You have arrived at the end of your training. Well done. We are proud of you and your efforts. You have come through the finest theological training for new pastors anywhere in the world. There are pastors in other countries who would give anything to have been given the education and preparation you now have. Do not forget your training. It will serve you well. You have been instructed by the finest theologians alive today. You have studied hard, and have been found faithful to the confession of the church. You have been declared fit for office, and ready to serve. You have been called by the church, and to your congregations.
Soon you will be ordained into the office of the Holy Ministry. We will lay hands on you, and speak God’s word to you. You are our colleague and our friend. Remember your training. Remember it, and continue to learn. Your time in the seminary has given you the tools to continue to learn. And you will continue to learn. The question ultimately is not whether you will be a theologian or not, for your task is to speak God’s(theo) word(logos). The question before you is whether you will be a good theologian or a bad one. Continue to study. Continue to be in the word. Continue to read Luther, the Confessions, and the great fathers of the church – both old and new. These men have endured many of the same things that you will. Find a trusted pastor to serve as your confessor. Find men to advise you.
You may hear some of us complain about “The new guys”. We used to be them. We are complaining about our own incompetence. We wish we were better at our jobs. We fail. Any wisdom which we seem to have is born not of the greatness of our selves, but the greatness of our previous failures. God forgives us for our failures, as he will forgive you for yours.
You will need to be in the Word for your sermon preparation, to prepare for bible classes, to answer questions that arise, and for various other duties related to your office. Be sure to spend time in the word for the sheer enjoyment of being in the Word.
Start with the Psalms. I’m not the only one who thinks so. You will find yourself turning to them when things go well, when things go poorly, when things just go. They are a source of great comfort and wisdom. Memorizing them is a good use of your time.
Enjoy speaking God’s word to people. There is no higher honor or privilege in all the universe. We get to spend our days and years reading studying and speaking God’s Word. An awesome responsibility, but a great joy.
When you preach, preach to yourself. If you aren’t hitting the mark in your own heart, you are probably missing it in others. If you read through your sermons, and find that you are bored, do not be afraid to throw the whole thing out and start over. I speak from experience on this. The best way to prepare to write a good, theological, yet practical and interesting sermon is to read what Luther had to say about it. Reading his sermons will make you a better preacher faster than any other activity.
Welcome Brothers. We are glad to have you, and we are praying for you.