Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, a day I’ll bet was hardly noticed by most of the world. Google didn’t make an animated graphic on their homepage, and it lacked the meme-potential and social media appeal of something like National Dog Day. But for the churches that took notice, I hope it was a powerful experience of celebrating the communion shared by God’s people throughout the world.
In my sermon, I talked some about John 3:16-17 and God’s love for the world.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
I tried to think about how these verses are a window into the heart of God. When we peer into God’s heart we find 1) that the starting place for God is love, 2) God’s love is for the whole world, and 3) God’s mission is to save the world through Jesus. None of this is all that surprising when we remember God made the whole world along with everyone and everything in it. Of course God loves the world!
As much as we often think about John 3:16 as a verse about me and my decision to believe in Jesus–and that’s there, for sure–it’s more-so about God and God’s love for the world. See I’ve come to believe that whenever we peer into the heart of God, we find another window into the world God loves so much.
I was thinking a lot about windows this past week and weekend. I’ve learned about a Jewish tradition that says a place of worship should have 12 windows, with at least one of them facing toward Jerusalem. The tradition favors clear glass over stained, advising that the purpose of the windows is to keep the congregation outwardly focused. The tradition of windows comes from Daniel praying in his upper chamber, looking out an open window that was facing toward Jerusalem–that is, in the direction of his heart’s longing.
I was thinking about that, along with all the lovely stained glass windows in our sanctuary and the beautiful photographs of the church building. I shared that with all those windows and photos, this is by far my favorite:
It is my favorite view because it looks out from the church steps into the world and reminds us of the direction of God’s longing and love.
We live in a world full of windows.
A few years back, Lea and I traveled to Chennai, India to visit a group of orphans and vulnerable children our church supported through ZOE. Lea has powerfully told the story of our trip and what God is doing in India through photography. One of the of the most inspiring photos she took, and which hangs in my office is this one:
I remember her taking it as we were leaving one of the group meetings. This group was meeting in a church, and I can’t help but notice how the window reminds me of a stained glass window, sans the glass panes. The frame is there, but the rest is open. The window is filled by these boys.
I am particularly captured by the boy on the left. I do not remember his name or his story. I could fill in some details with general information I know about other kids in India who are in ZOE: he is orphaned or maybe has one living parent; no longer attends school because it’s all he can do to keep himself fed; without help he has little to no hope of escaping desperate poverty; he is vulnerable to illness, exploitation, and child slavery. I wonder about all these things. I wonder his name and what he is doing now.
It is interesting for me being on the outside. Usually I’m on the inside of a church looking out of the window. Now the roles are reversed. He is on the inside, experiencing profound life-change, and belonging to a family of steadfast love and devotion. I am on the outside, watching it all unfold.
His eyes and expression seem to be an invitation in, to come and see what God is doing through him. As if he’s saying, “Watch me” or “Remember me” or “See what God will do.” On World Communion Sunday, I remember and celebrate all that God is doing through ZOE, how children are discovering a future of hope and abundant life. It makes me hopeful for these boys.
Stained glass windows are for the purpose of helping tell the story of our faith. This window, this boy, helps tell the story of our faith. It is a story about a God who loved the world so much that God didn’t just pine away at the window sill, rather, in Jesus, God climbed out of the window and into the world in order to love the world and bring us all home.
When we were in India, we met the program directors, Jabez and his wife Ligi. They are people who’ve learned to follow Jesus’ lead of climbing out of the window and into the world in order to love these kids. Every Sunday morning, hear a benediction, sing a response, turn and then walk through the doorframe (or is it a window frame?) out into the world.
We live in a world full of windows that are colored by the lives of the people and the world God loves so very much. World Communion Sunday was about more than people all over the world receiving a piece of bread and dipping it in a cup of grape juice or wine on the same day. Our communion is about belonging to one another. It was a celebration of kinship and connectedness. It was a chance to peer into and through the heart of God, to give thanks for God’s love and God’s mission to bring us all home.