19 January 2020
The Windows, Images of Faith - Opening Day
The gospel of John talks about the light of God coming into the world, the light which keeps on shining in the darkness and the darkness could not put it out. Light changes things. We see the dust and debris that was hidden, we also see colours and sparkling reflections. It is not surprising that light is a powerful symbol of Jesus showing us God's own presence. "I am the light of the world."
Stained glass windows have been used for centuries in the dark churches of the Northern hemisphere to tell the stories of the Christian faith in picture and symbol. The fact that they are useless without light streaming through them is also part of the symbolism. It is the light that brings perception of the message of the window. Love and light become intertwined and every stained glass window has another dimension and tells us about the love of God, seen in Jesus, life death and resurrection, which lights and changes our lives.
In looking through our archives I discovered that there was a reference in the Monthly notes of May 1950 written by the then minister the Rev Dr Ian Fraser who gave this interpretation about the new stained glass window at what is now the front of the church.
"Members will have noticed the new window in the back of the church. The frame had to be replaced and a new window installed, and advantage was taken of the opportunity to have a new design made. In the centre is the Cross with the grape vine twining around the bearer on either side, reminding us of Christ's words in John XV: 'I am the vine and ye are the branches….' The grapes hanging from the Cross remind us of our dependence on Him. 'As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.' The circle in which the central feature of each panel is placed, is the symbol of eternity and reminds us these are eternal truths. Above are two fleurs-de-lis [French Lily} with their three points representing the Trinity. In the top section a different shaped cross suggests the light shed from the Light of the world. The letters IHS stand for Christ, being the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek, and these three letters were commonly used in the manuscripts as an abbreviation for His Name"
This window is now in the front of the church and its cross is central to our worship focus.
In January 2011 we dedicate a new window with its story from the Hebrew scriptures at the back of the church. The window depicts the burning bush, long a symbol of the Presbyterian Church. It is from the 1560's and came out of the Reformation, with its motto from Exodus of .."nec tamen consumebatur" "yet it was not consumed" [referring to the burning bush] and was brought by the Presbyterian settlers of 1854.
The new bush in our window is well into a new millennium and has flowers of the frangipani flaming from it, representing later settlers from the Pacific Islands. It is in the blues and whites of the ocean waters which surround New Zealand.
God revealed Gods self to Moses in the middle of the dry wilderness, so here in Papatoetoe, we have God in our midst still encountering us in our daily lives, in our land where we are bounded by oceans and filled with rivers and harbours,.
The frangipani flames of this bush flicker into doves, symbols of the presence of God's spirit bringing us the peace of Christ for the world.
The roots of the burning bush reach down into the glass doors and gain their nourishment from scripture. The words of the entire 23rd Psalm, "the Lord is my shepherd", are on the main doors.
There are two outer doors of steel which have a pattern of the trees of the bush which was here before, formed from piercing the steel, and which fold to provide shade and protection for the big window and can be opened to let light and sun in and give access when needed. The Corten should rapidly rust to blend with the old bricks.
The two windows at each end of the church, wrap the church building in the depiction of the revelation of God's presence given to us in the old and the new.
The revelation of God to Moses with the name "I am …" represented in the burning bush, and the interpretation of that revelation in Jesus as written in the gospel of John where Jesus says "I am the vine and you are the branches". In the same gospel Psalm 23 is reflected as Jesus says "I am the good shepherd.
May the light of God's amazing love be with you all and give you life.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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