Henri Nouwen, in his little book Clowning in Rome (Image Books, 1979), recognises the clown as "a powerful image to help us understand the role of the minister in contemporary society." He comments: "Clowns are not in the centre of the events. They appear between the great acts, fumble and fall, and make us smile again after the tensions created by the heroes we come to admire. The clowns don't have it together, they do not succeed in what they try, they are awkward, out of balance .. but .. they are on our side."
Maybe it is not the image we want, but surely ministry is about getting in there amongst things. Somewhere else I came across the image of the clown as the misfit, the odd person out. In the end we are all misfits, except that God transforms that - and so we all have a role - and it all fits together. To change the image for a moment we are, as the apostle Paul puts it, the Body of Christ. But I like that clowning image. Elsewhere Paul talks about our needing to be "fools for Christ". Effective clowning is actually remarkably skilful. The trick is to make it seem otherwise. When we think that way, we do have a good image for ministry - and we will surely be looking for God to 'send in the clowns'!