Confirmation II Cor. 1:17-20
(Also, Epiphany 7 B)
Yes! Absolutely yes! I want it clearly understood: the answer is yes.
Down deep inside of all human beings is the need to hear and the need to speak that little word, yes. Clearly, cleanly, crisply.
We need to hear the word, yes, spoken to us. For example, I will never forget when I was a young sixteen year old, acneed and pimpled, in high school, getting ready to ask beautiful Lorna Finkelbaum to the prom. I thought for sure that she wanted to go out with that other fellow, the big star on the football team. I was a zero on that team, a second string guard, almost a water boy. Why would Lorna want to go out with me? I rallied up my courage and with the help of my buddies huddling around me, we made the telephone call. My friends dialed the telephone number (554-J) and handed me the phone. My nervous high pitched voice squeaked: “Lorna, this is Eddie. (I was then known as Eddie.) Lorna, about the prom, would you go with me?” “Yes, I would love to go.” Whew. “Really???” “Really!” she said. I hung up the phones and my friends high-fived me. It feels good to hear someone say yes! Clearly, cleanly, crisply.
Or, have you even been in a situation where you had to telephone your neighbor and ask them to drive you to the store? You knew you were imposing on your neighbor, even to ask, and you hesitated in asking, but finally there was no choice and you needed their help and so you telephoned your neighbor and asked them for a ride. Your neighbor immediately replied, “Yes, let’s go.” It feels good to hear that word said to you, yes, cleanly, clearly, crisply, with no hesitation and no equivocation.
In the same manner, it is also true of us as human beings that we need to speak that simple word to another person. So my wife quietly asks the important question, when nobody else is ever around: “Do you love me?” It feels good inside to be able to say to her, “Yes, of course.” Cleanly, clearly, crisply. With no hesitation. With no excuses such as “Well, I love as much as is possible for most men.” It feels good inside to speak that word simply to her: Yes. … Or when a child asks you to do homework with him or her and the Mariners are in the playoffs and the game is on television (such as this afternoon), and you simply say, “Yes, I would love to help you.” Or when a person comes by your office door which is open and the ask, “Do you have a moment to talk?” And without hesitation, you simply say yes. It feels good inside to be able to say that little word, with no hesitation, with no equivocation, with no justification or excuses.
I think the reason we like to hear that word and speak that word is because so often the people around us and ourselves are filled with hesitation and equivocation. We are filled with a dramatic pause that says “not really.” For example, have you ever had family or friends come from the Midwest to visit here in Seattle and they want the typical Seattle tour, so you suggest going to the Space Needle, the Waterfront, and Pike’s Street Market. And they reply, “Well, if that’s what you want.” What enthusiasm! Or, you have a teenager and you ask the teenager to come and hang out at your lake cabin for the weekend, and your teenager says, “Maybe, if one of my friends will come along.” Like, you’re not good enough! Or, you ask your wife if she wants to go fishing with you on Puget Sound, and she says, “Yes, but I have a lot of stuff to do around the house and garden.”
Several of my friends have what they call a motor-boat relationship with their children. Almost every time they make a suggestion, the child responds with “yah, but, but, but; yah, but, but, but; yah, but, but, but.” It sounds like a motorboat, putting along.
For some people, there is always the “but.” They can never say cleanly, and clearly and crisply, “yes.” I think we all know the “yah-buts” of the world, people who have hesitations, equivocations, justifications, people who are rarely willing to say simply, “yes.”
It is with this mood that we approach the Biblical lesson for today in which the Apostle Paul writes: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you have not been ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not a ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ In Jesus Christ, it is always Yes because the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter ‘Amen! Yes! So be it!’ In Jesus Christ, it is always yes.” (II Cor. 1:18-22)
On this day, we near to hear that the very nature of our God is a Yes, that God speaks his resounding yes to us and the world. Let me explain. In the creation story in Genesis 1, we experience the mood of God, the master artist at work. God says, “Let there be light,” and suddenly there is light, and God kisses his fingers in delightful pleasure and says, “Yes!!! It is good.” Then God the artist says, “Let there be the heavens” and suddenly there is the sky, with all its expansive beauty, and God, the artist, kisses his fingers in delight and exclaims, “Yes!!! It is good.” Then God, the artist, thinks and grins within and says “Let there be suns, and moons, and stars in the sky,” and suddenly, the heavens were filled with these glorious bright lights and God smiles again and exclaims, “Yes!!! It is good.” About the sixth day, in the afternoon, God felt a little lonely for God had no one to talk with, no one to enjoy his artistic creation with. So God said, “Let there be human beings, to be companions for one another and friends with me,” and suddenly, there were human beings on the earth. And God, pleased with his creativity, says, “Ahhh!!! Yes!!! It is very good.” … God didn’t say, “Yah, but the world is so corrupt now. Yah, but the earth’s solar cap is now melting because of increased carbons. Yah, but the rain forests are being burnt all over the earth.” No. Let it be clearly heard and understood. To this fallen world of ours, to this sin corroded earth of ours: God says Yes. Clearly, cleanly, crisply.
But there is more. God said that human beings are the crown of God’s creation, the epitome of God’s creative energies. In Genesis, God said that you and I have been created in the image of God, that we are the very likeness of God. In Psalm 8, God said: “When I look at the heavens, the moon and the stars that you have established, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him? Why, you have made human beings a little less than God, and crowned us with honor and glory.” We, as human beings, are the highest creature that God has ever made; we are only a little less than God!!! God did not say, “Yah, but you certainly messed up your life. Yah, but you are a three-time loser in divorce. Yah, but you certainly messed things up as pastor. Yah, but you certainly aren’t the kind of mother or father. Yah, but look at the faults of your kid.” No, no, no, no, no. God is not a yah-but. To us, who like the earth, are corroded and fallen and sinful, God says yes. I want it clearly understood that the answer is yes. Cleanly, clearly, crisply, to you and to me in all of our sinfulness.
But there is more. God also says yes to those people that the world says are not worth much. So the world looks at a starving man or woman or child any place on the earth, perhaps a man, woman or child in Uganda who is dying of Aids and their skeletons are showing because they can’t eat or drink and the world says, “Yah, but let that bag of bones die. Those starving bones aren’t worth much.” … Or, a person has grown older and older and the senility is slowly destroying the brain with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and their skin is shriveling up like an old carrot, and the world says, “Yah, but they aren’t worth much any more, those old vegetables, and they are taking billions upon billions of dollars to keep them alive. Yah, but they aren’t worth it.” … Or, a fetus is growing in the mother’s womb and has a touch of divinity within and over time will grow and grow and become the fullness of our God given humanity, and the world says, “Yah, but that fetus is just a pile of protoplasm. It’s not worth much. We can get rid of it.” And so the world says, “yah, but they are a worthless bag of bones; yah but they are shriveling like rotting vegetables; yah but they are nothing but a pile of protoplasm.” And God says…Yes. Yes, for these people are the crown of my creation, the valued jewels of my kingdom. I want you to hear God’s answer, clearly, cleanly, crisply, Yes.
It is important that we know the nature of our God, that Jesus Christ is Yes, and all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
But it is equally important that we as human beings also discover what it means to say Yes, cleanly, clearly, crisply. It was important for me to learn to say Yes to my wife, yes to myself, yes to my neighbors, yes to God. I am not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along during my years of life, I learned that saying Yes to my wife was crucially important, that somewhere along the line I crossed that invisible line of maybes, that invisible line of hesitations and equivocations, the invisible line of yah-buts and excuses, and I finally said Yes to her. Clearly, clean, crisply. The Yes was so important to me, to the inner me. Likewise, there is a time, an indefinable time, where you cross that invisible line of doubt and questions, of hesitations and equivocations, of yah-buts and excuses, and you finally say Yes to God. It is so important to finally say Yes to the author of your life and destiny.
Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about, about this journey from being a yah-but to a yes. Thomas. We have nick-named Thomas to be the “doubting Thomas.” Doubting Thomas is the symbol our age. Thomas: “I believe; help my unbelief.” Thomas, you should have been here to see the Risen Lord. Yah, but I need a sign from God, some proof, and then maybe I will believe. Thomas was this man who in his heart, said: yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, I believe, I am not sure, I believe, I don’t know. Thomas needed to move from being a yah-but to a yes. Yes, God, I believe in you. Yes, Lord, I believe. Like, the fanatical faith of the Apostle Paul. Like the simple faith of Mother Mary who said, “Let it be to me as you word.” Like the conclusive faith of the beloved disciple John when he proclaimed, “You are my Lord and God.” Yes. Thomas was a person who needed to cross that invisible divide in his heart.
There is another story in the Bible about a man who made this inner journey from a maybe to a yes, from a yah-but to a yes. It is the story of the leper. The man had leprosy and he wasn’t sure if Jesus could heal him. He wasn’t sure if he should even bother Jesus with his disease. “Shall I approach him? Yes, no? Can he heal me? Yes, no? Am I good enough to be healed? Yes, no? His mind wavered; his spirit tossed back and forth as Jesus approached, and suddenly he called out, “Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean!” The man crossed that invisible line, that invisible inner separation, from a maybe to a yes. Something happened to him inside.
There is a story in the Bible about a rich young ruler. He believed in the commandments but he just couldn’t give his life to Jesus Christ because he loved his wealth and riches too much. Then Jesus said to him and to all of his disciples including us, that most famous of sayings: “With God, all things are possible!” It is possible for you and me to move from being a yah-but to being a yes, where we finally cross that invisible line in our hearts, those invisible hesitations and equivocations, and we finally say, “yes.” Clearly, cleanly, crisply. With God, all things are possible, even our saying Yes to God.
I would like to tell you story about a man who made this inner journey and who was Secretary General of the United Nations from l954-1961. The Secretary General is a very prestigious position and currently, Kofi Annan is our Secretary General who is negotiating in the Mid East and Jerusalem. When you read about Kofi, you are reading about one of the giants of this earth. Well, a giant of the earth from 1954-61 was Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, who kept a diary of his negotiations not with superpowers but with God. His diary was published in a book form, MARKINGS, and this diary described his journey with God. It is a story of a journey from a No to a Maybe to a Yes. … In his diary in 1952, he asked questions: Can my life have meaning? No. Can my life have a purpose? No. Is there a God? No. He writes: “I dare not believe that I am not alone in this universe.” Time moves on and he is elected Secretary General of the United Nations and in his diary, he reveals that he is reading the medieval mystics, of all people. He writes these profound words, “I discover that self surrender has been a way to self realization.” What a discovery that is true for all of us, that self-surrender is the way to self-realization. How profoundly true. He begins saying Yes to the demands on his life, Yes to his neighbors, and Yes even to Fate. Progress. He is making progress. There is a slow invisible movement within his life. He writes other profound words in his diary: I finally said “Yes to that element in my personality, which was most unwilling to be transformed from a weakness into strength.” And finally, we come to the close of his book and the close of his life when he died in a plane crash over then Rhodesia. Before he died in that plane crash, he wrote these profound words: “I don’t know who or what put the question. I don’t know when or where it was put. But somewhere and sometime, I said Yes to Someone, and ever since, my life in self surrender, had a goal.” … He crossed that invisible line of hesitations and procrastinations, from being a yah-but to being a Yes to himself, his neighbors, his destiny, his God.
Now, I know that Dag Hammarskjold still had those inner questions. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do nations still rage at each other with war? Why are some nations so poor and others so rich? Yes, he had many questions and doubts that challenged his mind; but more importantly, he had moved past those questions and past those doubts and finally crossed the invisible line and said Yes to God.
Today is Confirmation Sunday. You confirmands are seated before in all your radiant splendor, shining and smiling in your white gowns. You are the crown of God’s creation. You are the crowning pleasure of God’s artistic work. God is pleased with who he has created. Your God given destiny is before you. Your life is before you. God has given you life inside of you and life all around you. He has given you life on this good planet Earth and eternal life in Heaven with God. God has said to you, Yes. And there is that need within us, a need within you, to say Yes. Yes to God, yes to yourself, yes to your neighbor, yes to this world in which you live. There is a need within you to cross that invisible line within, from being a yah-but to being a Yes.
I want it understood, clearly, cleanly, crisply. The answer is Yes.
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