- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon by the Rev. Olin P. Moyd at the commencement of Washington Baptist Seminary in the District.

The Washington Baptist Seminary was founded in the years of the Great Depression, but it has survived. It stood as a lighthouse through the world war and civil rights era, and the shifting worship styles of the African-American church.

In my book on preaching, "The Sacred Art," I concluded that prophetic preaching means both criticizing and energizing the community with the good news of the Gospel.

Charles Wesley, in his day, was troubled by the encroachment of the secular on the realm of religion. He expressed his determination to stay the course in a hymn: "To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill; O may it all my power engage to do my master´s will." … There are many challenges to prophetic ministry in our present age. Despite them all, Benjamin E. Mays would say to the preacher-prophets, "No person deserves to be congratulated unless he has done the best he could." … This is my challenge to the graduating students here tonight.

In an article titled, "Preaching to Post-moderns," Brian McLaren explained that in the new technology age we moved from a paper-based mode of communication to a screen-based mode.

We are in an age of jet travel and the World Wide Web, and that changes how we think. An Alban Institute publication on "congregation megatrends" says "church and society are redefining the way we do evangelism, discipleship and ministry. …"

I contend that what you graduates must do is reach postmodern people yet retain the content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You must seek guidance for ways of casting the same old, eternal and unchanging word of God in new modes so that people will view the Gospel with enough interest to explore its contents.

I have long preached a sermon titled, "Don´t Change the Wine." When Jesus spoke of new wine in old wineskins, He spoke of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Today, while we might find ways to change the container, we must not change the content of the Gospel.

Look at Coca-Cola, which treasured its secret formula, even though it changed the package from the 8-ounce bottle to the 12-ounce, and up to 1 liter. But one day, when it changed the formula, Cokes took a nose dive.

The company got the message and came back with the original as "Classic Coke."

This is the first challenge of the preacher-prophet, to find new packages, but "not change the wine."

The second challenge will be your identity. John the Baptist is our example. In spite of his popularity, John held no misconceived notions about who he was. He was too late to be a prophet and too early to be an apostle, so like a news reporter he brought news from an original source. John recognized that he was not an editor, adding and deleting and mixing facts with opinions.

The voice of the preacher should become the voice of the eternal God, bringing reports of divine promises, appearances, manifestations and plans. It is my impression that many preachers today are intoxicated with popularity and lose the prophetic passion.

John the Baptist would remind us that, despite the numbers that gather at the Jordan River, each preacher is still just a voice in the wilderness.

The dean of Princeton Theological Seminary once looked up the definition of "dictionary" and it said, "This is one."

Preachers must have a character that reads, "Here is one," or "I am one."

That means being a prophetic servant. Think of how the inept waiter in a restaurant can ruin the full benefit of a meal.

A recent sermon, "Swapping the title for the towel," told of how Jesus, the Lord and master, took a cloth to wash his disciples´ feet.

This is my challenge to you, who desire to become effective in the ministry of our master in the postmodern age.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Stephen Johnson at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun.

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