This week, men from Concordia Theological Seminary and Concordia Seminary will receive their vicarage assignments and first call into the Office of the Holy Ministry. C.F.W. Walther, first President of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has these words to say regarding the Office:
O, glorious office! [the office of ministry] No matter how sick a person may be in his soul, the Gospel can heal him. No matter how deeply a person has fallen into the corruption of sin, the Gospel can pull him out. No matter how troubled, frightened, and afflicted a person may be, the Gospel can comfort him. Whatever the condition in which a person finds himself, even if he is convinced that he must perish because of it, the preachers can confidently oppose him, saying: “No, as certainly as God lives, He does not want the death of any sinner. You shall not perish; instead, you shall be saved. Turn to Jesus, who can evermore save all who come to God through Him.” And if one who lies near death calls out: “God, what have I done? Woe to me! Now it is too late! I am lost!” the preachers should call to him: “No, no, it is not too late! Commit your departing soul to Jesus. You too shall still be with Him in paradise today.” O, glorious, high office, too high for the angels! May we always hold it in high regard, not looking at the person who bears it and despising his weakness, but looking instead at the Institutor of this office and His exuberant goodness. Let us turn to Him in faith so we can experience the blessings of which the preachers have spoken, and through them, be gathered together one day into the barns of heaven as a completely ripe sheaf.
Needless to say, those are indeed words of great wisdom when it comes to the Office of Holy Ministry. The Office is not about who serves in that Office, how great of a people-person the pastor is, how funny or smart he is. The great importance of the Office is what said Office does: it brings the Word of God to a hurting people in need of hearing God’s forgiveness pronounced to them. It is all about Jesus living and dying and rising for them because of their sin. It is all about the gifts that God brings to His Church through the Office of Holy Ministry, the gifts of Word and Sacrament.
As Sem IV students receive their calls, they are given this charge (at least at CTS):
Go, then, take heed unto thyself and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghose hath made thee an overseer, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. Feed the flock of Christ, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lord over God’s heritage, but being an example to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, thou shalt receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. The Lord bless thee from on high and make thee a blessing unto many, that thou mayest bring forth fruit, and that thy fruit may remain unto eternal life. Amen. (The Lutheran Agenda, p. 109)
These words are indeed a tall order to any man, especially one whom God has called to shepherd His people. If you don’t feel a heavy weight placed upon your shoulders after hearing that charge, then you had better check to make sure that you are still alive, for this is a very important Office in which men undertake. To be sure, there is no way that any man could function in this Office without God behind him, for this is God’s Church, and He will see to it that His church is well cared for and that the gifts which He has given to the Church are properly administered, namely the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and the administration of the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
To those men who are engaged in pastoral studies or will soon find themselves donning a red stole, may God continue to bless and be with you.