I sat there staring at the unique, green-colored pew ahead of me, with its kneelers set in their upright position. The blare of the organ rang through my ears and I admittedly felt a little lightheaded. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the moment, or because the suit I was wearing had apparently shrunk a size or two in the four years since I first put it on. I assume it was a little bit of both. Maybe it was the comment from my classmate a few minutes before. “Get ready for the longest hymn of our lives.” He was right. It was Call Day, after all. This time, my classmates and I were the ones with our fate in the balance. Strangers tuned in from across the country as we found out where we would be headed. Not so different from the NFL Draft. It was our turn to be called, and we were ready. As ready as we could be, at least. We were excited, optimistic, and maybe lightheaded, but we all felt the “woosh” of the moment. There we sat, nearly forty of us, all in suits that were either too large or too small, some of us wearing our collars for the last time, halfheartedly singing the longest hymn of our lives because our hearts were in our throats and our lungs didn’t quite know what to do about it. We had waited for this moment. Four years of waiting left us in need of Call Day. We needed Call Day. We need Call Day.
“U.S Church Falls Below Majority for the First Time.” This is the headline I saw shared while scrolling social media during Holy Week. The yearly reminder that the church is “declining” (Even though it never is, and never will.) Yet this sets the tone every year. Christians are a dying breed. Time to put sheep on the endangered species list. This starts a panic among devout believers. People start raising concerns about persecution and ranting about martyr skulls in Roman catacombs I have been hearing this cry of a declining church for years. From the moment I began studying to be a pastor. I will admit, for a while it bothered me. At the ripe old age of eighteen I was wondering whether I’d have a stable job with an adequate paycheck, considering the prospect of unemployment. Would I have a job? Would I have a salary? Would I have a church? Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and at the tail-end of my twenties I can say I have better vision now than I did a decade ago. I probably didn’t need to get so worked up. I just didn’t know it then, that I needed Call Day. That we need Call Day.
I remember I was a First Year at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. I was walking to my student work job and the carillon blared in my ears as it rang throughout the day. I was filled with optimism and joy. My mood was positive and there was simply contentment as I walked to help in the Call Day festivities. There was a certain hope about Call Day. A feeling on the campus of anticipation, jubilation, and life. You would have never guessed the church was “in decline” on that Spring day. You would have never guessed that the future of Christianity in America looked bleak (I still don’t think it does). This is why we need Call Day.
I have thought for a while that Call Day is one of the best days for the church, specifically for the Synod I am a Pastor in, the LCMS. Call Day is not only exciting for the students receiving Vicarage placements and Divine Calls, but it ought to be a joyful and encouraging day for the Church. Call Day is a day where we are reminded that Christ is victorious. Call Day is a day when we get to witness workers go out into harvest fields which we know are ripe. Call Day is a day when we can shake our fist in the face of the headlines talking about the decline and sing out in a resounding voice proclaiming that the church is alive regardless of the headlines. We need Call Day. Not only because of what it stands for, but because we need laborers for the harvest.
I graduated in one of the smallest classes Concordia Seminary has seen in many years. The harvest is plenty, and the laborers truly are few. This is why we need Call Day. We need faithful pastors and deaconesses who will go out into the fields harvesting. We need Call Day. “Who will go for us?” They will. Those who dawn the cross on their shoulders and collars around their necks. The young and courageous, the experienced and wise. All of them carrying the news of the Gospel on their lips. They refuse to give up and refuse to be discouraged by clickbait headlines. Instead, they go out, ready to harvest, ready to shepherd, ready to proclaim, ready to speak life to a world that is dying. We need Call Day. The world needs Call Day.
Congratulations, Seminarians! Your work is only beginning.