Michaelmas II (Trinity 20) 2017
In today’s introit we praised God for His “steadfast love.” If you’re a Psalm reader, you know this phrase well. “Steadfast love” is the English Standard Version’s translation of the very important Hebrew word hesed. NIV translated it as “unfailing love” and the King James used “lovingkindness.” This word is used in the Psalms 127 times, and it is in more than half of the Psalms. Obviously steadfast love as one of God’s many attributes is an important thing. David and the other Psalm writers felt it was so important that it had to dominate their writings. The translations of hesed give us a bit of an understanding of the definition of this major word. It’s much more than mercy. Mercy, while it is something wonderful, especially when it comes from God, falls short. Mercy can be a one-time event. “I had mercy on the passenger behind me on the airplane who kicked my seat, but next time he does it I’m going to get angry.” Hesed endures. It is rooted in patience. It is not temporary or measured.
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.