A Public Witness

martin luther 95 theses

Sometimes what we do speaks more loudly than we intend.   That certainly is the case in the central event of our history as

Lutherans.  When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Bulletin Board of his day (the academic church door in Wittenburg) his intention was to draw the attention of a few of his colleagues for some question and answers over academic matters.   He may have hoped for some response outside his fellow instructors, but he had no way of knowing or predicting how his actions would touch off what would be known as the Reformation.

A public witness,(once made) has a way of taking on a life of its own.

In June in solidarity with Pride Month, St. James put on the flag poles Rainbow Flags as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

We are a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation, but we have largely chosen to be quietly so, being open and inviting and affirming and letting folks “stumble on to us.”

This is who we are (or more to the point, are learning how to be, as is always the case in these changing times,) but we don’t make a big deal about it.

The flags going up changed that.

We received a few calls from neighbors or passer-bys inquiring about them, and were met with all the variety of responses you might imagine.

Some were judgmental, injecting their theological position on the matter..

Some were complimentary, thanking us for making a statement to the world.

Still others, from the most unexpected quarters were calls or comments of thanks, usually accompanied by a personal story of a family member, or their own struggle with coming to terms with their sexuality and how they would be perceived and accepted.

Some wanted to know more about what we were like, how we worshipped, what they could expect if they came here on a Sunday, and what we did as a church in the community.

Here’s the thing.   Flags were not something new to St. James.  We’ve flown flags that reflected the color of the church season and liturgical year for decades.  However no one ever commented or called asking us about those flags.  They communicated nothing to the world outside our doors.

So, if you’re wondering why the flags are mixed now, always one rainbow in the midst of the other colored flags, or all rainbow again, it is for this reason.

This is our public witness.

It proclaims to the world outside our doors that here, we are talking about and living into the world as it is, with all of its variety and complexity.

It proclaims a word of welcome, (as imperfect as that might still be,) for we are all imperfect in our dealings with our fellow human beings.

The flag becomes a point of contact and conversation where we connect with the world outside our doors and have a way to engage in a meaningful conversation.

The flags have become our “let’s nail it on the church door and see what happens” kind of thing to do.

A very Lutheran kind of thing to do, if you think about it.


Pastor Merle