II Cor. 1:17-20 (Also,
Epiphany 7 B)
Absolutely yes! I want it clearly understood: the answer is
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.
she said. I hung up the
phones and my friends high-fived me. It feels good to hear someone
say yes! Clearly,
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
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
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,
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.
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.