This Sunday was also the kickoff for Epiphany's 25th Anniversary celebrations.
'Tis good, Lord, to be here! We sing what St. Peter spoke, a confession that it’s good to be in the presence of Jesus, to get a glimpse of heaven. It’s good to see an end to the sin and misery and junk that is a part of life in this world. But what about when we have to leave that glimpse? What about when we, like Peter, James, and John have to go back to the plain? Today we have Jesus’ promise that He goes with us to the plain, through the valley of the shadow of death. Today we hear His promise that what we glimpsed for a fleeting moment will be ours eternally.
Twice in the Gospels God the Father speaks about Jesus. Both times He says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Each time He makes this decree, the salvation of mankind is firmly in view. The first is at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. There Jesus set apart water to be a part of salvation, a lavish washing away of sin, shown as His righteousness flowed into the water and all the world’s sin flowed through that water and onto His innocent shoulders. The second time the Father speaks is at the event we commemorate today, the Transfiguration, as Jesus’ true Nature is revealed and is no longer veiled behind the common frame. There He speaks with Moses and Elijah concerning His impending crucifixion and resurrection. It is then that the Father declares Jesus the one by whom He is well-pleased. God the Father finds all His joy in the person and work of His Son who, out of love for His fallen creation, has taken on flesh and goes uncomplaining forth to His death, bearing the sin of the world, to shed His innocent Blood to pay the price the Law demands for sin.
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.