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

such strength?

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

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