A 10 minute sermon? This is proof that the center of Orthodox worship is not on the preached word. There is simply no way I can get away with a 10 minute sermon. I had better not preach much more than 20 minutes. But, we Baptist are expected to give an introduction, antithesis, thesis, relevant question, 3 points that support the thesis, and a conclusion. Don’t get me wrong. I agree with what the Vladyka said. I just find this form of preaching strange. I will keep watching and learning.
As a Baptist who has decided to journey toward Orthodox Christianity, I expected that I would say something to draw criticism from one side or the other. I thought one of my colleagues would be the first to question my icons or wonder if I started “praying to Mary instead of Jesus.” Nope, instead I have been “taken to the woodshed” by archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Canadian Orthodox Monastery of All Saints of North America.
In my comments on his sermon, I meant no criticism of his content. I am certainly not ready to debate the man on theology. I didn’t say that the length of his message was too short in the context of Orthodox Worship. I said, perhaps in too many words, that a ten-minute sermon is not the norm for the Baptist Church. He disagreed with my observation that “the center of Orthodox Worship is not on the preached word” (the Eucharist is the center, even he said that), and gave a stern repost to my comment, “I found this form of preaching strange.”
Not true. The entire Liurgy preaches the Gospel. As with the Ancient Church, the centre of Orthodox Worship is the Eucharest. Only for the Gnostics was this not the case. I have seen & been Sectarian neo-Gnostic (Protestant) self-worship services. The consist in screaming, howling preachers who have to crack jokes, howl like dogs at the moon, torch singers, rock bands, feel-good-about-yourself empty, meaningless songs and self-congratulatory outbursts. All is emotion, self-centred and vain.
Do you really consider rock bands, the cheapening of the name of Christ Jesus, torch singers, tap dancers, joke-cracking preachers, howling, thereatening, leaping and dancing across the state slapping the bible up and down, prowling the stage cursing people and a purly Gnostic message could be considered “preaching the word” or “worshipping?” Would Christ stop at your concession stand in the lobby for soda and pop-corn before going into a multi-million dollar business centre called a “church?”
I am more than aware of the abuses of worship in the modern Christian worship and seek to avoid them like the plague. And I confess to being a little humorous and very loud in the pulpit. I am not ready to debate the Archbishop on theology as he is far more knowledgable and wise than myself. But, I will defend the pattern of sermon construction that has been handed down to me from years of Baptist preaching.
I have been taught to give an introduction as a way to lead people into the message. The antithesis brings the congregation into the particular problem that is common in our daily lives. The thesis is the answer to the problem based on the scripture that is read. A relevant question inquires that the preacher can properly apply the scripture to the problem (like in algebra where one has to show the whole equation and not just write down the correct answer). The preacher then gives his points (usually three) with scriptures in the same context as the given text. All is summarized in the conclusion that proclaims the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Can Archbishop Puhalo or someone else tell me what is wrong with this form of preaching? Sure, I have heard many ministers use text out of context, stray away from the thesis, focus more on a celebratory conclusion rather than other elements of the message, and other abuses. I admit guilt to not writing and preaching the best constructed sermons. But when followed correctly, listeners (who pay attention) leave worship with a clear understanding of the text and how to apply the Gospel to daily living. Other than the theological differences between the Baptist and Orthodox, this form of preaching is a good thing.
And let me leave today risking more wrath. Orthodox Christians who want to call us Protestants fake, frauds, Gnostics, and other things (one You Tube commentator calls us “transvestites”); you need to go out and evangelize. In my 45 years on this earth, I have had plenty of Jehovah’s Witnesses approach me, Mormons visit my home, Black Muslims sell me newspapers and bean pies. I have yet to have an Orthodox Christian approach me. I have had to take the time and look things up online for myself. If any religion or denomination has the truth, it is the church that was founded in A.D. 33. But, the only time most of us hear about this church is when a Greek festival is going on. Plenty of people who were brought up in Protestant churches are leaving or aren’t that dedicated to the faith. There is a rich harvest for you to pick from. Black Americans will especially appreciate the fact that Africans were among the founders of Orthodoxy. If God is not pleased with our heterodox beliefs, shame on us. But, if we are remaining heterodox because we have never heard the Gospel coming from you Orthodox, you share in our shame.
I thank God that I was raised and serve as a Baptist. I am equally grateful that I have found the rich history, heritage, and spirituality of Orthodoxy (and have applied for membership in St. Philip’s Prayer Discipline).