Have you seen this strange symbol? It’s a cross with the letters VDMA surrounding it, one letter in each quadrant. I first saw this symbol on someone’ shirt when I was visiting the seminary, and I had no idea what it meant. So I asked, and I was told: “VDMA” stands for Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum, the Latin words for “The Word of the Lord Endures Forever.”
These words became the official motto of the Lutheran Reformation, and this symbol became the first official symbol of the Reformation, even before Luther’s rose. In 1522, Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, had this symbol sewn onto the right sleeve of the official clothing worn by all members of his court, from the lowest servants to even himself. Frederick the Wise’s successors continued to use the symbol. Eventually, it became the official motto of the Smalcald League (the defensive alliance of Lutheran cities and territories). It was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as the motto of the Lutheran Reformation.
These words were carefully chosen by Frederick as the motto of the Reformation from 1 Peter 1:23-25. The apostle Peter writes, Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Why these words? These words point to the source and the goal of the Reformation. The Reformation was not finally about simply correcting certain abuses such as indulgences or purgatory. The Reformation wasn’t even finally about breaking free from the tyrannical rule of the pope. The Reformation was about the Word of the Lord. That Word’s power and authority endures forever. The words of man, like their bodies, are like the grass that withers and decays. Human traditions and doctrines of men cannot give us peace with God or confidence of salvation. Only the Word of the Lord can do that. The Word of God is finally the only word that can be spoken that will endure forever.
That’s why this is still a wonderful motto for the Church today, worth remembering and repeating: “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” It’s a word given to the church to proclaim to the world. The world today, like the world of the Reformation, rages against God’s Word. But the word of this world, though seeming to cut through the very fabric of life and death and man and woman, will finally perish with the grass and be blown away with the wind. The Lord’s Word, though only a word, moves mountains. And it will endure the siege of both the world and the devil. The Word of the Lord gives us peace which endures forever, for the Word of the Lord says “Take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”