A Sermon in Stone and Glass by Glenn Henricksen
The Reredos* at Calvary Presbyterian Church Newburgh, New York
*A reredos is a large altarpiece, a screen, or decoration placed behind the altar in a church. It often includes religious images. (Wikipedia)
We will start at the bottom and work our way up. The reredos is dedicated:
In loving memory of Eliza Raynor Wife of J. Adriance Bush. Died 30th January A.D. 1884 in the 27th year.
16 years after the building of the church, a 26-year-old wife died, perhaps in childbirth.
The next step up is a collection of symbols:
In the middle is an interesting combination cross. It is a Greek cross (horizontal and vertical same size) with a Celtic cross circle surrounding the middle. The right and left symbols are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They are there as a reflection of Jesus’ greatness when in Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” The flowers are symbolic of Jesus. Among the symbolic plants are the rose, passion flower, iris, carnation, and myrtle. I think one is a rose but it will take a better horticulturist than I to correctly identify them!
Just above that is a decorative line of plants acting as a separation from what is above:
Immediately above are depictions of what is perhaps the strongest challenge to the worshiper. They are two angels, one holding a trumpet with the Latin VITA (life) written under her and the other an angel holding a scythe with the Latin MORS (death) written under her.
These angels are an expression of the challenge Moses gave in his great sermon where he said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days ….” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Now we move on to the great stained glass window, the window of worship..
In the large central window we have the story of Martha and Mary when Martha has busied herself with many domestic tasks and Mary, her sister, has positioned herself at Jesus’ feet, listening to what he has to say. Martha complains that she needs help to which Jesus replies, “”Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) The window challenges us to focus on the centrality worship, particularly while at chur
Now we move on to the smaller windows surrounding the large central one. These windows depict angels expressing various aspects of worship. We will start at the top and work to the left, counterclockwise.
The angel at the top is holding a crown. It denotes the kingship of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 21:5 Jesus is described as the king entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday. It is fulfillment of the Zechariah 9:9 prophecy. Revelation 19:16 speaks of him as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Words contained in the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah and referred to in the hymn “Crown him with many crowns, The lamb upon His throne.”
The next down on the left is worship with music (zither?)
Next down recognition of Jesus as Alpha and Omega
Bottom angel worship palms for Palm Sunday
Starting up on the right recognition of Jesus as the Word of God (John 1)
And finally top right Jesus worshiped with music, a violin
I do hope you have enjoyed this tour and increased your understanding and appreciation of this Sermon in Stone and Glass. The memorial to a young woman who died some 140 years ago still deepens our worship of the King of Kings. The window challenges us to focus on the centrality of worship, particularly while at church.