West Franklin Family,
Last year, I found myself watching the Netflix series Messiah. Though not my favorite series, I really enjoyed it. Well, I was enjoying it. Until I had to stop. Not because the content. Not because the themes. Not because the language. I had to stop because, well, it was messin’ with my prayers. That’s right. The show Messiah was doing a number on my prayer life. After watching several episodes, I found myself praying to Mehdi Dehbi, not Jesus. My mind kept taking me to the lead character of the show, not the Jesus of the Bible.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with watching Messiah. Other, similar shows – from what I hear – are very, very good. But my experience caused me to wonder: Is this why the Second Commandment forbids images? Or, at the very least, could it be one of the reasons it is number two in the big ten? Could it be God knew we would have a hard time worshipping the real God who is, if we had other (false) images in our heads?
Recently the middle projection screen and black curtain were removed from the sanctuary/stage area. The stain glass window is visible and “open for all to see” once again. Many (and I mean many) of you have shared with me how grateful you are to have the window uncovered. That’s fine. I like it too. It is a beautiful window. I am glad you like it and am grateful it is a part of the construction of our building.
BUT. . .
Many (and I mean many) of you shared why you didn’t like the window covered. And it wasn’t simply because you think it is a nice window. You didn’t like it covered because it felt as if we were covering up the cross. You felt as if we were blaspheming. You felt as if we were putting a drape over Jesus and trying to cover Him up. If I understand correctly, many of you think an image of the cross is what makes our church Christian. Or, what enables you to worship. Or, is the centerpiece of what we are about. Or, what communicates to our community that Jesus died for them.
West Franklin, West Franklin, West Franklin, West Franklin! Please, no! The window is a great addition to our sanctuary and building, but it cannot be what makes us Christian. It cannot be what inspires our worship. It cannot be what “reaches” Franklin. We believe “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We are crucified with Christ. The life we live, we live by faith! The city of Franklin doesn’t need a nice window of a cross. The city of Franklin needs lives that have been/are being transformed by the Christ of the cross – from the inside out. We don’t worship an image on a window. We worship and proclaim the Jesus who came, lived, died, was buried, and rose again.
Perhaps the second commandment was such a big deal to God because He had already created the proper image. We – WE HUMANS – are made in the image of God. We don’t make images. We are the images. And those who are followers of a once-dead Jesus are the Holy Spirit changed images our world so desperately needs to see. Church, WE are cruciform, redeemed, and hope-filled images. WE are God’s means of getting the Gospel into the world. We worship a Jesus whom – by God’s design and purpose – we cannot yet see, but long for His appearing. We remember Him, not by putting up pictures. We remember Him by drinking juice and eating bread. We resolve, with the Apostle Paul, not to see an image of the cross – but to know nothing but Christ Jesus and Him crucified.
I hope you like the stain glass window in our sanctuary. I really do. But ask yourself what would be more tragic: “If a rock from a lawnmower took out the window; or if Pastor Matt quit preaching the Gospel?” Which would be worse: “A curtain over the window, or our music becoming secular in content?” What would have a greater Gospel impact in Franklin: “Changed lives or a prettier stain on glass?” Better yet, ask yourself this question: “If the window went away tomorrow, could I worship and grow and allow the Spirit to transform me?”
The window isn’t going anywhere. Don’t panic. But if you need an image of a cross to worship. . .
Tomorrow morning, I will see you with my Bible open to Luke 8:26-39. Yep. A changed life told to go on display for those in his hometown.
Until We See His Face,
Make sure you listen to this week’s West Franklin Talks podcast for important announcements!