The cross means nothing to me unless it is applied to me. This is a phrase I was taught during my Vicarage, when my supervising Pastor talked about the importance of the Sacraments. This summarizes the purpose of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. They give to you what Jesus accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. The cross and Jesus’ death on it don’t do you any good unless the benefit of that death is given to you. Once the Sacraments apply it to you, you can look at the crucifixion with joy because you know that it was done for you and that you are here tonight to receive what Jesus won for you in His death.
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.