Rita and I had the privilege of spending a couple days away from home on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was a much needed break for both of us. We went to a show with Needtobreathe at the Boston House of Blues Tuesday night, and then spent part of the day walking around Boston on Wednesday.
We both wanted to visit the site of the recent bombing in the city, so we took the train over to Copley Place and spent a few minutes looking at the various items that have been left in a shrine of sorts that has been set up there in memory of the victims. The memorial area that has been set up sits between two beautiful, historic Boston buildings. On the one side is the Boston Public Library, on the other Trinity Church.
Rita and I decided to take a walk through Trinity Church, so we purchased our tickets and received our guidebooks to look around the breathtaking sanctuary. One of the highlights is the stained glass window pictured above at the rear of the sanctuary. It's a work by John Lafarge called "Christ in Majesty", and there's no way that a picture could really do justice to how stunning it is when the light hits it. I imagined what it would be like to stand in a pulpit in a cathedral like that, preaching to people with the image of the exalted Christ looking back at me. The particular technique used for the stained glass makes it appear to glow with light from within, and it was absolutely beautiful.
When we finished our brief tour through the church, we stepped outside into that same light and walked away from the building. I wanted to take a picture of the exterior, because it really is such an intriguing building to look at. I turned to look back and noticed something that caught my attention physically and spiritually. The stained glass image of Christ in Majesty was still visible to me from the outside, but this time it was devoid of color and faceless.
That's when it occurred to me.
We build churches for church people. We like being in the church, looking up at Jesus looking back at us. I would love to preach in a building like that, but all that majestic, gorgeous stained glass does nothing for the people walking by outside every day.
I wonder if Jesus would prefer to have his stained glass window looking out onto Copley Place, onto the square where the sorrow and hatred and bitterness and anger and shock and fear run mingled together in the hearts of broken people in need of healing. Based on the way he consistently turned away from the religious towards the sinners and the suffering in his world, I think he might rather his eyes, and his church, be facing outward.
I'm not sure how to accomplish that from an architectural standpoint, but I have a good idea of how to do that from a people standpoint. We keep encouraging each other to be conscious about the ones who are still outside our walls. We keep reaching out to them in ways large and small. We never forget Jesus' words when he was challenged by the religious people of his day:
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me: I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over on sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."