Mention the word “rooster,” and our mind goes directly to the barnyard. The word brings to mind images of red barns, chicken coops, and clucking hens. We see all sorts of weather vanes on rooftops (my father-in-law who is a carpenter has one of a large saw), but the original weather vane, as we know, is that of a rooster. The weathervane is actually referred to as a weathercock.
The first weathervanes took the form of Triton, the Greek god of the sea. When the Roman Empire became Christian, Christians didn’t feel that it was appropriate any longer to have a Greek god on their roof. They replaced it with a rooster. “A rooster?” you ask. “Why a rooster?” While we associate the rooster with the barnyard, these first Christians understood it as a Christian symbol.
First, a rooster played a part in the story of Jesus’ own passion and death. When Peter said that he would never deny Christ Jesus spoke to him and said, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” Mark 14:30 St. Peter, in weakness, denied Christ, and yet, by God’s grace was called to leave behind his treason and to believe in the work of Christ’s redemption. The rooster reminds us that Christ welcomes all who have doubted and denied Him.
Second, as roosters crow before dawn, so Jesus rose from the dead, “very early in the morning.” Mark 16:2 The rooster reminds us that as Christians we are not children of darkness, hiding in the shadows of death and sin. The gloom of night has been scattered by Jesus death and resurrection. The rooster reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus. As the rooster awaits the coming of the new day, so we await our new day in Christ.
Finally, because the rooster is the first animal to call out the dawn of a new day, roosters were a reminder of vigilance. Jesus used the example of the rooster when He said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning … ” Mark 13:35 Christians saw the alert rooster as an image to be emulated. As the rooster watched for the morning, so all Christians were to watch for the Lord who would one day suddenly return to judge the living and the dead.
Because of these reasons, rooster weather vanes made their appearance even on church steeples! It seemed to Christians that there would be no better symbol than a rooster for the top of their churches. We think of rooster weathervanes as something for the barnyard, and yet we have evidence of roosters on churches going back even as far as 820 AD! If you are counting, that’s nearly twelve hundred years of roosters!
I first heard stories about rooftop roosters several years ago as I watched a mission video about Lutheran churches in Eastern Europe. In a conversation with Tammy Feider, however, she alerted me to a rooster in our own neighborhood, a rooster that I wouldn’t have to travel half-a-world away to see! Pass by St. Peter Evangelical Church on Highway FF in Elkhart Lake and look up high on top of the steeple, and you will see … a true weathercock rooster! It might seem to be the LAST place you would see a rooster, and yet, understanding its history, now you know why!
“You mean a rooster is a Christian symbol?” my friend Stephen said to me last week. “I don’t think that I will ever quite look at my rooster weather-vane in the same way again!” he said.
And that’s in some reason why a rooster is coming to a window near you, a window in the chapel vestibule to be exact (the room between the church and the chapel). The design has been chosen by the David Fischer family as a remembrance of his love of farming and the family farm. It will also serve as a tribute to the farming history of our congregation and community. Finally, our rooster will serve as a warning to unrepentant sinners and an encouragement to the faithful. As the rooster looks out and calls to the sky may we be reminded to look to the sky as we see the Day approaching. Christ is returning. A new day is dawning. Let us be given, therefore, to repentance and faith. Come to think of it, the church is God’s little rooster too. As we call forth the message of repentance to a sinful world, may God bless this window, our little rooster, and all who view it!
Matthew 26:75 — “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”