In 1524, Martin Luther set about adapting, improving, and expanding a well-known medieval hymn. What resulted is the hymn, “In the Very Midst of Life.” The hymn opens with a question that seems entirely fitting for the situation we find ourselves now in 2020: “In the very midst of life snares of death surround us; who shall help us in the strife lest the foe confound us?” Our world is asking this same question right now. What do we do? Is death imminent? Is the world ending? How do we manage in the short term? How do things recover in the long term? These are uncertain times that God has spared us for some time. But now, in His wisdom, He has allowed this pandemic. God’s wisdom and ways are beyond our understanding. We know that He has promised to bring good from ill. We know that He can take what is meant for evil and use it for good. So in this time of pandemic and fear and uncertainty, we ask that question of Dr. Luther’s hymn: Who shall help us in the strife lest the foe confound us? Thou only, Lord, Thou only. The Christian response to our current situation is repentance and faith.
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.