From the Desk of Pastor Ken
As we enter the season of Lent, it’s good to talk about the symbols that color our churches during the season and what they mean. You see, over the years, colors have taken on meaning. This is true around the world, both inside and outside the church. What do you think of when I say “gold”? Perhaps it is wealth or royalty. How about “green”? Perhaps it is the environment or plants.
That’s how color works for us. Color fuels our imagination. They set a mood. The church uses colors to do exactly that. And colors take us through what is called the church year. During Lent, purple points to our unworthiness before God, the King of kings. It is a color of repentance, confessing our sins to God and standing in awe of Jesus as He suffered and died for us.
What are some other colors of the church year and what do they mean? As I cover the colors, let me describe a bit of the flow of the church year. Unlike a calendar year, the church year begins with the season of Advent, four weeks before Christmas. The color is blue. Blue symbolizes hope and anticipation. It helps us remember what we’re waiting and hoping for to come. At the same time the color blue sometimes is used to talk about feeling down; the idea that maybe something important is missing and you feel blue. But God sent us the promised Messiah in the babe of Bethlehem. That’s the idea. Colors express feelings and ideas as well. And it’s important for us to say that the church has always appropriated the fullness of the arts and of music all as a part of its witness to the beauty of God’s message of hope for the world in Jesus Christ.
So the colors mark seasons, emotions, feelings, ideas. I’m not sure what kind of church we would be if there wasn’t beautiful music, beautiful art, stain glass windows that glow with the message of the Gospel, and the colors that surround us as we hear the Word of God, celebrate it, receive Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God’s gifts do make the world a more beautiful place, so we have some color to celebrate that fact, and that brings us back now to the season of Lent.
Lent is the color purple, a time of repentance and self-examination as believers prepare for the coming Passion of Jesus who suffered and died for our sins. It’s a time when the church thinks long and hard about life, its purposes, and the Lord who came to bring that life to us abundantly as the suffering Servant for all. In that sense, Lent is preparing us for Easter, and the season of Easter is represented by the color white.
Lenten preparation gives way to God’s Easter victory, the celebration of the risen Christ, who conquered death and offers His life to us all. So you will see white and maybe gold during Easter symbolizing the majesty of our victorious Savior over sin, death, and the devil. So the flow of the church year is trying to cover the life of Jesus and marking it with appropriate colors that convey anticipation and fulfillment.
That is why the first half of the church year is called “the time of Christ.” It proclaims the life of Christ from the prediction of His coming through His birth. It teaches about His ministry and miracles. It walks with Jesus in His suffering, death on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave. Then it tells of His promise to return and His ascension into heaven. After that, the color changes from white to red on Pentecost Day!
For red symbolizes the fire and power of the Holy Spirit for the mission of the church. Jesus ascended visible into heaven so that He could be everywhere invisibly through His church by the power of the Spirit. Pentecost Day is the day of the New Testament Church being born. It’s also the beginning of the second half of the church year called “the time of the Church.”
And that’s when the color green takes over because it’s time to get to work in the life we’ve been given to live! But, even before that, there is one Sunday all decked out in white, called the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. For as we begin the season of the Church, we are reminded of the God of the Bible, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, the One who makes all of this life and mission possible! These colors help us to remember God’s goodness for us in Christ and they serve as a way of reminding us to show our colors as a follower of Christ and to let our light (colors) shine before others, that they may see your good works (true colors) and give glory to our Father in heaven! (Matthew 5:16)