The church’s best hymns are timeless. Regardless of when they were written, they speak to our condition today. The hymn we just sang, “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” was written by a Lutheran Pastor, Philipp Nicolai, in 1597. Though it’s 420 years old, it’s just as fresh and applicable today as it was when Pastor Nicolai wrote it. His hymn speaks to our condition today: “Now, though daily earth’s deep sadness may perplex us and distress us, yet with heavenly joy You bless us.” Certainly life gives us many perplexing distresses, not the least of which is death. We are here today in memory of our dear sister in Christ, Lois. Certainly her death is part of earth’s deep sadness, one of those things we wish just wasn’t. Though death brings us sadness, for us as Christians it also brings a second emotion: joy. Remember what you just sang: “Yet with heavenly joy You bless us.” As we remember Lois, we remember what St. Paul said to the Thessalonians in today’s Epistle: we do not mourn as those who have no hope. Rather, we mark today with tears, but also confidence and joy because just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so will Lois also be raised because she is Baptized into Christ.
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.