Why are there no pictures of God on the stained glass windows?
1. Christians think about God differently. When we think of God, we think about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are our one God. So the short answer is: we do have pictures of God on the stained glass windows. There’s pictures of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Next time you’re in church, count how many pictures of God the Father you see, how many pictures of God the Son you see, and you many pictures of God the Holy Spirit you see.
2. Then you will see that the young person who asked this question is right: there are no pictures of God (the Father) in the stained glass windows. And that’s a good question! Why not?
3. The most famous picture of God I can think of is Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It’s called The Creation of Adam. (See above.) It’s not that we couldn’t have a picture like that in our church. But we don’t.
4. So here’s my best guess as to why we have the stained glass windows that we have. The biggest stained glass windows show Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus the Good Shepherd, and, hidden by the balcony, the Ascension of Jesus. You have maybe never even seen that stained glass! All these windows were made in in 1921. I tried to find our church records to read about why these windows were chosen. I learned that we have no records of the meetings of the church leaders before 1938. Which is pretty odd. And sad. In the records we do have, I learned that the Jesus in the Garden window was based on a painting made by a German artist named Heinrich Hofmann in 1890. He painted lots of religious paintings. Most of them were about Jesus. Why Jesus? Jesus was always doing things that made great story pictures.
5. People in Europe were not very interested in religious art in the late 1800’s when Heinrich Hofmann was painting. Millions of people in America, on the other hand, were still thinking about their homelands in Europe. They liked paintings by Hofmann and other painters from Europe and began to have their pictures re-painted in churches in America or turned into stained glass designs. Bernhard Plockhorst was another painter whose work was re-painted or turned into stained glass in America by German immigrants. He painted the Good Shepherd painting.
6. The smaller window high up above the altar in front of the church was made in 1938 by the Columbia Stained Glass Company in Milwaukee. It’s called The Resurrection window. This window tells the resurrection story in the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew is the only one where two soldiers were ordered to guard Jesus’ tomb. The religious leaders in Jerusalem did this so the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal Jesus body to make it seem like he was raised from the dead. But when the angel came from heaven to roll away the stone, the guards “shook with fear” and became “like dead men.” They didn’t see what happened next. No one actually saw the resurrection. We all have to trust the people who say they saw Jesus alive again.
7. The last thing to say about why there’s no pictures of God in the stained glass windows is this. The most important way Christians know about God is through Jesus. You can learn that God is big and powerful by looking at Creation. The Holy Spirit’s main job is to take Jesus’ words and turn them into faith in our hearts. So what Jesus said and did tell us the most important things about God we need to know. Which is that God loves us. Even when Jesus was told by the religious leaders in Jerusalem to stop doing and saying loving things, he didn’t stop. Jesus kept right on doing these things until people tried to kill him on the cross. They couldn’t do it. God’s love is alive! Jesus is risen! Our stained glass windows remind us of that every week!
P.S. There’s another stained glass window in our church building. Let me know on Sunday where it is. There’s a great story behind it, too!