Risky and Holy

THAT SPRING, ON the first of June, 1958, I was ordained in the chapel of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, where some four and a half years earlier I had heard George Buttrick give the sermons that had started me on my way. I sat by myself in the front pew feeling awkward and unreal. Dr. Muilenburg preached on Elijah's handing his mantle over to Elisha. Dr. John Knox preached on two texts from Matthew. In one of them, Jesus commanded his disciples to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel, Dr. Knox said, but in the other he told them that it would be better to have a millstone fastened around their necks and be drowned in the depths of the sea than to cause anyone who believed in him to sin. As I knelt there in the chancel with the hands of all the assembled ministers and elders heavy on my skull, I had no doubts, if I had ever had any before, that it was a risky as well as a holy trade that I had chosen.

-Originally published in Now and Then