to it as The Church of Atheism. A bit of a contradiction!
In 1992, the Russian Orthodox Church regained Kazan Cathedral and began holding worship services in it. In 1996, it was fully returned to their church body. I went in one day with a friend to see how they worship. It was, of course, fascinating to me; but the neatest thing happened on Easter Sunday (of the Russian Orthodox calendar). Previously, all evidence of this building being a Russian Orthodox Church had been removed. On May 1, 1994, a helicopter flew over the building and returned the cross that had been removed for many years to the very top of the church. Many people stood and watched in awe. I was one of them. Something had been taken away from the people, and now it was being restored. The addition of the cross was a reminder to the people that God is in control. The cheers and hoorahs were sweet. I am thankful I was able to witness this momentous occasion!
Thankfully, our stained-glass window was not taken from us under such poor circumstances. In time, we will see our beautiful stained-glass window, restored with the sun shining brightly through to the Sanctuary. It will also be inspiring!
There are times in our lives where we experience transition and change. I do not particularly like change, and sometimes I have a hard time envisioning what the end result will be. For Christians, we can trust in the ultimate end result being a good one. Maybe some of the Russians who had their church taken away from them had a hard time envisioning that the cross would someday be restored and the Russian Orthodox Church body would regain ownership of it and worship there again. Despite what happened in that situation, the church body was able to continue to worship God, although it had to be done secretly. God still remained sovereign and still had a plan for them. That never stopped.
Our beautiful window will also be molded and shaped into something beautiful once again. In order for that to happen, it had to be taken apart. Maybe God works beautiful things in us through the molding, shaping and even trials we must experience in life. We experience many transitions, and it is easy to wonder where God is in it all. Yet, He remains there. He continues to have a beautiful plan for us that will further His Kingdom. So we continue to live out our faith no matter the circumstance. [Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”]
We can think of ourselves as a unique and vibrant color included in a big picture that tells a story, just like the mosaic of colors we see included in our stained-glass window. [1 Corinthians 12:27 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.] We are beautiful creations in Christ! [Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created for Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.] Together, we form a beautiful picture that we pray will inspire others to know the love of Jesus. [1 Peter 4:10 – Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.] We each have an opportunity and are called by God to shine in our own unique way so that He may be glorified.
So I leave you with this thought… Shine brightly in His name as His beloved people!
Joyfully in Jesus,