One of my favorite writers, Robert Benson, uses a metaphorical “pew” as a way to describe the continuum of Christian denominations that exist today. Benson has noted that in recent decades folks who sit on the “worship-centered” end of the pew have been showing more interest in learning from folks who sit on the “Word-centered” end of the pew, discovering how to incorporate Bible study into their personal and corporate Christian lives. But, Benson points out, the opposite is happening as well: evangelical Bible-study-folks are asking questions about liturgical practices that are less common in their world, and they are beginning to enjoy the treasures of praying the daily hours, practicing lectio divina, following the church calendar, as well as other liturgical practices.
I have found that people like me, who grew up in evangelical, baptistic, Bible-church cultures, are curious about these ancient practices and even find a them rich with gospel-centered truth along with a connection to the Church down through the ages and its “great cloud of witnesses.” But I’ve also noticed how folks who have grown up in more liturgical settings, whether Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal, or Lutheran, want little to do with the liturgy, calling it “empty and rote.” They are less likely to see the gospel in the liturgy and are energized by the free form Bible preaching and teaching found in churches on the other end of the pew.
One such liturgical practice that many non-liturgical Christians are wary of is the sign of the cross. We wince when a baseball player crosses himself as he steps up to the plate. Is he employing a good luck charm or saying a prayer? The current issue of Christianity Today includes a helpful one-page article by Nathan Bierma on the history and meaning of the sign of the cross. I found that it was originally published as an online article titled “The Shape of Faith.” The article helps remove the stigma of superstition from the sign of the cross, capturing its original meaning for a new generation. Enjoy!