To ordain a person to the ministry is to swing a two-edged sword. It cuts on one side with joy -- with the happiness that befits an occasion like this. The mood calls for music and singing, praying and celebrating.
But that sword cuts on the other side with danger. By this action the Church is saying, "We recognize this person as one called of God. In setting him apart, we acknowledge that he ministers in Christ's name, armed with the Word." This is dangerous because the Word cannot be domesticated like a tame kitten. Instead it is more like a lion, full of strength and power.
So what we are doing today is a dangerous thing. How did Paul speak of this? "Hard pressed," "perplexed," "persecuted," "struck down." But since when has faith been tame, or safe, or sane?I
We are setting apart this one and calling him a minister. But what is a minister? Half a century ago George Buttrick pondered this question and came up with this answer: To many he is a pathetic figure, an anachronism, a stage-joke -- an inoffensive little man jostled by the crowd, and wearing the expression of a startled rabbit. With one hand he holds a circular hat on his bewildered head and with the other desperately clutches an umbrella. The crowd pushes him from the sidewalk; the traffic shoots him back into the crowd. Some curse him; a few laugh; most are unaware of his existence (Jesus Came Preaching, p. 4). Are you sure you wouldn't like to halt this service now?
Yes, some will ignore and many will misunderstand and try to squeeze you into their molds. Some want the minister to be a keeper of the public morals. Never rock the boat. Never challenge the system. Never stretch the thinking beyond its present limits. They say, "Bless the children, marry the young, bury the dead. Be conventional, ordinary, boring! - anything as long as it lets us be."
Some want the minister to be a chaplain to the popular culture. This is the blesser of whatever comes down the pike, regardless of how absurd it might be. I got a call one day from a couple who wanted me to perform their wedding ceremony on stage in front of 5,000 people during intermission at a rock concert. They never really understood why I refused. So ministers get the reputations as being kill-joys and curmudgeons.
Some want the minister to be an organizational person. Better to have an MBA from Harvard and be able to organize the world, than an M. Div. from a seminary with only the ability to speak the mind of God! Dress for success, look out for number one, and eat for health. Look good, feel good, and make us feel good, too. But how hard it is to remember that ministers are called to an office by God, and not set up in the office by the corporation or even the Church.
Some want the minister to be a spiritual ombudsman, investigating and rectifying all complaints against God. "Hey, ain't you the preacher at that church down the street?" "Yes, I am." "Well I wanna' tell you something. I was out of a job last year, so I watched this preacher on television. He said that if I sent him $10 and prayed for a job I'd get one. I'm still out of work. What do you say to that? Where is your God?"