Our Quest for Faithful Presence

Dear St Luke’s,

Given the letter that our Board of Trustees sent out this week regarding the alarming state of our beautiful Rose window, I thought I’d explore a little bit of the story behind the window. 

Our Rose Window (right) draws its inspiration – in part – from Luther’s Rose, (left). It’s so in keeping with the spirit and practice of St Luke’s that our forbearers at didn’t simply duplicate Luther’s Rose but sought to create a window simultaneously holding past while contextualizing it for today.  This is part of the ongoing work of discernment for all communities seeking to faithfully follow in the Way of Jesus.  To wisely attend to the past, and to follow the Spirit of God in to faithful expressions for our time and place. 

Consider the two images, what do you notice? 

As I’m coming to understand it, Martin Luther set out to create a symbol representing what he understood as the core elements of Christianity; this was way back in 1516.  A few years later Luther wrote to a friend describing why he choose the elements of his rose.  This is an excerpt from a letter Luther sent to friend, artist, and hymn writer Lazarus Spengler, on July 8th, 1530:

Honorable, kind, dear Sir and Friend!

Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. “For one who believes from the heart will be justified” (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified.

Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12).

Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed.

And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation.

May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.

[Martin Luther]

I’d guess that if you were to take on the creative task of visually summarizing your theology and spirituality it wouldn’t look exactly like either of these.  What elements might you include, and how might you arrangement them? 

By the Way – If you didn’t receive a letter from St Luke’s this week, please send our office an email with a directory update, and you can follow this link a digital version of the Board’s letter.  Simply put, the structural integrity of the window’s frame is comprised.  The rose window is bowing inward and in need of immediate repair. We are very grateful to have discovered this problem before the window failed.

This Sunday, immediately following our worship gathering, our Board will host a Community Forum to discuss our rose window, to talk about the restoration plan, timeline, and engage questions, concerns or opportunities.

And as also, remember friend, you are loved, and you are not alone.

Peace, dwight