Monday, October 24, 2005

Christian Ministry


Author: Rev. James L. Snyder

The traditional fowl of choice of ministers is usually thought to be chicken. This foul thought, however, is a terrible fallacy.

Nobody would argue, at least for long, that we have sacrificed millions of chickens through the years at the altar of Christian ministry. Who would think of inviting the parson to supper without serving chicken?

Personally, I have had chicken served to me every way imaginable. A few times, I must admit, some hosts cooked the fowl of ministerial choice to the point of non-recognition.

I break no wishbones over this. I have learned to take what I get and ask no questions. The trouble with asking is, somebody always feels obligated to answer. Some things I do not want to know, such as: What is that, doing the breaststroke, in the gravy?

As a minister, I have consumed my fair share of the fine-feathered fowl in all of its glory. The truth is, chickens are not the only fowl of consumption within the scope of ministerial experience.

But, those who have spent any time in the sacred ministry know that one bird outranks the lowly chicken. That special fowl is Corvus brachyrhynchos. That's right; the common crow.

Believe me, there is nothing common about this bird except that it is plentiful. The successful minister soon discovers and masters the fine art of eating crow. And this is really something to crow about.

On the surface, the crow does not look like much, but that's just the surface. Under all those feathers is a large, chunky, ebony bird. I should know; I've been eating crow for more than 30 wonderful years.

I must admit, it did take some adjusting on my part. Crow cuisine is an acquired taste n a minister acquires it from his parishioners. There is nothing called "Eating Crow 101" in any seminary in our country n but there should be. It is the most important aspect of the Christian ministry.

I learned this the hard way.

The lesson was brought home to me in the early days of my pastoral ministry. It began quite innocently, as all things this important do. In my first parish, I found myself walking down the main street. This, in itself, is astounding. Many people spend years trying to find themselves. Fortunately for me, I did not have to look very hard.

Those early ministry days can be quite precarious. Anything can happen and never for the good.

On the other side of the street, I spied a young chap I recognized from my church. Standing on the porch of a large white house, he struggled to reach the doorbell. A small lad, he had to jump and still he could not reach the doorbell. (There is a reason doorbells are placed so that small boys cannot reach them, but at the time of the incident, I did not know these things.)

In the spirit of benevolence, I decided to help my fellow man. Or, at least a little chap, not yet a man.

Why is it that whenever I try to help someone it never really works out? Only my psychoanalyst knows for sure.

In the best of spirits, I crossed the street and approached the steps leading up to the porch where Andy, the young chap, struggled to ring the elusive doorbell.

"Hello, Andy," I yelled as I took that first step, which I soon learned actually was the first step toward trouble. Andy looked at me and sheepishly grinned. Anyone who knows anything about little boys knows this means trouble.

At that point, I remembered reading about a man who had a practical philosophy concerning little boys. "Whenever you meet a young boy on the street," he exhorted, "always stop and give that young man a good thrashing." He went on to explain this extreme action. "The young man in question has either come from some trouble, or is going to some trouble. In either case, he needs it."

I must admit that I have come close, not quite, to embracing this philosophy. Andy fit this description perfectly. If Andy survived any day without getting into trouble, it was not from any effort on his part.

Alas, at the time of the incident, I did not posses such knowledge. Instead, I walked right into trouble.

"Let me help you, Andy," I offered.

"Preacher, I can't reach the door bell."

"No problem," I assured him in all my innocence. "I'll get it for you."

With a St. Francis of Assisi grin, I vigorously rang the doorbell n not once, but several times.

Looking at Andy, who at this time had a smile racing all over his freckled face, I naively said to him, "Now what, Andy?"

"Now, preacher," Andy screamed with delight as he leaped off the porch, "we run like crazy."

At the next church council, I had a difficult time convincing everyone that I was not the notorious doorbell ringer who had been plaguing the community for weeks. Convincing any of my innocence with good old sister Brandywhine, whose doorbell I enthusiastically rang, proved hopeless.

Nobody ever quite believed my innocence, and who wants to hide behind a little boy? From then on little Andy always greeted me with the biggest grin possible for a little lad.

Eating crow has spiritual dimensions to anyone willing to pursue the issue. Sometimes it is better to be wrongfully accused and keep the peace than to demand innocence.

Jesus made this point when he said, "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39 KJV.)

It was then that I learned eating crow is better than cackling like a chicken.

About the Author

REv. James L. Snyder is an award winning author and popular columnist living with his wife Martha in Ocala, FL.


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