In the baptismal rite, after the child is baptized, the pastor anoints the child with oil, the ancient sign of being set apart and being commissioned for a calling from God. Words are spoken as the sign of the cross is made on the child’s forehead: “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked by the cross of Christ forever.” It’s not just a call. Baptism is branding. We are marked bodily as a child of God in Christ.
In our Sunday morning worship, children who do not receive the bread and the wine of the eucharist receive a blessing. Always that blessing is a call to remember the covenant that God made with them at baptism. I make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and speak words that echo from their baptism, “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
On Sunday, one of God’s chosen ones, an exuberant, energetic child who will enter kindergarten this fall, a precious little one full of spirit and the Spirit came running down the center aisle when church was over, bypassed the intern who had preached that morning, made a 90 degree turn and came at me in full sprint. She dived at me, clasping her skinny arms around my knees before grabbing my chasuble at mid-chest level and pulled down with all her might.
“I want to make the cross on you,” she exclaimed.
I leaned over as she mimicked my own action at the table: fingers folded in on her palm, her thumb protruding as a fleshy stylus. With that tiny thumb, she made the cross on my forehead.
Just as quickly, she moved on to get a few cookies from the Sunday morning table of goodies.