Like most leaders in the church during this time of pandemic, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has been working from home. Also like many of us, Bishop Eaton has been recording regular video updates, sitting on her couch, her living room decor on display in the background. I will admit that it’s hard not to critique the arrangements and accouterments of home videographers, as I imagine that others do of mine.

Luther’s Rose

It didn’t take me long to notice that hanging on the wall over the Bishop’s head was a stylized version of Martin Luther’s rose seal made out of neon. It reminded me of the beer signs I had hanging in the windows of my bar in Montana. But Bishop Eaton’s neon was never turned on in her videos. I thought this was such a delightful element for a Lutheran bishop but a missed opportunity to increase her “room rater” score.

The viral post on Twitter

Tired of watching video after video where the sign was never turned on, I shared a link to her most recent video on an ELCA clergy group Facebook page. I made the comment, “if this post gets enough likes or comments, maybe Bishop Eaton will finally turn on her neon rose.” A clergy colleague in Chicago, who’s much more active on social media, jumped on this proposal and amplified my suggestion on both Facebook and Twitter. The chatter went pretty viral, #LightTheRose started to trend and the staff at the church-wide offices took notice. They reached out to Bishop Eaton who came back with a response. It turns out, the neon sign was actually in need of repair but she agreed to have it fixed. Facebook and the Twitterverse were momentarily appeased.

Several weeks went by and the sign was noticeably absent from the wall in all of the Bishop’s video updates. The anticipation was building but the busyness of the summer and our on-going ministries took center stage. Then in early August, Bishop Eaton posted a new video update and there was the neon sign, back in its spot over her head on the wall behind her. I’ll confess to feeling some pride for having some small responsibility for making this moment happen, to the delight of the Bishop’s video audiences across the country and the world.

As we prepare to celebrate the 503rd anniversary of the Reformation this Sunday, I invite you to watch this video, learn all about Luther’s rose, and watch as Bishop Eaton flips the switch…

Being a church that is always being made new, is a wonderful gift and a source of joy. 

Peace be with you this day, Pastor Peter