On Thursday we were privileged to be present at the ordination and induction to his first charge of our (now ex-) probationer. I am both a daughter of the manse, and a wife of the manse, but with great effort I refrained womanfully from telling him what someone told Jim the night of his induction, "Enjoy this now, son. It's the most popular you'll ever be"!
When I was a divinity student in the early nineties someone gave me the following and I've kept it ever since. It's half very funny, half desperately sad!!
The Preacher's Dilemma
If his address is a few minutes longer than usual: "He sends us to sleep".
If it's short: "He hasn't bothered".
If he raises his voice: "He's shouting".
If he speaks normally: "You can't understand a thing".
If he's away; "He's always on the road".
If he stays at home: "He's a stick in the mud".
If he's out visiting:" He's never at home".
If he's in the manse: "He never visits his parishioners".
If he talks finance: "He's too fond of money".
If he doesn't: "Nobody knows what he's up to".
If he organises a fete: "He wears everybody out".
If he doesn't: "The parish is dead".
If he takes time with people: "He goes on and on".
If he is brief: "He never listens".
If he redecorates the church: "He's spending too much money".
If he doesn't: "He's letting everything go".
If he is young: "He lacks experience".
If he is old: "He ought to retire".
And if he dies?... Well, of course: "Nobody could ever take his place".
This morning I was preaching on Esther and her brave statement as she faced the prospect of going before King Xerxes to plead for her people, "If I die, I die". What courage. And what an antidote to the pessimism of the above, when we tell ourselves, "If I don't please everyone, I don't please everyone. So what?!" It is inspiring to follow Esther's courage, isn't it? And at the same time as we reflect on "The Preacher's Dilemma" perhaps we can hold back a bit more for our judgemental criticisms of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who like us, can't win, but are following not our whims and tastes but what they perceive as God's leading.