Hey, you a Lutheran?" A woman's voice quickly turned Matthew Bolz-Weber from his workout at a health club. He was found out. Bolz-Weber is a marked man.
A pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Longmont, Colo., he is not only sealed by the Spirit in baptism but marked by the seal of Martin — Luther, that is.
He's not alone. In October the five-member youth staff at Red Hill Lutheran Church, Tustin, Calif., dropped by Sid's Tattoo Parlor, which bills itself as a Christian shop, to have Luther's seal tatooed on their arms to symbolize their faith and friendship.
If it's been a long time since confirmation, the seal expresses Luther's faith: The black cross of Christ's loving sacrifice for sinners emblazoned on a red heart (believers' faith) lies over a white rose (joy, consolation and peace; also angels and blessed spirits). All this is affixed on a blue sky (hope of heaven), surrounded by a gold ring (eternal life).
Bolz-Weber's tattoo was a belated ordination gift to himself. "I wanted to have a visible expression of who I am and the faith I carry," he said.
The congregation, young and old, responded positively, he said. Symbols and ritual are important to the youth he serves because "they give meaning and shape reality and help order your world," he added.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers