Ha! Ha! It’s Call Day

“Call Day” at Concordia Seminary: A day like no other. A day of wrath and mourning . . . wait, wrong day, that would be dies irae (unless you or your family does not like your call). Today is, I suppose, dies vocationis. And what is that vocation? It is the preaching of the Word. Former CSL faculty member Martin Franzmann describes this in perhaps the clearest, most focused and yet poetic way in his hymn, “Preach You the Word” (Lutheran Service Book 586; here only stanzas 1 & 6):

Preach you the Word and plant it home
To men who like or like it not,
The Word that shall endure and stand
When flow’rs and men shall be forgot.
Preach you the Word and plant it home
And never faint; the Harvest Lord
Who gave the sower seed to sow
Will watch and tend His planted Word.

Two things Franzmann nails in particular: First, the chief work of those called is the Word. As the now-old hymnal put it in the absolution: “As a called and ordained servant of the Word. . .” Second, it is the Lord’s Word, not ours. Therefore, it does his work, for his purposes, both to kill and to make alive; he will watch and tend his planted Word.

There is a great little book of sermons by Franzmann, edited by Prof. Emeritus Ron Feuerhahn, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets. In the preface, Ron provides some “oral tradition” gleaned from his student days under Franzmann that is still great advice for preachers, both new and old ones:

“Never shall the words ‘OF COURSE’ be used.” That was how he confronted the danger of familiarity with the text.

Without a text, you feel like Adam without your fig leaves.

There is a tendency for preachers to feel that a joyful preaching is shallow. It must be existentially grim. Don’t keep such a cold stove that the cats won’t come to eat. It must have doxology. When you stop having doxology, you’re not preaching.

What keeps a man from being a pulpit orator is being a pastor.

And, a few lines from a sermon preached on a Whitsunday, on Revelation 22:17:

When the church no longer cries, “Come!” when the church no longer looks to the end, then means become ends; that is, they become idols from which we can no longer turn to serve the living God. That this fine thing with the ominous name, the church’s “image”; the church that has forgotten her coming Lord will worship her own “image” instead of her Lord.

Or let us move in closer to home, to our theology. What happens to exegesis, when exegesis no longer says, “Maranatha!”? Exegesis can become an autonomous Wissenschaft, a cerebral Vanity Fair complete with merry-go-rounds of exegetical fads, with cunningly constructed mazes of conjectures and hypotheses, with contending calliopes that fill the air and intoxicate the senses, but do not say, “He cometh, He cometh to judge the earth,” and do not shout, “Lift up your hearts!”

When liturgics forget that all worship is waiting for the Lord, then we begin to worship our worship and to adore our adorations; then we begin to genuflect before encrusted chasubles and play the harlot under every green tree with esthetically selected traditions.

But where the Spirit is, there is liberty. He sets us free, free from idols, free to serve the living God. He gives us a high hope that sets us free from ourselves, from grim introspection and fruitless preoccupation with our own religious psychology. He sets us free, not least, for praise. … Let us sing a little and live — and serve — a lot. Amen. (pp. 75-76)

So on this dies vocationis, we celebrate that the Lord of the Church is sending into his harvest fields his Word, to call to hope, and life, for That Day is coming. Maranatha.






One response to “Ha! Ha! It’s Call Day”

  1. Mike Burdick Avatar
    Mike Burdick

    Ah, Franzmann. I appreciate that collection of sermons, wherein he said something like “your part might be only three little toots at the end of the second movement, but you play…” — and — we preachers have inherited the Baptizer’s finger and mouth saying, “behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” (both are paraphrases from memory, don’t dare to quote me).

    God grant that all the men receiving God’s calls for them today will rejoice in the sufficiency of the Word, and the little parts we each get to play (together).

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