Sign of the Cross

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What is the purpose of making the sign of the cross?
Why do you cross the congregation from the baptismal font?

One of the most frequent questions asked by Lutherans concerns making the sign of the cross. Isn't that a Roman Catholic thing that we abandoned centuries ago? Absolutely not. Many faithful Lutherans make the sign of the cross any time the Trinity is named in the worship service. They often do it before their daily prayers as well.

The Christian makes the sign of the cross in remembrance of his or her Baptism. Luther encourages Christians to begin and end their days with the sign of the cross (Small Catechism, Daily Prayers). The sign of the cross is not a magical talisman to ward off evil spirits. In Baptism, you were marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. His forgiveness of your sins gives you the ability to live in this sinful world with hope and love.

As a remembrance of Baptism, when the Pastor crosses the congregation at the Invocation, Absolution and Benediction, the best place this sign upon the people is the Baptismal font. Dipping my hand into the water in the font, the symbolism of the sign becomes all the more apparent to everyone. The power that forgive sins doesn’t come from the water. It comes from the Savior whose blood was shed for you. The blood in the water has saved you from your sins. For this reason you make and receive the sign of the cross.