February 19, 2006
7th Sunday after Epiphany
"God's 'Yes!' To Every Promise"
(2 Corinthians 1:18-22)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
It's kind of silly now, nothing more than a fond memory that has been replaced by the deep love I have for my wife, Mary. But as a boy in the third and fourth grade it was major. It was no simple school boy crush. I was completely, madly, irrevocably head over heels in love with a girl by the name of Barbara Wissman. I remember one of our teachers reading Tom Sawyer to us. In my mind, I was her Tom Sawyer and she was my Becky Thatcher.
When she walked into the room my heart would skip a beat. For a long time, I wasn't even sure she knew my name. I sat in the back, about three or four seats behind and two rows over from Barbara. I could watch her and day dream about holding her hand. Or, be still my pounding heart, getting a kiss.
I did everything possible to line up next to her or behind her when we had to line up to go someplace. I was there when we had to be boy girl partners on a project. And I remember the joy I felt when she DID choose me.
Of course, I didn't dare tell any of my friends, Dale and Don and Koby would have disowned me. They weren't interested in girls. Girls were supposed to be icky.
But my school boy love, Barbara, tortured me and somehow I had to let her know how much I loved her. So, I did what we all did back then. I wrote a note. I composed it very carefully. "I like you a lot. I think I love you. Do you like me? Do You love me? With Yes and No boxes to check by each." (Make the note).
I folded it up carefully and wrote her name on the front then passed it to the girl next to me to pass on to Barbara not really knowing that passing a note meant that every person would open it and read it before passing it on. When the girl next to me opened the note, read it and then giggled before passing it on, I was moritfied.
I watched as each one of the kids read the note, looked back at me and giggled before passing the note on. It took an eternity to reach Barbara. And I couldn't look. I buried my head in my arms on my desk. When I did look up, I saw her writing. Then I saw her pass a note. Again everyone read the note, giggled and passed it on. It took forever to get to me. I was afraid to open it. I knew I was unworthy. I just knew I was going to be disappointed. Finally, I worked up the courage to look and guess what?
She was my Becky Thatcher, she checked "Yes!" on both questions.
I still remember the feeling of seeing that "Yes!" on both questions of that note.
Over the years I've come to realize that "Yes!" is one of the most important words we can hear. Kids need to hear "Yes!" from their parents. "Yes! I love you. Yes! I care what you do. Yes! You are one of the most important parts of my life. Yes! I'm proud to be your Father or your Mother. Not because of anything you've done. Not because of your grades or how popular you are or what a good athlete you are. Yes! I'm proud to be your Father or Yes! I'm proud to be your Mother, simply because you're my child. I thank God for you every day."
Sometimes our kids need to hear a different kind of Yes!. "Yes! You heard me right, I said, "No!" Because sometimes when we say "Yes! I love you," we have to say "No!" To some things we know have the potential to harm our kids.
We all need to hear that "Yes!" in our lives. Down deep inside each and every one of us is that need to hear the word "Yes!" from someone.
Today, in Paul's second letter to the Church in Corinth, we find out that God has said "Yes!" to each and every one of us, from the beginning of time. That "Yes!" has been spoken to every generation through promise after promise. And the answer to those promises has always been God's "Yes!". And that "Yes!" is summed up in one word. And not just any Word but The Word, the Word which is really a name, The Word made flesh who dwelt among us. Jesus. Listen to what Paul writes.
2 Corinthians 1:18-22 (NRSV)
 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been "Yes and No."
 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not "Yes and No"; but in him it is always "Yes."
 For in him every one of God's promises is a "Yes." For this reason it is through him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God.
 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us,
 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
In other words, as William Barclay put it, Jesus is God's 'Yes!' To Every Promise. (1)
Promises are extremely important. In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, takes on the almost impossible task of destroying the Ring of Power, in The Cracks of Doom in a dark and evil land called Mordor. No one had any idea what this simple little ring really was when it came into his possession.
Gandalf, the wizard, understands that this is not only a difficult task but a dangerous journey. And he knows how Frodo thinks. So, Gandalf makes Frodo's best friend, Samwise Gamgee, promise, not only to accompany Frodo on the trip. But to promise he will never leave Frodo. Several other brave characters join Frodo as well. These nine travelers become the "Fellowship of the Ring."
All through the journey, they face danger. As they get closer to the goal the danger increases. Frodo grows more and more concerned about the safety of his friends. He finally makes a very personal and noble decision, to slip away quietly and make the rest of the journey on his own.
Frodo steps into a boat and quietly pushes away from the shore.
Suddenly, down the hillside above the shore, comes Sam, crashing through the branches shouting, "Frodo! Mr. Frodo!"
Frodo yells back, "Go back, Sam! I'm going to Mordor alone!"
Sam, who probably knows Frodo better than himself, says, "Of course you are, and I'm coming with you!" And continues toward Frodo, splashing into the river up to his waist.
"You can't swim!" Frodo shouts. "Sam! Sam!"
Sam tries desperately to swim out to the boat. Frodo watches as Sam begins to sink beneath water.
Frodo reaches down and grabs Sam's wrist and pulls him out of the water and into the boat. Frodo looks at Sam as if to say, "Why? Why would you risk your life attempting to swim out to me?"
A soaking wet Sam sees the question in Frodo's eyes and says, "I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. 'Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.' And I don't mean to. I don't mean to."
Frodo embraces Sam. He says, "Come on." And off they head on their part of the quest.
Promises are extremely important. If you missed the symbolism of the hand reaching out of the light to Sam, it represents the Christ figure, the one who brings salvation to the world. Whose self sacrifice ends evil and gives new life. But none of it could have happened without the Promise. Sam made a promise to Gandalf and while at times during the story, it's extremely difficult, Sam keeps that promise. Frodo, too, made a promise. A promise to bear the Ring until it can be destroyed and with the help of others, he too, fulfills that promise.
Promises are extremely important. That's why Paul wrote what he did to the Church in Corinth and why he wrote what he did to the Church in Rome. Romans 4:21 "Be fully assured that what God promised, God is able also to perform."
So, what are those promises? Well, this book is chock full of them. There are promises on almost each and every page. And the answer to all of those promises is God's "Yes!," Jesus. Listen.
A. The world says: You're nobody. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: You are created in God's own image.
B. The world says: Nobody really loves me. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I love you.
C. The world says: I'm not smart enough. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I give you wisdom.
D. The world says: I can't forgive myself. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I FORGIVE YOU.
E. The world says: I can't figure things out. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I will direct your steps.
F. The world says: I don't have enough faith. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I've given everyone a measure of faith.
G. The world says: It's impossible. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: All things are possible.
H. The world says: I feel all alone. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I will never leave you or forsake you.
I. The world says: It's not worth it. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: It will be worth it.
J. The world says: I'm too tired. God's "Yes!" Jesus, says: I will give you rest.
K. The world says: I can't manage. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I will supply all your needs.
L. The world says: I'm afraid. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I have not given you a spirit of fear.
M. The world says: I am always worried and frustrated. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: Cast all your problems on ME.
N. The world says: I can't go on. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: My grace is sufficient.
O. The world says: I'm not able. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: I am able.
P. The world says: I can't do it. God's "Yes!," Jesus, says: You can do all things.
Those are just a few of the promises of God in which Jesus is God's 'Yes!' to Every Promise.
This morning you found a mint on your chair. I'll bet you've been wondering about it, especially since we asked you not to eat it until told to do so. Have you ever stayed in one of the high class hotels? They always come in, turn your bed down and put a mint on your pillow. It's their way of saying how much they appreciate your business. It's their way of saying "Yes!" to you. "Yes!" to the fact that you chose them over the competition.
And it feels good to get that "Yes!" doesn't it? Well, God's "Yes!" is sweeter and more refreshing than any mint you'll ever get. God's Grace is the sweeter and more refreshing than any mint. But so that you won't forget how good God's "Yes!" is, we thought we'd tell you "Yes!" ourselves. So, take a second to open and eat your mint and listen.
You don't need to wonder if God will walk through life with you. Jesus is God's "Yes!" to that promise.
You don't need to wonder if God will take care of you and provide your every need. Jesus is God's "Yes!" to that promise.
You don't need to wonder if there is life after death. Jesus is God's "Yes!" to that promise.
You don't need to wonder if God loves you and loves you unconditionally. Jesus is God's "Yes!" to that promise.
You don't need to wonder if your sins have been forgiven. Jesus is God's "Yes!" to that promise.
Jesus is God's 'Yes!' to Every Promise God has ever made.
Isn't that sweet? Isn't that refreshing?
1. Willaim Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Wesminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976.
Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)
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