When I was a lad of 16 years, I was called by the leaders of the Quitman, Georgia congregation to come and preach for them. The appointment was just for Sunday morning. I had tried to preach three times, and the unanimous report was all three times was rather trying! For some unknown reason I felt that I was the State evangelist. At the time of this calling I was enrolled as a junior student in Dasher Bible School, a small private school in southern Georgia.
I arrived in Quitman early. There were just two buses a day and the first was very early in the morning. I found out that carrying a huge Bible was very powerful. No one wanted to sit by me on the bus. I was walking the sidewalk, rehearsing the lesson to be presented. A rather overstuffed English-style lady approached me from the opposite direction. She demanded most of the sidewalk on her own, so I eased into the hedge to let her pass. Then she saw the oversized family Bible in my hand.
“What are you doing in our city,” she exclaimed, recognizing me as a stranger.
“I’m here to preach the gospel of Christ”, I replied, almost in a shout.
She pulled her monocle to the full extent of the chain, and peering through the heavy glass with an enlarged eye, she said in a disdainful English tone, “Are you ordained?”
I can more fully understand her surprise at hearing a young boy claim to be a preacher, having spent some time in the British Isles. A minister in England would be a man of great experience, having been through a seminary and serving a number of years as an intern.
I really didn’t know how to answer the question because I really didn’t know exactly what she meant. Getting the drift of her words, I answered in a strong and strident voice, “Ma’am, anyone that has so much truth down them, that they can’t keep it down them, is ORDAINED!!”
Did I stumble on a truth that needs to be taken out of mothballs and put back into circulation? Whatever truth you know, are you not ordained to say it, to teach it, to live it?
Take the kid in school when invited to cheat on a test. If he knows and believes that cheating is just another way of lying and that lying is wrong, can he not so state it – like -“I don’t believe in cheating”. When tempted to steal by a fellow student, is he not authorized to make his stand for the truth that he knows? If the truth itself does not ORDAIN one to stand for it and live it, what does?
We have just forgotten to ordain everybody. We ordain elders and dedicate preachers and receive deacons; but the average believer, the ordinary disciple, we leave without a mission.
A number of years ago, while living in Northern Ireland, I wrote a poem about two trees. Now is a good time to relate it.
“About the year our Lord was born,
two little trees began to sprout.
Said one to the other, when we grow up
I wonder how we’ll come out.
Oh, I’m going to grow tall and straight
and point all men to God;
what greater ambition could one expect
from the product of the sod?
So they both began to grow
with the heavens as their aim;
they smiled at all the sunshine
and licked up all the rain.
They drank in all the dew that fell
and the snow of many years,
sent them soaring to the skies,
far above their peers.
Thus when thirty summers passed
and the people came their way;
they would stop and point and look
and the trees could hear them say –
What fine trees, so straight and true,
they point to the sublime,
just look at those leafy branches too,
they must pray all the time.
Now the trees rejoiced in reaching their goals,
and shook hands on a job well done;
for now they were first class winners of souls,
and they just leaned back in the sun.
Suddenly they heard from the forest glen,
the rumble of danger, the footsteps of men.
With axes and chains they were searching the hill,
for one special tree to be cut for the mill.
They stopped at the foot of the youngest tree –
he cried out in horror, O God not me;
yet hardly before he had finished this part,
he felt an ax cut deep into his heart.
He fell to the earth with a terrible sound.
It felt so strange to be prone on the ground.
No longer a place with pride on the hill,
the Lord sternly whispered, little tree, be still.
They made out of him a fishing boat
and launched him in a nearby sea.
He couldn’t understand it
until a man came from Galilee.
The crowds were so vast
they all wanted to hear
the message of truth,
they pressed to get near.
Then the master of all,
turned his head to the sea,
and with a great shout said,
bring the boat to me.
For the first time the big stately tree
began to see good in the tragedy.
For the axe and the chains was only the plan,
to root out ambition and bring in the man.
So often the Master would leave the shore
and from the little ship implore,
touching the hearts of many a sinner,
the cut down tree had become a soul-winner.
Oh, what happened to the other tree you ask?
It was cut down for a different task.
Strange this tree was destined to be,
the Old Rugged Cross throughout eternity.”