Hallelujahs and heartaches, too

On the 50th anniversary of Rev. Francisco Rodés’ ordination

by Ken Sehested

What a day! What a day! Not to
mention a year, fifty of them piled
head-to-toe, some of them a bit
fuzzy now (thank God!), others
like constellations whose radiance
still guides during dark nights
of the soul. Little did you know,
a half-century ago, what your
profession would involve,
where your convictions would
take you, the joys then unimaginable,
the sorrows ruthless beyond belief.
And the "ordinary" days, the days
for which songs are never
composed, for which cakes are
never baked, for which poems
are never rhymed nor hymns
inspired, for which hardly anyone
but the Beloved took note.

Scores upon scores of hallelujahs
and heartaches, too. Cares that kept
you up at night and joys that set
you moving at the first sight
of dawn’s light.

If you could have known then
what you know now, would
you have allowed those
authorizing hands to be laid
on your head? Would you,
instead, have run screaming
from the room, faster than Jonah
in a speed boat, further than
Tarshish multiplied many
times over? Bemoaning the day
of your birth, more bitterly than
Jeremiah? Cursing God more
boldly than Job, demanding
a grand jury indictment for
the Most High?

Might you have sought an easier
Gospel to declare—a softer,
more digestible—
thus recommendeth the Lord?—
Would you have preferred a cool
breeze and votive candle to
Pentecost’s raging wind and
flaming tongues of fire? Maybe
a luxury hotel room to the
Nativity’s barn-yard stable?
Did another life, of air-conditioned
ease in los Estados Unidos, tempt
your fate? Or a leather-seated,
power-windowed Mercedes
instead of el burro?*

Wouldn’t it all have been easier
if Jesus had turned those rocks
to bread. Or cut a deal with the devil
in order to accomplish salvation’s end?
Or to undertake a few magical feats
to pack the sanctuary and grow
the budget? What harm could that
have done?

But, no. Nooooo. You knew, down
in your toes if not in your head,
that there is no skipping
from the crib to the cross to the
Crown of Glory. No shortcuts to
bypass those ordinary days. No
passing the cup of those agonizing
experiences. No surge protection
against joy’s electrifying arc.

For there is no ordinary in
ordination’s destination. In this
bondage, and this alone, does
freedom break out. In this
submission, does liberty emerge.
In such precarious life does
restlessness encounter the
peace that passes all understanding.

Be still. Fear not. The Promise
endures, even on those days when
you think your work’s in vain.
Live large, my friend.
Laugh often, and love well.

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©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org, 2 June 2014, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Francisco Rodés’ (now pastor emeritus, Primera Iglesia Bautista, Matanzas, Cuba) ordination to the Gospel ministry.

*My friend’s nickname for his 30 year-old Lada, a cheap Russian car. On one trip together he repaired a leaky radiator gasket with chewing gum.