For very many good reasons, I am not preaching at the Call Service for either of our seminaries. And for even more good reasons (DV), I never will. But ever since my own call service, where the sermon was so abominable that I would have been grateful for a sermon which followed the Lutheran Satire Call sermon outline, I have pondered what I might say to a group of men who are receiving their calls. Fortunately, the Reverend Dr. Vice President Murray will be doing an able job this evening at my Alma Mater. But I still ponder each year. These are this year’s musings…
Reverend Brothers, tonight you will each receive your call into the office of the Holy Ministry. For four years, you have been given the privilege of studying the Word of God. No one tells a Doctor at the conclusion of medical school, “You need to forget everything you have learned. Now it’s about patients.” No one tells a class of Lawyers at the conclusion of law school, “You need to forget everything Law school taught you. Now it’s about your clients.” And yet, for some reason, pastors – the very men who should know the Word of God most intimately – are always tempted to advise each other “Forget all the Word of God you have learned in seminary. It’s about pastoring now.”
The question is not whether you will be a theologian – one who knows and speaks the Word of God. For you are called to that high and noble task. The question is whether you will be a good theologian, or a bad one. Hold on to the Word you have been taught. Know nothing else than Jesus Christ and him crucified. Dwell in the Word. Study it. Proclaim it. You have one task: to fulfill the Command (the Word) of Jesus by forgiving the sins of the penitent, and retaining the sins of the impenitent. And if you think you can fulfill that by any means other than the Word of God, then please, please, please, do not take the vows. Do not place yourself under the holy orders from God to do those things if you are unwilling.
Do not listen to anyone who would distract you from that Word. It is all you are given to work with. There is nothing else. Turn from it neither to the right nor the left. And if someone, in their confusion, tells you to be about something else, stop your ears. Do not hear them. They speak not a Word from God, but a word from men. And such words will fail. Whether it be (and these are listed in reverse order of importance) from a District President, or a brother pastor, or even a Baptized child of God placed under your care, continue preaching, living in, speaking only the Word of God. For it is powerful. And if you hear it, if you honor it, if you believe that word and hold fast to it through all the changes and chances of life, it may save both you, and your hearers.
In Jesus name.