Isaiah 66: 18-23
Hebrews 12: 18-24
St. Luke 13: 22-30
“The Gold Ring”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
For the last four weeks I have been providing sermons on the Luther Rose, a symbol that Lutherans are not restricted nor required to use but is nevertheless a very helpful symbol with regards to explaining our faith. As scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. For the sake of preserving our faith and serving as a witness to what God has done in our lives for the sake of those who may not know God, we are to always be at the ready with an apology, i.e. a defense. Yet, some of us can get caught off guard easily or in some way may need assistance in the defense we provide. This is where the symbol becomes an adequate tool to help us organize our thoughts and provide proper apologetics.
As a quick summary, what I have said thus far can be wrapped up quite neatly as such. Starting from the center, the absolute core of our entire faith, of our theology, of our very being as Christians saved through the precious blood of Christ, is the Cross. The Cross is the center of all history, the culmination of all things, and the salvation of all things. It is through the Cross alone that we are saved, and thus in all things we always reflect back towards the Cross.
Now this Cross is black because it is taking on the sins that originally rested in our hearts. This Black Cross is properly seated at the center of our hearts which at one point was completely subject to sin but through the Cross, which takes on our sins, are brought back to life and recover a healthy natural red glow. The Cross doesn’t kill, but brings us to life.
Now this living red heart, with the cross as its core, is rested willingly so in a white rose which can be best described as the wonderful gentle arms of God. God wants us to be at peace and filled with joy, and he desires to give this gift to us freely. As sinners we turn away from God’s gift, but as Christians, saved by Christ, in faith we willingly take on these precious gifts knowing that God is with us and no matter what the world flings our way we are at peace and filled with holy joy.
The rose also has five points which represents the five Solas of the Christian faith: Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Glory to God alone. Describing such though is for a different time.
Resting in the background of this symbol, between the rose and the ring, is the blue sky which represents the gift of heaven which has been promised to us though not presently received. We as Christians have a holy inheritance that we can choose to ignore but so long as we have faith will never be withheld from us. We know that this unconditional gift is ours and we have no concerns or doubt over whether or not we sons and daughters of God the Father will receive it; thus this gift is in the background as our faith in this guaranteed gift allows us to focus more so on the noisy parts of the symbol, i.e. the cross, heart, rose, and, finally the last part, the gold ring.
Now this ring has multiple meanings, but two of which I will focus on: its allusion to weddings, and to the perfection of God’s gift of heaven. The first, I alluded to while describing the white rose, for of all plants the most common during a wedding is the white rose. But as for symbols in general, what is the most common symbol for weddings if not the common golden ring? Of all the material things present during a wedding, the one that is at the core of a wedding is the ring. During a wedding there are three things that are traditionally observed and lauded as the highlight of a wedding: the vows, the rings, and the kiss. Of these three only the rings have a material presence that remains present as a constant physical reminder that you are in union with someone else. It also serves as a symbol to others that you are already taken. You heard of the term wedding band; well, that is exactly what the rings represent for through your holy matrimony, under the eyes of God, the two our bound to each other forever not as two fleshes but as one flesh. And what God binds together, no human can separate. You are truly, spiritually bound, and this ring that you wear on your aptly named ring finger is a reminder of this absolute truth.
Now weddings are only between one man and one woman, or one bride and one groom, and as Christians we as a whole and not as individuals are already wedded to someone; for the Church is the bride and Christ the groom. The gold ring of our Luther Rose represents the most holy of heavenly matrimonies for it refers to the most amazing wedding feast held for Christ and his bride the Church. As the husband in this relationship, Christ is the head of this most holy household, of who makes all the rules and of whom we the Church, as the wife in this relationship, lovingly submit to. But also as the husband, Christ gives Himself completely for the sake of protecting and glorifying us. He died to make us holy. He is alive to protect us from the fiery darts of the Devil. Just like how a husband should protect the honor of their wife, Christ protects our honor by taking on our sins, suffering for our sake, and then presenting us as sinless to the Father. And because Christ does all this for our sake, we the Church submit all authority to Him. Christ is all good and there is no fear from us that He would use His authority in an evil way, therefore we the Church are comfortable with glorifying God the Son, denying ourselves, and letting Christ be to us our Heavenly King.
And through Communion, the union with Christ is even more obvious for in Communion we abide in Christ and Christ in us. Communion is also called a foretaste of the feast to come, which is the great and amazing wedding feast in heaven above. Through Communion we are constantly reminded of the holy wedding vow exchanged between Christ and His bride the Church, as well as the holy wedding feast in heaven.
Now what better color to represent this union than gold, the color of perfection? Gold is traditionally the most precious of metals. As for simple weddings, the gold of our rings represents the presence of God is truly the one unifying the flesh of the man and woman, but it also signifies the complete perfection of this union of which no one but God can separate. Weddings are ceremonies that create perfect bindings. Now as to the most holy of weddings, Christ and the Church, this binding is likewise perfect but perfect in every way.
As to the other meaning behind the gold ring, the color takes more precedent than the ring, for the gold ring is also an allusion to a particular attribute of the holy gift of Heaven provided for us. For just as gold is the most precious of metals and a symbol of perfection, the eternal bliss of heaven is perfect and the most precious gift that God can ever give to us. It is made even more precious to us Christians because this gift was given to us freely, unconditionally, on no account of our actions but wholly on account of Christ’s. Whereas peace and joy are precious gifts given to us by God, whereas the other Fruits of the Spirit are precious gifts given to by God, whereas salvation is most definitely a precious gift, none of these are the most precious gift.
For heaven is more precious than love, joy, hope, peace, even salvation. It is eternal bliss with God and all the other saints. It is living, truly living, for all eternity without sin or harm or concern. No illness, no death, no troubling thoughts are present in heaven. Whereas without salvation there is no hope for us to enter into heaven, that doesn’t make salvation more precious than heaven. The thing is heaven was always the end goal. To God, with regards to His most amazing creation, eternal sinlessness was God’s highest desire and end goal. And through the Cross, this gift was finally made readily available.
God wants to give us this gift. He wants us all to be in heaven, but because of sin we could not readily receive it. This most precious gift was unattainable on account of our sinfulness. But Christ died on the Cross to take away the one thing that was holding us back; to free us from the chains of sinfulness. He took away that condition of sinlessness by making us sinless through His selfless death. He took it away, and as such there are no conditions that need to be met on our account for God to graciously provide for us the most precious gift. Christ already died on the Cross for all sins, He just asks that you trust in Him and thus willingly allow Him to take away your sins so that you will unconditionally receive Heaven.
Isn’t it wonderful? Because of our union with Christ who died for our sake, we are guaranteed by faith alone, and on no account of who we are or what we’ve done, to receive the absolute most precious thing that can ever be. All I can say in response is what wondrous love is this!
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, because of the sacrifice of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we have become heirs of the most precious gift that can be provided, to walk eternity in complete and perfect bliss. We glorify you who have made available for us all this most amazing gift, and ask that through the aid of the Holy Spirit that others may know of this gift and receive likewise. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.