On August 9, 2015, Redeemer Lutheran Church dedicated a coat of arms in the Divine Service. We have been using this design for a while in its digital form, and now we have installed a hand-carved wood coat of arms in our Nave. Here is a description of the symbolism and details about the piece itself:
Ecclesiastical heraldry developed in Medieval Europe and was directly related to the heraldry of the noble warrior classes. It was initially used to mark documents and as a system for identifying people and specific jurisdictions, but we suspect that it, like all heraldry, has always been both fun and a point of pride. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is very formal. Most bishops, including the Pope, have a personal coat of arms. In Lutheran churches, it is usually limited to institutions, such as schools and congregations.
The shield is a normal device for heraldry, but it takes on special significance for the Church in light of passages such as Ephesians 6:16, where St. Paul admonishes us to take up the shield of faith with which the flaming darts of the evil one are extinguished. The shield for Redeemer Lutheran Church is red to remind us that it is the blood Christ shed for us on the cross that extinguishes the enemy’s accusations. On the shield are three sections with four insignia. Three is the number of the Holy Trinity, and the three sections represent our Christian faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as confessed in the Nicene, Apostles, and Athanasian Creeds.
In the center of the shield is the Bible with the Hebrew word for “Redeemer.” The Holy Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the sole source of all our doctrine and life. Redeemer is the title especially given to our Lord Jesus Christ by Job in his great confession of the resurrection in Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” The Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. He will bring us likewise through death to Himself in heaven.
The insignia of a shell, in the top left third of the shield, represents Holy Baptism, which is the beginning of our life in Christ and which has named us as God’s own children. The burning lamp, in the top right third, represents catechesis, or instruction in the faith. The chalice in the bottom third represents the Holy Communion, which is the center of our worship; this is what Jesus has given us to do in these last days and where He promises to give His body and blood to us for the forgiveness of our sins.
The two keys crossed behind the shield represent Holy Absolution. In Matthew 16:19, Christ the Lord says to St. Peter, “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” A cross stands behind the shield, calling to mind the all-atoning sacrifice of our Lord and the instrument by which He chose to make us His people. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The draped violet stole represents the Office of the Holy Ministry, which is yoked with the responsibility of preaching, forgiving, baptizing, teaching, and distributing the gifts that God provides. Pastors are under orders and obligation to preach and teach in conformity with the Word of God. Violet is the color of repentance, and our pastors also use violet stoles when hearing confession.
In this way, the coat of arms is meant to uphold the doctrinal foundation and heritage of our congregation in Word and Sacrament and to be a symbol of how Christ provides for us in this place.
Many thanks to Meghan Schultz for her work on the graphic design of this coat of arms. We plan to use the digital design of this coat of arms for bulletins, stationary, and our website.
We also want to thank Jerry and Brenda Frese for commissioning this coat of arms to be artistically rendered in hand-carved wood, which now hangs in the nave of our church. Paul Atzenweiler served as the master craftsman, who hand carved every piece wood to fit beautifully together.
The woods selected for this piece were specifically chosen for the beauty of their natural color. In fact, there are only a few highlights of gold and black paint. The shield is African padauk wood. The shell and the dividing lines in the shield are maple. The water droplets from the shell are made of actual sea shells. The Bible is oak, and the lamp is cherry. The keys, the chalice, the inlaid crosses on the stole, and the flame on the lamp are yellow heart wood, which comes almost exclusively from Paraguay and Brazil. The stole is Brazilian purple heart wood. The crosses behind the shield are walnut and painted poplar.