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Sign For the Times!

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Paul says that the word of the cross is foolishness to people who are perishing, but to those us who are being saved it is the very power of God! The message of the cross is essential for our lives of faith. The cross is a symbol of our salvation. So it is that the message and image of the cross features prominently in our worship.

During the entrance hymn the Processional Cross is carried in to the sanctuary. God’s people in worship may see this cross as a sort of standard as they are marshalled for his service! We are reminded there of Christ who leads us and calls us to follow! Additionally God’s people have long made use of the image of the cross while placing it upon themselves as an act of devotion. The early church referred to the sign of the cross as “the immortal sign.” There was understanding that in the image of the cross one may recall the message of a Savior who gave his life to make us his own! Many make use of its image

in worship to this very day. Even the altar in our worship depicts the message of the cross as it reminds us of sacrifice. The altar cloth itself, called the fair linen, which is draped over this table bears five crosses upon it reminding us of the five wounds of Christ.

The message and image of the cross is also a part of our lives day to day. It always has been! What we know of church history is that making the sign of the cross was an act in general use long before the cross itself was hung or used in church worship. In earliest times the sign of the cross was made primarily on the forehead. Early Christians saw this signing of the highest part of the body as a calling to mind of the message of Jesus’ sacrifice and a request for God’s blessing and protection for the life of faith.

Early church theologian, Tertullian spoke of the use of the cross in devotion day to day. He said that the body is signed so that the soul too may be fortified. He said, “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign (of the cross.)

He then goes on to say if you are looking for a bible verse directing you to do this, you will find none. Tradition originates it, custom confirms it and faith observes it!

It is as if he could hear some of us saying, this is tradition for the sake of tradition, or even worse, superstition itself. But no! This signing should be made in remembrance of the Savior; invoking his care and placing yourself by faith under his blessing. It is a prayer in action that is joined with the word and name of our God; the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.[1]

The cross is God’s sign for the times, even for all time. Let us then hear it’s message and so cling to that cross by faith today. Hide and rest in the shade of this tree always for there our Savior conquered sin, death and the devil! Lift high this cross for all the world to see for the message of the cross is the very power of God!

[1] The Lutheran Liturgy, Revised Edition, Luther D. Reed, Philadelphia, Fortress Press 1947

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