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Dear alumni

Call Day is a high point of the year here for students and their families as well as for our faculty and staff. One of the church’s district presidents told me this week that Call Day is one of the brightest spots in his ministry each year — a day full of such hope and gratitude to God, as God provides His church with eager pastors and deaconesses, calling them to Gospel proclamation and loving service in Christ’s name. I was privileged to preach for the call service this year. The sermon focused on John 10:16 under the theme “One Shepherd, Jesus Christ.” I sought to encourage those receiving calls, and I share a few paragraphs here as an encouragement to you.

Tonight, here, Jesus Christ is shepherding His flock. He is calling you to go forth with His Word, with His Sacraments, with His love, with His service, with His humility and meekness, with His strength and authority, with His rod and His staff, and, almost certainly, with His wounds and His suffering.

I pray that warm reception awaits you at your first call. I pray that your ministry would be blessed, and carried out with joy, and that you would, often, see the fruits of your labor. I pray that God would gather more sheep into His fold through your ministry. I pray that the flock you serve would display the unity and peace of Christ. My own years as a pastor in Iowa were, I think, the richest and best years of my life.

But whether through the sin and hostility of others, or through your own sin and weakness and brokenness, there will also be many times when the glorious ministry of Christ’s Gospel will not seem so glorious, when the strong shepherd he has called will not feel strong, when the faithful pastor he has called will be confronted by his own lack of zeal and unfaithfulness. As with Peter, there will be times when you find yourself weak and weeping.

In those times, dear friends, the faithfulness of your Shepherd Jesus, the One Shepherd, will endure. His arms will be strong for you. His shoulder will be your rock and your refuge. His Word and promises will bring life to death-soaked bones. His Sacrament will bring ointment and healing to your heart and to your lips. His strength, not yours. His righteousness, not yours. His authority, not yours. His love, not yours. Is your hope. And the church’s hope. He is so good. So true. He will not fail you.

You. “Will you lay down your life for Me?” Jesus asks you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” But if you turn the question around, and if you ask Jesus: “Will you lay down Your life for me?” Yes, right there is your hope and your joy for a lifetime of self-giving ministry in His name. For He will answer you, again and again: “Yes, for you, dear lamb, I have laid down My life. And for all the dear lambs whom I’ve called you to shepherd. In My one flock, with One Shepherd.”

God give you peace and strength today in this One Shepherd! Please continue to pray for our work at the Seminary!

Every blessing in Christ,

Dr. Thomas J. Egger
President