This week is the annual high feast day in the LCMS; it is the day the St. Louis and the Fort Wayne seminaries get lots of attention and lots of praise for presenting to the Church at large students that they have spent the past few years training to be first Vicars and then Pastors.
For the past 10 years or so, both services at both seminaries have been streamed online for everyone to watch; and with the advent of social media, those of us unable to attend, have been able to comment and critique the services in particular and the event in general in real time.
Perhaps the most popular critique of the services is the sermon. To listen to some, the person preaching should be sent back to Seminary and forced to take Homiletics all over again.
Now to be fair, some sermons preached are better than others. But to say that they are all bad, or to say that there is nothing to be gained from listening to them, is unfair. But the critiques continue, why?
Our own most grievous fault – complaining about another’s preaching, is often a way to compensate for one’s own poor preaching. President Harrison has called for all pastors to evaluate their own preaching and to refresh themselves on the basics, particularly Law and Gospel. He didn’t do this as a backhanded way to improve the preaching of a few District Presidents, he did this because Synod wide, preaching is subpar, and Synod wide, we need to improve.
Third Commandment Issues – Just as the laity can sit in the pews and disregard the pastor’s sermon as an obstacle to what they really want (to go home), so to do pastor’s. The common Call Day mantra is that the candidates (and everyone else) just want to find out where everyone is going, and so we pick apart the sermon simply because it is the thing in the way of what we really want.
We wish we were preaching – If you ever see a pastor sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, don’t be fooled; he really wishes he were preaching. Call Day is the biggest stage in Synod, and who would not want to preach and tell young men preparing to enter the ministry their own words of wisdom? And yet, the guy in the pulpit is not doing it the way you want, so break out the criticisms.
We hate the Law and Gospel – one of the readings for this Sunday is from Acts 2, and it says that the people were cut to the heart (convicted) after hearing Peter’s words. Don’t be fooled, no one wants to be convicted; and certainly no one wants to admit openly that they need to hear the Gospel for the forgiveness of their sins. Call Day sermons are to those in the pews and for those watching at home; and the Law and Gospel can pass through the internet. Do we hate the sermon because the preacher is talking about us?
Call Day Traumatic Stress – A diagnosis that is not in the latest DSM, but perhaps should be. Call Day brings forth a whole host of emotions for many of us; most particularly our own. Sometimes the first call is not as rosy as one would hope, so regardless of how life is now, to hear the words of loving people and serving the Church brings forth memories of how hard it was to love and serve that church, or one’s current church; and so we bash the whole thing, with the biggest target being the sermon.
Its tradition – The seminaries break out the fancy paraments and decorations; the Council of Presidents are all there; everyone is happy; and bashing the sermon is just another part of the day that has been etched into our minds. If we are bashing the sermon, then it surely must be Call Day.
To listen to the Call Day sermons is just like listening to any other sermon; we listen for the Law and Gospel; we listen for Jesus; we listen for how it applies to our lives. And surprisingly, we will find that the sermon applies to far more people, then just those sitting in Kramer Chapel and the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus, dressed in black, praying for an Amen, so they can find out where they are going.