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On May 19, Luther Seminary celebrated the graduation of 132 future church leaders at Commencement. Interim President Rick Foss was chosen by the senior class to give the sermon that day.
Below is an excerpt from that touching and encouraging address, based on John 14.
At Luther Seminary we have a mission. It goes like this: "Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities, called and sent by the Holy Spirit, to witness to salvation through Jesus Christ and to serve in God's world." Right? Right! "We educate leaders..."
And who are those leaders? Well, I see about 132 of them all dressed up today, a pretty good group. But what's the prerequisite for becoming one of those leaders? There's only one consistent one as far as I can see. In a nutshell, we work with followers of Jesus Christ, who are responding to the call to follow, to serve ... and to lead. You can't be a leader in the church unless you're a follower of Jesus.
And then, when you or I respond to that call, when we're educated to lead, when we go into communities, what do we do? We help others become followers of Jesus Christ. So you, in your graduation finery, are first of all FOLLOWERS, who are learning to be leaders who walk with others who can become FOLLOWERS, and perhaps leaders.
Following is hard sometimes. And leading is difficult most of the time. Ironically, the best leaders are pretty good followers; and the best followers learn to be good leaders. But either way, whether following or leading, you are going somewhere. And the way forward isn't always clear or smooth or well-lit or secure. This isn't easy. Not a bit. So Jesus reminds us that not only is He the Way, we will have help: the Father will send an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth; an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit will walk alongside you, and within you, all your days. Leader, follower, innovator, stumbler, whatever you do in his name, whatever description the path may take, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be with you.
This has not been a particularly easy year at Luther Seminary. And whatever challenges you have had in your individual lives, the community's challenges of this past year have made it even more complicated for all of us. Many of you were thrown for a loop, like everyone else, and were not sure what to do. But you participated in the response. You worked with faculty and staff to regain equilibrium and health. You became vocal and vested partners in "righting the ship," and then in moving into the future. Student participation, serious and significant participation, has been and continues to be integral to our new curriculum design, as well as our decisions going forward. Thank you!
And now you go into the next chapter of your ministry. I hope that most of your days, and most of your ministry, are smooth. But there will be times in every life and ministry when it will be much like our experience this year. You will face challenges: some of your own making and others that come unbidden and without any way to prevent them. And if this year is any indication, you will respond.
You will hear again the words, "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in me." And you will respond. You will hear Jesus say, "I am the way" and you will be reminded again of whose you are. You will hear the promise, "The Father will send an Advocate" and you will walk with others in the assurance of God's presence. And you, a follower of Jesus, will lead with a servant heart, and you will call others to follow.
Luther Seminary receives some of the finest followers of Jesus, and educates these followers to serve as leaders for Christian communities. You embody that mission today. Thank you. God be with us all. Amen.
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Your support ensures that future church leaders can pursue their call in ministry.