What does it mean to say yes? We know what it means to say yes, but what does it really mean to say yes? To what, or to Whom do we say yes when we say yes to God? How do we say yes to God, when we are not sure what that yes means? Can we really say yes if we are not clear on what that yes means?
Samuel said Yes to God, but he first disturbed Eli several times saying yes to Eli, before he realized that the call he heard was the call of God. And then, when he said yes to God and heard what God had to say, I suspect he was not entirely sure he had done the right thing, because the news for his mentor, Eli, was all bad.
Noah said yes to God, and spent the next 120 years saying a lunatic’s yes to God, building the modern day equivalent of a space ship in his backyard, becoming the laughingstock of neighbors, family, and friends. Then, having never experienced a storm of any kind before, he spent an entire year cooped up in the ark while the his world was inundated by a storm the likes of which would not be repeated in 10,000 years, never mind our little storms of the century.
Moses said yes to God, albeit reluctantly, and spent his twilight years on a journey which few people in the vigor of youth would attempt today, leading to freedom a people whose most common complaint was a whining desire to return to slavery in Egypt, because there at least they were fed. Throughout this journey the Israelites were commonly on the verge of mutiny and Moses in danger of losing his life. In the end he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, because of an overzealous moment of weakness in a life of saying yes.
Would any of these men have said yes to God had they known in advance what that yes would require of them? Can they really have said yes if they did not know where that yes would take them? Maybe these were just poor souls who said yes and found themselves in a mess they could not have imagined previously; found themselves swept away in a current that was larger than they were.
That actually sounds a lot like our own experience of life, does it not? Sometimes we too find ourselves caught up in a swell that threatens to overwhelm us. Sometimes we walk in verdant, sunny plains and wonder how life could be so good. How often do we consider God? How often do we hear God’s call on our life in the mundane moments of a humdrum life? How often do we consider how our apparently inconsequential decisions are in fact a yes or a no to God?
But how can we say yes to a God who constantly eludes our confident grasp? How can we say yes to a God whose ways are too lofty for us to understand? Why would we say yes to God when it seems God has left the building? Why would we say yes to God when we have but the vaguest notion of what we are saying yes to? That would seem imprudent. We need to have a contract with an iron-clad escape clause that covers any eventualities, should we realize we have been duped, and what seemed to be the call of God turns out to be a fantasy or a nightmare. That would be the wise course, right?
Wrong. Why? Because saying yes to God is not saying yes to an idea, or a plan, or a religion, or a creed. Saying yes to God cannot be a saying yes to any cozy or even lofty expectations of what that yes will mean. If we know what we are saying yes to, we are not saying yes to God. If we know what we are saying yes to we may be saying yes to a fantasy, or a profound idea, or an eminent religion, all of which easily morph into an idol, but none of which are God.
Saying yes to God is saying yes to the unknown and the unknowable. Saying yes to God is saying yes to what will forever elude our comprehension. Saying yes to God is saying yes to a mystery. Saying yes to God is sort of like . . . Getting married. Saying yes to a lifetime commitment to your best friend is not saying yes to a house, though the yes may be consummated in a lifetime of commitment that is worked out in a house. Saying yes to a spouse is not saying yes to fantasies of vacations together in the sun, though the yes may be enhanced by such fringe benefits. Saying yes to a spouse is not saying yes to dreams of career and family, though these may immeasurably enrich the yes in years to come.
Saying yes, to a spouse, or to God, is saying yes to Someone. It is saying yes to an adventure which cannot be known in advance, and it cannot be exhaustively planned in advance. In marriage to a spouse, and in life with God, there will be unanticipated events and experiences, from new understandings that force dramatic, complex, and sometimes even traumatic re-orientations of what one has always known to be true, to absolutely unforeseen crises that stretch our yes to the limits, even past our limits.
These are the moments when we must choose - a yes to ourselves or a yes to God. A yes to the familiar and the well-known, or a yes to something that exceeds our vision, a yes to One who is not limited by our vision. We have no guarantees when we say yes that we know how things will be, or that our lives will be as we think they ought to be, but if we say yes to God we know, because of Calvary, that we say yes to ultimate Love, and because of the Resurrection, we know that we say yes to One who is larger than life, to the One who is Life. Saying yes to God does not place God within our confident grasp, it places us within His confident grasp.
And so this challenge to say yes to God. In the midst of paradox and uncertainty say yes to Love and Life. Let us turn from the original temptation to be gods unto ourselves, and say yes to the only true God. Just say “Yes”!
We will now move into a time of silent reflection, a time for you to reflect on the prayers that have been said, the scriptures that have been read, the hymns that have been sung, but most of all, a time to reflect on the God who calls you, and to formulate your response to that call. We invite you to say yes now, and to live that yes in a “conscious and rededicated relationship to God” in the days to come. We have a mic available at the front, and if there are some who want to share their yes with the congregation we invite you to make your way to the front pew during this time of reflection, and after a period of silent reflection Matthew will cue your opportunity to share.
May God bless your yes.