The recently released film, Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman, concerns “the beginning of that largest and worst of wars,” World War II. The soon-to-be-published Volume 20 of The Churchill Documents, entitled Normandy and Beyond, covers the end of the war’s last full year. Dr. Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, observes, “The beginning and the end of things reveal
their meaning in particular ways.” He proceeds to draw some lessons for today from the beginning and the end of World War II from the study “of that war and of its profoundest statesman.” I do not intend to go into those lessons; rather, I find Dr. Arnn’s observation intriguing and applicable to our understanding of salvation history and the Faith of Christ.

Someone else has said, “All history is church history.” We must agree, for this is the testimony of God in His sacred written Word. What is the church but His people, beginning with Adam and Eve? And what is history but all that has happened from the beginning of Creation? Many may deny or reject this truth; but, that doesn’t make it any less true.

As I observed last month on this page, the beginning of the church year is much like the end of the church year. The same may be said about the beginning and the end of church history, that is of history itself—time and this world. The beginning of history is marked by the power and glory of God shown forth in the original good creation of all things. The end of history is marked by Christ’s visible return in power and glory and the restoration of all things in the new creation.

On the first Sunday of this new calendar year we will observe the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord and the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. (I understand that Luther frequently combined the two themes.) Jesus’ baptism marked Him as the One chosen by the Father to be His and our Champion on the field of battle against the devil (see “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” st. 2). Luther observed that our baptism marks us as enemies of the devil. Targets of Satan’s most vicious and pernicious attacks—yet also “drafted” by God through our baptism as soldiers in His spiritual army, armed with His armor
(Ephesians 6). What is your armor? Who is your armor? And what (Who?) is the one offensive weapon which God gives you in the fight?

At the beginning of this I mentioned that Gary Oldman stars in Darkest Hour. Mr. Oldman has played such varied roles as Dr. Zachary Smith in the awful Lost in Space remake, terrorist/hijacker Ivan Korshunov in Air Force One, Zorg in The Fifth Element, and Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight
Batman trilogy. I sometimes find it hard to believe it’s the same actor in all those roles. In Darkest Hour, he is Winston Churchill—not just portrays—Gary Oldman becomes and is Winston Churchill in the film (so I have heard). What a transformation—nay, a transfiguration!

The end of the Epiphany season is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Peter, James, and John beheld Jesus’ glory as He was transfigured before them. St. Paul says, Romans 12, “Present your bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, well-pleasing to God … Be no longer conformed to this world, but be
transformed”—the Greek is transfigured—“by the renewal of your mind.” This is not our work, but submission to the Spirit’s work, as we live our baptism each day in repentance, that the old Adam in us daily drown and die, and the new creature in Christ arise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Penikis

Pastor Peniķis