Sunday, September 6, 2020

Philippians 1.21-30: Suffering

For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well--since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-30) It may be hard for us to reason our way to suffering as a privilege, even suffering for Jesus. So what happens if we turn the equation. If someone is suffering for Jesus, is Jesus not suffering with them? And if you are the cause of someone's suffering, then as sure as you make someone else suffer, you are making Jesus suffer. 

That was the reminder in the stained glass window called the Wales Window, given to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, in 1965. Following the 1963 bombing of the church and the deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair and Carole Robertson, stained glass artist John Petts felt called to respond.
John Petts. Wales Window of Alabama. 1964. 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL.
His work shows a Black Christ figure, arms outstretched, superimposed over a cross. Above his head is a rainbow representing racial equality. At the bottom of the window is a paraphrase of Matthew 25:40 saying that what you did for the "least of these" you did it for Christ. The change in voice here reminds those who see the window that the bombing and killing were done not just to the building and congregation of 16th Street Baptist Church, the bombing and killing were also done to Jesus. The text on the window says "You do it to me." 

The window was the gift of the people of Wales to the congregation. Small donations were collected from across Wales so that the window would truly be a gift from the whole of the Welsh people. 

For the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, click here.

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