Friday, June 28, 2019

A Sign and a Seal

Copyright © Edward Riojas

I still get a tad annoyed when confronted by it.

I know there’s a bit of psychology going on because, while I’ve never been a fan of the LC-MS logo, the thing is immediately recognizable. It seems to be on nearly every lapel pin, brochure, mailing, church sign, and traffic sign directing visitors to the church building down the street. The intent is that it be as recognizable as a box of Tide detergent. That can be annoying.

LC-MS logo

Ever since its unveiling in 1984, the LC-MS logo smacked of mass-marketing. It follows branding trends, and there are umpteen pages of requirements for its use, placement, and acceptable Pantone™ color schemes. It’s slick. And bland. The logo has intended meaning in the two directions of the cross arms, the triple crosses, and its twelve individual components. Visually, that’s stretching things – in reality, it’s a corporate logo with little confessional power.

The LC-MS logo greatly eclipsed a much older design – The official LC-MS seal, which was formerly used as a sort of identifier of the synod. Now the seal plays the part of a shy cousin that rarely comes out of its quiet confines.

Designed by the Reverend A.R. Kretzmann and drawn by Walter Geweke, both of Chicago, the official LC-MS seal emerged several decades after the synod’s founding. It was designed when folks wanted to say a lot in a small space. I might be old-school, but I appreciate the seal’s distinctiveness and confessional nature. Like many other symbols, however, it needs to be occasionally explained to retain any merit.

Official Seal of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

In the center of the seal, a tongue-like, blue shield represents the Christian's faith. A prominent gold cross on the shield proclaims that we preach Jesus Christ crucified. Rays emanating from the crooks of the cross make it a “Resurrection cross,” proclaiming that we also preach Christ risen from the dead. Nearby Latin words declare "Jesus Christus Dominus Est" (”Jesus Christ is Lord”), and three gold crosses symbolize the Holy Trinity. Three gold stars on the shield represent the Apostolic, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. Six gold stars on a white field stand for the six Lutheran Confessions contained in the 1580 book, "Concordia." Grape vines symbolize Christ's words in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches.” Dividing the white field are the three ‘solas’ on which Lutheranism is founded: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide (Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone). The exterior circle contains the proper [although grammatically incorrect] name of the church synod and the year it was founded – 1847.

Beneath the shield is Luther's Seal. That particular emblem is, of course, centuries old, and has never been eclipsed by either the synod’s logo or its official seal. It is a visual rallying point for a group of confessional Christians who were initially slandered as “Lutherans.” We still wear the name with distinction.

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