Not Just for (Roman) Catholics

Part 1

January 2018

Concerning church regulations made by human beings, it is taught to keep those that may be kept without sin and that serve to maintain peace and good order in the church, such as specific celebrations, festivals, etc. However, people are also instructed not to burden consciences with them as if such things were necessary for salvation. (Augsburg Confession XV)

It is no secret that I personally enjoy making use of as many humanly devised church traditions as I can in order to enhance teaching, preaching, and worship. I like all the “smells and bells” as they say. It is my hope that using some of these things has been helpful for the building of your faith and understanding. My articles for the next few months will cover some practices that are too cool to be limited only to Rome.

The Sign of the Cross

Also known as “crossing yourself.” Tertullian mentions the practice of tracing the cross on ones forehead as early as the year 200. Later variations led to the current practice of tracing a cross over the upper body.

As with many other traditions, Lutherans never rejected the sign of the cross. In fact, Luther encourages its use in the Small Catechism, instructing us when we pray to “make the sign of the holy cross and say: ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’” It is a way for us to remember and confess who we are. In baptism, the cross was traced on us as we were buried with Christ (Rom 6:4).

The sign of the cross is traditionally made at times of prayer, and especially when the name of the Trinity is used in worship. Certain points in the service are marked with this T symbol where it is suggested to cross oneself. Teaching the sign of the cross can even be a fun way to keep children active and attentive in church. This baptismal reminder is made even stronger by dipping ones fingers in water before making the sign.

As with anything not commanded in Scripture, whether or not you make the sign of the cross should not be a burden to your conscience. We are free to use it or not.


See you in church,

Pastor Jon