A crest on a stone
May 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
Yesterday, I had the privilege of presiding over a time of remembrance and prayer with family and friends at the dedication of a memorial marker for Michael Schroeder, who left this world for the face-to-face presence of God on March 12, 2012. Michael’s wife Lisa commissioned a beautiful marker (below) to provide their sons, Kyle, Blake and Derek, a means of teaching, as God wills, their children of their grandfather’s faith in the promise of God. Here is what I shared.
The practice of setting up memorials has strong biblical precedent. At several important junctures in Israel’s history God directed his people to commemorate an event by the setting up of stones—stones that call the people to remember God’s faithfulness.
One such occasion is recorded in Joshua 4, when the Israelites at last cross the Jordan River into the land promised to Abraham. The crossing was by God’s power, because the river, which was at flood stage, was halted in its course so that Israel could cross on dry land. After the crossing one man from each of the 12 tribes was to take a stone from the dry bed of the Jordan for setting up of memorial at Gilgal, east of the Jordan.
The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:19-24, emphasis added)
Symbols are important pointers to greater realities; they draw our attention to the substance of what we as God’s people possess now by faith. Memorials, then, are important because they do more than call us to remember an event; by design they mean something, teaching by symbols that “the hand of the LORD is mighty.”
Lisa wanted a memorial that took into consideration the charge of the Psalmist:…things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments… (Psalm 78:3-7)
As Lisa considered what kind of memorial would be placed here for Michael, she thought of these very things, looking for something that would point to the greater reality of Michael’s faith. In God’s providence, through an issue of Tabletalk, Lisa discovered the crest known as the “Luther Rose.” Given its specific symbolism of the Gospel message, it seemed a perfect memorial.
Martin Luther was a champion of providing the Scriptures for common people, and he yearned to communicate the Gospel and teach both the illiterate and the distressed rich theological truth. He personally designed and commissioned this crest as a visual proclamation of the call to faith and perseverance in Christ. In a July 8, 1530 letter, Luther interpreted his symbols:
First, there should be a black cross set in a heart, which should keep its natural colour. This will remind me that faith in the Crucified saves us. Because: “If you believe in your heart, you will be justified.”
Now, although the cross is black, mortified, and intended to cause pain, yet it does not tend to change the colour of the heart, does not destroy nature, i.e., does not kill, but keeps alive. “For the just shall live by faith,” – by faith in the Saviour.
But this heart is fixed upon the center of a white rose, to show that faith causes joy, consolation and peace. The rose is white, not red, because white is the ideal colour of all angels and blessed spirits.
The rose, moreover, is fixed on a sky-coloured ground, to denote that such joy of faith in the spirit is but an earnest yearning and beginning of heavenly joy to come, as anticipated and held by hope, though not yet revealed.
And around this…is a golden ring, to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless, and more precious than all joys and treasures, since gold is the best and most treasured metal. Christ, our dear Lord, He will give us grace unto eternal life.
The Gospel and all of its riches—the promise of the forgiveness of sin and the giving of Christ’s righteousness, the presence of the Holy Spirit’s comfort, the power both of new creation transformation now and of the blessedness of the age to come—practically exploded in Michael’s life when God drew him into the doctrines of his grace, renewing his mind and heart. What better symbol than this rose to communicate the power of God unto salvation for all who believe?
Kyle, Blake and Derek, if and when in his providence God gives you children and you bring them here, this marker will allow you to answer for them the question, “What does this stone mean?” Truly, it allows your father to continue to teach—to proclaim “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” through the grace of the Gospel in your father’s life and even in his death as he stepped from time into eternity by the Gospel’s sure promise. As you have opportunity to explain what this marker means, remember that this cross, heart, rose, expanse and circle bear witness to all of God’s gracious providence in your lives, to people who have poured their own lives into your own ultimately because of your father’s burning desire to grow in and proclaim God’s glory.Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. AMEN!