There's a rather disappointing discussion going on on a liturgy list I'm part of about the sign of the cross. But the discussion did get me thinking about gesture in worship. The most neglected part of thinking about gesture is recognizing that everything we DO confesses SOMETHING about what we BELIEVE. I know I may be a bit of kook on these matters, so take it for what it's worth...
Whenever I approach the altar or cross the midst of it, I will stop and bow to reverence the altar. Why? Because this is the table from which my Savior feeds me His own body and blood for my salvation. I never want to take that gift for granted.
At the invocation, benediction, and at several others spots in the Divine Service I cross myself. Why? Because I belong to the Crucified and need to remind myself of it constantly: every good in the world is wrapped up in the Crucified and Risen Lord and He has marked as His own with the cross.
At the reading of the Gospel - we almost always read this in the midst of the congregation confessing that Christ Himself is among us and speaking to us through these words. Before reading His holy words, I sign myself with the cross upon forehead, mouth and heart asking Christ to be in my mind, on my mouth, and in heart as I read to His people His holy words. When the Gospel reading is over, I lift the book above my head and announce "This is the Gospel of the Lord" - so that all can see it, and then I kiss the Gospel reading and close the book and it is returned to the lectern. Why kiss it? Because I love the Lord's words and am grateful for them - by them we live in hope and through them we can die in confidence. There are no words on earth so precious! I kiss what I love. It just seems natural.
At the intercessions, I raise empty hands to heaven, for we come before God always as beggars, as those seeking from Him His mercy for our needs and for the needs of the whole Church and indeed the whole world.
During the consecration, I elevate the host so that the people can see it. It is a visual proclamation as Dr. Luther described in German Mass. Then I genuflect before the One who has sacramentally united His crucified and risen body to that host, for "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Similarly with the chalice.
These gestures - every one of them - fall within the category of adiaphora. I am not suggesting that everyone should do as I do. I am suggesting that everything we DO do in the Divine Service confesses SOMETHING. And most of it isn't rocket science. If you just stop and ask yourself: what does kneeling down before the Sacrament confess, it becomes pretty clear, doesn't it? Lutherans should never get their knickers in knots over such things; they are free. Free to be used. Free not to be used. But Lutherans should always press deeper and ask themselves: what do my gestures confess, for they surely confess something.
[Pics showing some of the ceremonies we observe here provided by Jen - many thanks!]