I used to preach, and I reckoned I was pretty darned good at it. From where I sit now, though, I cringe at the whole affair. I literally, sincerely, and painfully regret much of the hot air I blew into the atmosphere of that little youth group chapel in Chino, California. I did not know God...still don't now that I think about it...but I spoke as if He and I were great chums and that through my words God would convict the sinners in the crowd to "get right with God." There had to be a response, there simply had to be! A hymn or chorus of some great emotional worth would always crown my call for repentence or rededication...and my judgement came in the form of people sitting motionless, raising their hands, or moving forward to the psuedo-altar.
I was reminded of all of this when last night I happened to catch the end of a special segment on ABC's Nightline which followed three competitors in what is called, amazingly enough, the National Evangelistic Preaching Competition. Is further commentary really needed?
It was a radical shift that took place duirng the reformation which propelled emphasis from the Altar to the Pulpit. I can recall reading about some of the turmoil in the Anglican Reformation in which on week the Altar would be tossed out of the Church and then the very next Sunday it would have been brought back in as popular theological favor allowed...I'm not sure the Anglicans have ever gotten past this indecisiveness. Let us be clear though, we Orthodox have had our fair share of "good" preachers, Saint John Chyrsostom of course being the prime example. I've heard that he could go on for hours; I assume this assumption - ummm...yeah - is based on the length of his recorded sermons we have today...apparently tapes and CD's are available on his website, operators are standing by.
With fear of God, with faith and love, draw near.
and so is made the Orthodox Altar call. But to respond for the first time will take months, maybe even years! Thenceforth we are invited to join in each week...sermon or not. Our sinner's prayer:
I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. And I believe that this is thine own immaculate Body, and that this is thine own precious Blood. Wherefore, I pray thee, have mercy on me, and pardon my trespasses, voluntary and involuntary, in word, or in deed, in knowledge and in ignorance, and make me worthy without condemnation to partake of thine immaculate Mysteries unto forgiveness of sins and unto life eternal.
Of thy mystical supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant, for I will not speak of thy mystery to thine enemies, neither will I give thee a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief will I confess thee, remember me, O Lord, in thy kingdom. Not unto judgment nor unto condemnation be my partaking of thy holy Mysteries, O Lord, but unto healing of soul and body.
Amen. Preach it brother!
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