Last week word reached me that one of my former seminary professors and the one time Dean of Ashland Theological Seminary had died. Charles Munson was one of the most deeply spiritual individuals I have ever known. His gregarious personality, his gracious way of life, and his deep piety were obvious to those who knew him. His close walk with Jesus Christ inspired others to deepen their walk with Christ as well.
As a professor, Dean Munson taught me much about preaching. Just listening to him preach was a delight to the heart and a feast for the soul. I once took a course from him entitled, "Dynamics of Preaching." At first I wasn't going to register because the class was being offered on a Saturday morning, but I thought better of my decision and devoted a quarter of Saturday mornings to the task before me.
I was not disappointed. After every class I was so inspired that I could have walked straight into a pulpit and preached without notes for probably far too long. During each week I looked forward to Saturday mornings and I was disappointed when the course was over. Dean Munson instilled in us that the life-transforming nature of the gospel meant that preaching must be for transformation as well. He was clear to us that the sermon was one of the most significant moments for the pastor every week, and great importance should be placed on adequate sermon preparation. Every pastor should avoid the temptation of cutting corners on preparation time to meet the weekly demands of pastoral ministry. To do so is to rob the congregation from hearing a profound word from the Lord and is theft leveled against the people who are paying the pastor's salary. If the weekly sermon was to have any credibility, the preacher needed to live a credible life. If the message of the sermon was to be believable, the hearers needed to know that the one preaching deeply believed the words being spoken. And there could be no profound and prophetic preaching without much prayer.
Last week, at ninety years of age, the voice of Charles Munson fell silent in this life. But many of the voices of all those preachers who learned from his wisdom, and who were inspired to become better preachers simply because their professor inspired and challenged them to do so, are still proclaiming the gospel. And they know that without the tutelage and inspiration from their tall and lanky professor, their preaching would be different-- it would be less profound, it would be less a feast for the soul.
Yes, the voice of The Preacher fell silent last week, but the proclamation of The Preacher, through his students, continues.