Make the sign of the cross show all the world how our true life was won

I make the sign of the cross while saying, “In the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, Amen!” There are people who will think, if not even say “that’s Catholic!” In a way indicating that it’s not appropriate for a Lutheran pastor. Well nothing could be further from the truth! ”

In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. (“Prayers for Daily Use,” The Small Catechism, An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism [Mankato, Minnesota: Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2001], p. 26)

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall

say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. (“Prayers for Daily Use,” The Small Catechism, An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism [Mankato, Minnesota: Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2001], p. 26)

To defy the devil, I say, we should always keep the holy name upon our lips so that he may not be able to harm us as he would like to do. For this purpose it also helps to form the habit of commending ourselves each day to God – our soul and body, spouse, children, servants, and all that we have – for his protection against every conceivable need. This is why the Benedicite, the Gratias, and other evening and morning blessings were also introduced and have continued among us. From the same source comes the custom learned in childhood of making the sign of the cross when something dreadful or frightening is seen or heard, and saying, “Lord God, save me!” or, “Help, dear Lord Christ!” and the like. (Large Catechism I:72-74, The Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000], pp. 395-96) (http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.signofthecross.html)

Making the sign of the cross is entirely appropriate for a Christian, any Christian, reminding us of what the Cross is about and Who it is about. I do get it, for many making the sign of the cross is simply a superstitious act “…just let me get a hit…”, “I don’t know, but whatever it takes right now…” Yet Luther was entirely about constant reminding of the cross and what it’s about.

Todd Hains, writing in Bible Study Magazine (June 2018 p 11) this is his link in “LinkedIn” ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/toddrhains/) I am going to quote the article extensively, because it is really good, just as it should be explained.

“With the sign of the cross we trample death.” The church fathers loved to point this out  – especially the fourth-century Egyptian bishop Athanasius. In On the Incarnation he mentions the might of this sign eight times.”

“Athanasius and the fathers were riffing on Colossians 2:15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (NIV)

“Here Paul depicts Christ’s victory over Satan and his minions with the imagery of a Roman military parade called ‘the triumph’. During these parades, soldiers would march the spoils of their victory through the streets of Rome. By triumphing over his enemies with his cross., Christ mocks them with the very weapon they tried to murder him with…”

“God’s enemies thought they were merely killing a man. But as God, Jesus is Life itself. “Since he was not able to die”, Athanasius wrote, ‘he took to himself a body able to die,’ But Jesus was no mere man. In trying to swallow Life, death destroyed itself.”

“Athanasius vividly describes the brawl between Jesus and his enemies. Like a courageous fighter, Jesus stands in the ring and invites his enemies to choose their champion who will challenge him. They choose crucifixion at the hands of the Romans – but they don’t know what they’re getting into”

“On the cross Jesus reversed his enemies’ assault. As Athanasius puts it, ‘that ignominious death which they thought to inflict, this was the trophy of his victory over death.’ According to the eyes of reason, Jesus was bound, mocked, spat on and nailed to a tree under a humiliating sign: ‘King of the Jews” But according to the eyes of faith, Jesus had bound, mocked, spat on, and nailed death to a tree under a humiliating verse: ‘Death also having been conquered and placarded by the Savior on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all those in Christ who pass by trample on [death], and witnessing to Christ they mock death, jeering at him and saying what was written above, ‘O death, where is your victory? O hell, where your sting?'”…

“… The cross is the trophy of Jesus’ victory – a trophy reminding Christians that death, the devil and sin are powerless against them. And so, when ancient Christians made the sign of the cross, they proclaimed Christ’s victory and mastery over death. They proclaimed that they were free.”

I’ve actually collected a few trophies in may life, very few, (two have gotten wrecked in boxes in moves), but I have them to show that yes in a few instances I could proclaim victory, that victory was acknowledged with those awards. But the greatest victory that we can all claim, because it was won for each one of us, individually and collectively as the Body of Christ, is the Cross. That Cross, which is grim, it is a horrible death, but through it Jesus made the payment for the sin of all of us. It is that trophy of eternal victory, for our eternal life in Jesus. Why on earth would we not make the sign of the cross at every opportunity? As a Lutheran pastor it is all about being a “theologian of the Cross”. As Dr Hains points out; it reminds us of whose we are, who made that propitiatory act in order to pay for the sins we committed and to assure us that those sins are as far away as east is from west, never to be held against us. Why wouldn’t we remember that once and for all eternal act of Jesus on that Cross? Take every opportunity to show brothers and sisters in Jesus and also those in the world what is truly important.

The word “catholic” means “universal, authoritative” it is not just the name of a particular church. We Lutherans are certainly “catholic” in that respect. No less that we make the sign of the cross, that it’s not just “catholic”. It is often abused, and instead of us avoiding it so that no one things we are being weirdly superstitious, it’s up to us to point out to others what the sign of the cross is about. Why would we give up the ultimate point of our lives in Jesus, in His church, because others have slapped a label on it? It is what it is, the trophy that Jesus has given us to assure us of eternal life in Him in the New World of our resurrection.

INI  (In Nomine Jesu) amen!

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