Genesis 15: 1-6
Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
St. Luke 12: 32-40
“The White Rose”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Of all the common events that the regular American experiences throughout their lives, the one that generally brings the greatest joy and happiness is the day we are wedded with our beloved wife or husband. On this day there is much mirth as vows are given, and holy matrimony is blessed upon the two now united. Cheers are lifted high as friends and family give their support and pray for God to continually bless these two and to be their rock as they, as one flesh, journey forth.
Usually there is singing, much fanfare, a lot of fancy clothing, sometimes communion, and in particular a predominantly popular color scheme: white. Usually the bride is dressed in pure white, and, as for the floral arrangement, there is present white roses. In fact white roses are known to be the most commonly used flower in weddings, and for obvious reasons. For the white rose in weddings represents loyalty, purity, and innocence. All qualities a spouse would desire in themselves and in the other. To be loyal to each other, pure in love toward each other, and innocent of all that might harm the union. This is what’s generally implied when white roses are present at a wedding, but with regards to the holy union between the Church and her bridegroom Jesus Christ, much more is implied.
Two weeks ago I started the first of five sermons reflecting on the Luther Rose of which is the symbol of the Lutheran Church. Once again I profess that this symbol is just a mere symbol that we don’t need to tie ourselves done with, but to those who willingly use the symbol, such as myself, when asked what is this symbol, a good response is to explain what each part means. By explaining each of the five parts of the Luther Rose you will likewise explain your faith, providing a testimony of what you believe.
Now at the center of this symbol is the black cross, which is the absolute center of our entire faith and of which without it our faith is meaningless but through it all of our sins have been taken. This black cross is nested in the center of our hearts and as such it takes on our sinfulness thus bringing new life to our once dead hearts, changing it to a vibrant red. And this red heart changed through the black heart, where does it rest? Why in a five pointed white rose.
Though I will go over this in much more length when I refer to the gold ring, the fifth element of the Luther Rose, I will briefly allude to it via the white rose for we the church and Jesus Christ are already wedded to each other, with Christ as our head and we
the wife. And if any symbol short of wedding rings can represent this union it would be the white rose, though instead of us approaching Christ the bridegroom with white roses in our hands, Christ comes to us like a gentleman, going down on one knee and presenting to us his banquet of white roses; for in this relationship it is Christ who is pure, innocent, and loyal. And it is He who
completely gave himself up for our sake so that through Him and this wedding we would be redressed in sparkling white clothes.
You see this purity, this white shimmer void of any blemish, is not a quality that comes from us, for none of us are pure. This white color is rather associated with God and all his angels. Throughout scripture, whenever the angels who appear before mankind are described, their clothing is always white. On the day of our Lord’s resurrection an angel appeared before the Mary’s to roll the stone away. Matthew 28:3, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” And according to John 20:12, when Mary looked into the tomb, “she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” And as for Jesus, when He was transfigured, Matthew 17:2 describes how his, “clothes became white as light,” in Mark 9:3, “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them,” and in Luke 9:29, “His clothes became dazzling white.”
The color white has always been associated with purity, and from a scriptural point of view the only ones who are pure are God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all the heavenly forces that serve God. They alone are pure.
Now while Christ does continually purify us from sin via the cross, there is much more God does for us, for the heart resting on a white rose is liken to our heart resting in the precious hands of God. His hands are gentle and kind; strong enough to carry all our struggles, and tender enough to bring nothing but peace to hearts of those who already cradle within themselves the saving
cross. To us who are saved, no longer do the hands of God appear to be angry and filled with righteous indignation, but instead appear to be filled with mercy, grace, and love. Rest
assured that in the caress of his arms, no harm will come our way as his warmth alone He provides for us while also shielding us from the cold merciless venom of the Serpent.
Now a short thought I had, usually when someone talks about roses they usually also bring up thorns. Though there are no thorns in this symbol, if we were to factor in thorns, realizing that the white rose is akin to the gentle embrace of God, then the thorns would not be directed at us but instead be a thorn in the side of the Devil.
But there is one thing that Luther mentioned regarding this element of the Lutheran symbol, “Such a heart is to be in the midst of a white rose, to symbolize that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In a word, it places the believer into a white joyful rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy as the world gives.” As humans, we all want to eventually experience peace and joy. Sadly, we so too often look for such in all the wrong places. Maybe we search for such by avoiding conflict or using substances. Likewise many humans, in their search for these two elusive things, peace and joy, have devised shadows of such. Whether philosophy, sociology, psychology, politics, fake religions, we keep on creating for ourselves shadows of peace and joy, but you will never find such in any of these manmade devices. But what if I said peace and joy are actually not as allusive as we think they are? What if they are only allusive
because we chase after fake images of such? What if peace and joy has always been readily available for us?
Jesus in John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.” Thus it is not faith
in of itself that produces peace and joy, but God who produces peace and joy of which we receive through faith in God. As oppose to the shadowy peace and joy which the world gives, the peace and joy we receive from God is pure and without sin. It comes without any thorns or gotcha clauses. It is a free gift of which God the Father wishes to provide for all his children, and of which God the Son wish to present as a wedding gift to the bride he gave his very life to save.
And before anyone claims that faith is a requirement thus negating the free attribute of this gift, if we do not have faith in God would we not push away his freely given gifts to chase after shadows of things produced by the world? Without faith, we push God and his gifts away. Without faith, we will never attend our own wedding but run after jerks who care not for us. It is because of faith that we take the leap necessary to grasp the freely given gifts which the bridegroom, our Savior Jesus Christ is truly trying to provide for us. He wants us to be at peace, and wants us dearly to experience true joy, a joy that is not tied down by sin and the shame attached to sin. He wishes to set us free, by taking on our sins and all its guilt and shame.
And before I conclude, a quick note on the five pointed aspect of the rose, though this in of itself can be a five sermon
series. The five points represents the five Solas of Lutheranism, solas meaning “alone”: Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, and Glory to God Alone. Basically, “Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” A neat, short, and concise statement found on the Concordia University of Texas website.
So in the end what can we glimpse from this element of the Luther Rose, the white rose? That as Christians, we place our faith not in ourselves but in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is pure and is to us the source of true peace and joy.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, as you present to us your gifts of peace and joy, coming to us in all purity, help us to not seek out for alternatives but to willingly receive your gracious gifts. In your holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.