The rose was a symbol of the last Great Reformation, which we most often associate with Martin Luther and the posting of the 95 Theses and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In Luther’s seal the predominant image that gives form to the overall seal is that of a rose. A rose was often worn as a mark to identify oneself as an adherent to the reformation in those early days of the conflict that would come to dominate the shape of the next 500 years of Christianity. Protestant and Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Episcopal, Baptist and every other heritage of the Western Church found themselves reshaping their practices and life together in the midst of the impact of the Great Reformation of the Church.
It should go without saying that the world has changed dramatically in the last 500 years, that many of the questions of the reformation are not the questions of a society that is predominantly visual and digital rather than oral, a society that went through the enlightenment, capitalism and communism, modernity and post-modernity, from a printing press to the iPad. The world is in a state of rapid transition and along with it the lives of those who attempt to live faithfully also are in a state of upheaval. This is not the first time this has happened, nor will it probably be the last. Phyllis Tickle in her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why points to the reality that about once every 500 years society goes through a ‘rummage sale’ and re-examines what it believes and why it believes what it does. I agree that we are in the lead up to another Great Emergence, that who we are as people and what matters is going through a period of upheaval and re-evaluation. For me this is a place to put down some of my early reflections on what I as a reflective person of faith see, and my initial thoughts on what it means.
So why the sign of the rose? In the first case these reflections are sub rosa (under the rose) in the sense that they are the musings of an heir of the last Great Reformation, as an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) minister I take very seriously the gift that my particular and the worldwide church has given us throughout the past 500 years, and indeed I am an heir to the church’s roughly 2,000 years of both great triumphs and colossal missteps. This is a voice on the emergence of a new reformation coming from under the faithful services of one shaped by the history of the past reformation. It is also sub rosa in a second sense, it is somewhat covert at this point. In espionage there is the sense that something done sub rosa is covert, and these reflections may well be viewed by some as dangerous, unfaithful, heretical and any number of other adjectives. But in a time of great change, there is and will be conflict over the ideas that take form and shape the world going forward.
The questions of meaning, of God, of life are not solely the property of the church, in fact I have found in recent years that some of my best conversations have been with people outside the church and people of other faiths. I have certainly seen the church and people of faith struggle to engage difficult (and sometimes even trivial questions) and I am going to tackle some foundations that may be very uncomfortable to many, but may be liberating for many others. As a blog this is a work in evolution, it is asking the difficult questions, not attempting to provide the one unequivocal answer (as if such a thing could exist in post-modern mind). The reality is that if you agree with everything I say, you probably are giving me too much credit. Welcome to an encounter with one person’s reflective faith and encounter with the world and with God.
Looks good, Neil! I look forward to reading more.