Shining through

I sit down in a new sanctuary – recently built and new to me. I lift my eyes to the front of the sanctuary and there I see a cross unlike any other I have seen. For it is made entirely of light.

It’s a stunningly simple concept. Four large panels of dark wood converge, but not quite, leaving an intersecting space through which light from the nearly hidden window can pour. Brilliance seems to burst through the gap as if escaping from confinement.

Fittingly, the sermon is on the gospel account of Jesus being transfigured. As Matthew describes it, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white like light.” With the cross of sunlight beaming brightly before me, I catch a glimpse of the impressive sight Jesus’s change must have been. In a sense, he pulled back the covering panels of his human form and let the glory radiate through.

A little later we sing the lines:

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven's praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

This is what art should do in worship: lead us to a deeper contemplation of truths too great to comprehend easily. But this conceptual cross is a challenge for some – even in a church so committed to art that they have a gallery with rotating exhibits on two of their walls. (What a wonderful thing to find in a church!) The leaders have recently added a more traditional cross to satisfy the wishes of some for a more recognizable symbol.

I move forward after the service to photograph the light. And amazingly, my camera reveals a second glowing cross, indiscernible to my unaided eye. I’m sure it’s just an interaction with the lens, but as I am positioning it in the frame, the father of the artist who made the wood panels approaches from behind and comments on it. We agree that it makes the light seem alive in the space. Present among us. Engaging with us.

What a glorious tribute to what the cross has accomplished for us.

Jesus, we need to catch glimpses of your glory. Forgive us for how easily we lose track of your true greatness. I thank you, Lord, for those who craft the symbols and images and words that aid us in our worship. Inspire them like you did the creator of this simple, yet glorious, cross. Come shine into our souls your life-giving light.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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