Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why I make the sign on the cross.

My wife and I have taken to making the sign on the cross during various times during the divine service. For her, it's reflexive, having grown up Roman Catholic until only recently. I didn't make it to Confirmation in the RC, my parents deciding to join a non-denominational, Dispensational congregation.

Now, our church doesn't have all the trappings of a "high church" - no crucifixes, no incense, no statuary. We certainly don't go the other way either. We have both common cup and (non-disposable) individual cups (which my pastor reverently washes). I've been to individual confession. No CCM, no wandering away from the structure of the Divine service, our pastor wears vestments, etc. You get the idea. Also, no one (to my knowledge) makes the sign of the cross. I try not to look around, but you don't see that massive movement that you can't help but notice at an RC Mass.

So why do I make the sign of the cross at the risk of giving offense or possibly confusing others in the congregation? First, for my wife. Since it's reflexive for her, and since I'm convinced that it is in the realm of 'things indifferent', I do so to make the connection between how we as Lutherans practice and how the Church has practiced for centuries. Also for my children. I want to show my kids that what we do here is just as reverent as what Grandma does at her church (but with pure doctrine).

Finally, I love my baptism*. I need to remind myself constantly that what is going on in front of me, is actually for me by virtue of my baptism into Christ. I can buy that it's for the guy in front of me, but I really have to remind myself that it's for me. The Absolution (for me). The Body of our Lord (for me). The most significant part of my life in Lutheranism is the discovery of the sacraments. It amazes me anew every Sunday that Christ would condescend to give himself to us in simple bread and wine. But it's true.

I love watching baptisms, Christ's work to forgive sins applied to little people who can't contribute squat to the process. I'm excited about the prospect of bringing my son to the fount soon (if he would hurry up and be born already). I'm just glad that I could convince my wife that the tradition in the RC of dressing boys in long flowing baptismal gowns is best left to the Catholics.

* The first one. I was re-baptized by immersion during high school, but I consider my baptism as having occurred on March 11, 1979 at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest.


Blogger Devona said...

There are a few others who cross themselves, They sit in front of us. Deaconess Intern Angie did too.

It's reflexive for me as well, but I squelch it since it's been YEARS since I've been to a Mass. I should start up again...

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Pastor Dave Poedel, STS said...

Thank you for your boldness. As a Pastor who came from Rome, I was delighted to find Luther's Morning and Evening Prayer rubric to make the Sign of the Cross.

I make it largely over my body and have placed bulleting articles about what it is and what it means. Our Sunday School teacher is teaching our children, my wife (who leads the HS youth) is teaching it to them.

I now see about 1/4 of the congregation making the Sign of the Cross.

Hang in there and keep on keepin' on.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

It has been a long time now since I first heard that the sign of the cross was to be made in rememberance of one's baptism, but I love the way you say it... "I love my baptism." It's just that simple. Great stuff!

I also share with you the experience of re-baptism by immersion in a non-denominational church, but my Baptism took place before I was a month old in May 1973 at the hands of a Lutheran pastor in what would later become an ELCA congregation.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brooke teaches the little ones the sign of the cross at the opening of Sunday School. I have taught it as part of prayer in my Sunday School class. Unfortunately it's not a habit for me, so I have to be thinking about when to do it during DS, and often I miss the right moments!

Great post, BTW.

Mary B.

1:23 PM  
Blogger John H said...

I'm pretty well the only member of our congregation that makes the sign of the cross.

When I was first reading up on Lutheranism a few years back, I was very resistant to the idea of the sign of the cross, because it seemed a bit "Catholic". I then managed to persuade myself that it was a great thing for an evangelical Christian to do, only to find (upon crossing the threshold of a Lutheran church for the first time) that nobody did it!

But I've stuck with it, partly because I'm so grateful for the evangelical freedom to make the sign of the cross, bow one's head etc., after years of having to suppress such things in "conservative evangelical" Anglican churches.

Much the same process happened with individual confession, but I must admit that I've been happier to go with the flow (or lack of flow!) on that one...

(PS - baptised in an RC church? Snap!)

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Rev. Ross said...

I'm the pastor, and I have been crossing myself for quite a few years. I talk about it once in a while, but I don't push it. The main thing seems to be that I set an example. Others are doing it, too, some boldly and some hesitantly; but nobody seems to be offended at these strange goings-on, for which I am grateful. I hope the trend will grow.

1:49 PM  

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