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Posted: May 21, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: The story of our stained glass

Our church, Abiding Grace, is in a building project. Last night, we had one of the coolest opportunities of the whole planning process. We got to meet with the artist who is creating our stained glass windows. That was fun - picturing how it will all look - anticipating how these windows will be communicating to all who see them something special - something about God and his grace for them.

Now, before you read on, ask yourself what image you would put in the front and center window. What would you consider to be the most important thing to communicate with those gathering to worship and all those passing by on the road outside? Sure, the crucifixion is important, right?

It changes everything (and that's why that's the image on the side window that people on the street will see more clearly). But the image we put front and center is designed to remind everyone who sees it of the victory Jesus won over that sin-filled death (he was carrying our sin) and what that means for us now.

Our front window will be the Ascension window. Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead - he ascended into heaven. That's the story Acts 1 tells. And it's an important one.

You see, if we don't see that, if we don't remember what the Ascension means, it's all too easy to forget what everything else means. At the end of this story in the Bible, we find the disciples staring up at the sky, not able to see Jesus anymore, but looking. They needed the angels to snap them out of it and remind them that things had changed. Jesus would no longer be with them the way they had gotten used to - but it would be better - he would be with them always as he promised us.

Jesus had given them a job to do - to be his witnesses where they were and around the world. And now that he's ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he is, as Ephesians 1 says: "Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given," he is ruling all things for us, "for the Church."

They needed to see what our eyes can't see. They needed to see the truth that Jesus is victorious and is coordinating everything for our good. That's what Jesus' Ascension means, and that's the truth we want our window to convey.

Because, you see, it's all too easy to see only what we can see - the pain, the hurt, the loss, the failure. It's all too easy to look at the sinful world we're living in and figure it is all a loss. That's when you need to look up and see what our eyes can't yet see (and not just because the window isn't done yet). Our eyes can't see it because Jesus has claimed his eternal, invisible throne - something that can only be seen through the eyes of faith.

But, through the power of the Holy Spirit that our ascended Savior sends us like he promised in Acts 1, we do see it. Through the eyes of faith, we see our obstacles as opportunities to grow in our trust in God. Through the eyes of faith, we see our personality struggles as chances to really excel at showing the love of Christ. Through what we see, through what the Holy Spirit gives us in God's powerful word, we become what Jesus promised in our text. Let me close by quoting his to those disciples and to us:

"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."

Amen.

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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