Today Our Lord teaches us about the importance of faith and prayer and the connection between the two. The two always go together. Just like Frank Sinatra taught us with “Love and Marriage”—you can’t have one without the other. Both the leper and the centurion present us with the image of faith and prayer. Both believe. Both confes that God alone can answer prayer. Through them we see that it’s faith that motivates us to pray, to reache out to the One it knows can and does answer all prayers. And it’s faith that accepts the answer, regardless of what it is. So, we see that it is very important to pray for the one thing we truly need, that is, faith to accept the answer God gives us when we pray. And when we pray for the thing that we need the most, the thing that guarantees our entrance into heaven because it receives all that Christ has done for us, God always answers that with a yes.
As Jesus begins His public ministry, He begins it by teaching us to rely on Him for all things, and above all, to remember that the things of this life are secondary to the greatest thing He has come to give, which is our salvation.
Baptism is a good thing. Paul Gerhardt, a 17th century Lutheran Pastor wrote a Baptismal hymn, “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized.” In its fifth stanza he writes: “O Christian, firmly hold this gift and give God thanks forever! It gives the power to uplift in all that you endeavor. When nothing else revives your soul, your Baptism stands and makes you whole and then in death completes you.” When life is miserable, we as Christians get to say what we’ll sing during the Distribution: “I am Baptized into Christ!” Sin, disturb my soul no longer! Satan, hear this proclamation! Death, you cannot end my gladness! I am Baptized into Christ. As we look at the Baptism of Our Lord, we understand a little more why Baptism is so central to our faith and our Christian life.
Actions speak louder than words.” This is a phrase and a concept we all know. Another person can speak a promise to you, but his action of keeping that promise says much more than the mere promise. A spouse can say, “I love you,” but unless those words are backed up by actions of love and commitment, then the words ring hollow. “Actions speak louder than words.” Even without the expression, we all know how true it is.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.