Summary: Ordination sermon, involving a play on the names of Samson in the Bible and Sampson, the ordinand, an entertainer, puppeteer, and beauty pageant winner. The whole secret of strength is in using the gifts God has given for ministry and not for one’s self.
The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.
Isn’t that what we sing. I’m not so sure. What do you think?
The world didn’t give it? I agree. That’s true. But the world
can’t take it away? I am not at all sure.
We are here today because Yolanda Sampson has heard
the call of God, has pursued a course of study, and has now
come to the house of the Lord to receive a mandate to serve
the Kingdom. We rejoice in all of that, but at the same time,
there are some dangers in it. There are some new
problems, now that the rigors of Hebrew and the finer points
of Greek are behind, now that we have learned the
difference between homoousion and homoiousion, now that
we have navigated the shoals of Freudian theory and
Rogerian counseling practice. There are still some issues to
be resolved. We are here today because Yolanda Sampson
has heard the call of God and has come to receive her
mandate to serve the Kingdom. If our candidate is to live out
that mandate, it will take strength. A great deal of strength.
Where will that strength come from? What is the secret of
Let me put this into perspective. We do not come here today
to anoint a fleeting romantic fantasy. No; we are here today
to set aside a lifetime of service. This is not about today’s
notion, which tomorrow is cast aside for something else more
interesting. No, this is about an identity. Nor do we come
here today to center on a young woman’s talents and gifts,
considerable as they are, but which may decline or become
obsolete in the years to come. No, we are here today to lift
up a whole life, heart and soul and mind and strength, to
serve the Lord. We are not here to award Yolanda Sampson
a spiritual Oscar for being a fresh and vibrant personality.
We are here to call forth the gifts God has given her for all
the challenges to come. And that will take strength, it will
require endurance. What is the source of such strength?
What is its secret?
The whole secret of strength is to use the gifts God gave you
for building up the Kingdom and not yourself. The entire
source and secret of strength, if you intend to be effective, is
to use the gifts God gave you for others and for the
Kingdom, and not to become enamored of them for your own
For there is a siren song that will be sung in Yolanda
Sampson’s ear. There is a temptation that will be offered her
time and again, and if she succumbs to it, she will be
weakened and destroyed. If she yields to this temptation,
she will not only lose her ministry and damage her reputation,
but she will also destroy others.
It is captured in this poignant public cry, lodged in the middle
of a tragic Biblical account:
And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, and let
him entertain us.’
With only the slightest of changes, it could just as well read,
“Call Sampson, and let her entertain us.” And therein lies the
problem. Therein is the issue.
A quick summary of the story of this judge in ancient Israel.
Samson had been given a gift of extraordinary strength.
With his powerful arms he had been able to defeat Israel’s
enemies. Samson had a tremendous gift, and it attracted
people. It caught the attention of folks who might otherwise
have given no notice at all to an ordinary man of God.
So the day came when the leaders of the Philistines, that
persistent enemy of Israel, decided that they wanted to know
the source of his strength. They offered Samson’s lover of
the moment some eleven hundred pieces of silver if she
could coax from him the secret of his strength. Miss Delilah
eagerly accepted the bribe and went to work. But Samson
merely teased her with false answers, suggesting something
about bowstrings or ropes, but of course that wasn’t the
truth. Finally she wheedled out of him that his strength was
in his hair. The text says, “when Delilah realized that he had
told her his whole secret ... [she had them] shave off the
seven locks of his head.” And I think you know the rest of
this gloomy story – how the weakened Samson was captured
by the Philistines, was blinded, and was brought to their
Temple. That’s when Samson heard that siren song, “Call
Samson, and let him entertain us.” But all old Samson could
do, with his strength not so much depleted as misdirected,
was to pull down that house and destroy three thousand