Posted on Fri, Feb 18, 2011
Rev. Jim's Sermon February 1
Rev. Jim Merritt
February 13, 2011
I wonder what you thought when you saw this sermon title. Yes to a good school, yes to a nice gift, Yes to a partner with whom we have a unique connection, yes to all sorts of good things. NO is an appropriate response to things that would harm us or come against us. I know that when I said YES to Jesus it was an experience that radically changed my life from that day forward. I was only 8 years old the first time I did it, then I did it again at another level at the age of 16, and again at 18, and then in 2003 I did it all over again when Troy Perry and Nancy Wilson put their hands on me and ordained me as an MCC pastor. Saying YES to Jesus has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. What about your YES this morning, and what about your NO? Let’s think about that together.
In Matthew 5, beginning in verse 21, we see a set of six sections that follow a basic pattern that begins with “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you.” We’ll work through most of this today and according to the lectionary, we will continue with the remainder of it next Sunday. These comparisons are traditionally called antitheses which means “contrasts” or “oppositions. In Matthew 5, Jesus begins by expressing agreement with the biblical content and then urges his disciples to go deeper toward the root of the commandment.
Sometimes we have heard ideas that focus on the Old Testament part of the antithesis to the exclusion of the new teaching of Jesus. At other times we have heard the Old Testament teaching completely dismissed so that the only focus is on the “New Law” that comes through Jesus. I hope you remember the conclusion we came to last Sunday that Jesus came to fulfill the law and to move us forward. In that light we have much to learn from both the law and from the life of Jesus and his example. One part of it is incomplete without the other part.
Having covered that, I would like for us to focus on 3 areas. First; God gives us free will. We know God these days as a gentle person. God does not force God’s self on anyone. God offers each one of us choices about the way we live our lives. At the same time, God says to us, “Let your Yes be Yes AND/OR Let your No be No.” In other words, you make the choice and then do all you can to follow through with it. If you are one who says YES to God, then live out that commitment to the very best of your ability. Do not be swayed by people and circumstances that come to challenge and get us off track. Instead make a firm commitment and really let your “Yes” be yes. I used to hate the statement, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” because it always came of out of the mouths of men who were trying to make their spirituality part of their machismo. I felt like they were using that statement to control their wives and the other members of their families in ways I simply could not tolerate. However, I’ve come to love that phrase in this part of my life. That loves comes from knowing that in my family we live to do good. We live lives of service. We respond the best we know how to the callings of God. We are family, not because of biology, but because we have heard similar callings from God and we have committed our lives to them and we are equally yoked so that we can stand together and say something that sounds more like, “As for us and our house, we will serve our God.” In that way our YES really can be no. The other side of that is that when situations come our way that would call us outside that commitment our NO really can be No. We are sure about our NO’s and we will not deviate from them even when to deviate from them would be the more popular route for us. And I want to say clearly that this is true in our personal life and it is true in our corporate life here as church together as well. We MUST live consistently with concern for each other, we must live according to the principles that God has laid out before us and our Yes must be Yes and our No must be no in order for people to trust us and in order for us to trust each other. So to all of us gathered together as church here I say, Sisters, brothers, we do have personal and corporate choice here and I’m hoping and praying that we will stand firm in our YES’s and that we will stand firm in our NO’s according to the principles that God has called us together. Are you with me? Can we count on each other to live this way? Let’s be clear, just because God is omnipotent does not mean that we are puppets on God’s string. We DO have choices about the way we live. Let us be a people that lives for Jesus. I love what Deuteronomy 30: 19 says, This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Second, God calls us to manage our anger. There is no sin in feeling angry. However we are responsible for the way we deal with our anger. If I told you your house was on fire right now, I bet most of us would jump up out of here and drive home as quickly as possible to try to save our homes and our possessions. So I want to tell you this, if we let anger run rampant in our spirits and if we do not deal with our seeds of anger, they will burn our spiritual houses down. Therefore, we much pay as much attention to the fire destroying our spirits as we would pay to the one destroying our homes. We must deal directly when we feel anger toward another person. We must gently express our anger, own our anger, seek peaceful resolution to our anger. We must avoid jumping down each other’s throats and attacking and shaming and blaming each other. Our anger must be resolved peacefully. We must not go into public forums whether live or online and make shows of anger and try to tear each other down. We must be man enough and woman enough and Christian enough to deal with anger peacefully and effectively and in ways that show that we value the relationships with each other more than we value holding onto old hurts. You see many would say that anger is hurt turned inward. What the Gospel has to say here is important. We must get our relationship and our feelings toward each other in order, we must settle our business with each other appropriately BEFORE coming to God’s table to receive the gifts of God. Appropriately dealing with our own seeds of anger is so important to the life of our church together.
Finally, and I alluded to this just then, God calls us to honor our relationships with each other. Relationships as friends and as family and as sisters and brothers in Christ are the key to our lives together. I love when this week comes around every year because it is a time when I get to bless and honor relationships. You see, I believe with all my heart that where ever any love grows, God has planted it there. I’ll be at the University of Florida tomorrow participating in their “Queerly Beloved” event. I’ve done weddings and holy unions all over this country and in other places. I love them. I’ve been to the halls of the US Congress and to the Capital in Tallahassee speaking for the value of all relationships based on love. Several years ago Al and I sued the clerk of the court in Orange County, Florida for a marriage license. Our attorney died before we were able to follow that all the way through and we still aren’t married. I have a question to ask this morning. What possible threat could our successful seventeen year relationship be to Marriage? What threat could your relationship be to marriage? Just what is it that the radical wrong is trying to defend against? Love? Godly love? Love that God has planted and nurtured in the hearts of two people together? I think not. And so this weekend and every day of our lives together, let us honor our relationships with one another. Let us exercise the free will God gives us. Let us deal with our own anger even when it is difficult. Let us honor every loving relationship; friend, partner, family, spouse. And let us leave what might come between us at the altar of God. Why do we love? Because God first loved us.
Yes equals Yes and No equals No. Let’s build this house on love.
God bless you. AMEN.