The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, August 9, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
Just a touch of humor as we start.
— Today at the bank a gentleman asked me to help him with his balance…so I gave him a good push.
— How does Darth Vader like his toast? On the dark side.
— Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? great food but no atmosphere.
— I could not figure out why the baseball kept getting bigger…and then all of a sudden it hit me!
— Never trust stairs…they’re always up to something.
— I was shocked when I found out my toaster wasn’t waterproof.
— When is a door not a door? …when it’s ajar.
–How do you get a farm girl to like you? A tractor.
— What do you call someone with no body and yet a nose? Nobody knows.
— My wife is obsessed with counting…I wonder what she’s up to now?
— Why did the farmer win an award? Because he was outstanding in his field.
“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,
and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:11
Would you pray with me today?
Dear Lord….We want to thank you for the gift of life. We want to thank you for a certain fullness in life that is much more than just existing…or living in constant fear…or living without loving or being loved…or living as one in bondage . We thank you for the freedom to make decisions for ourselves and those we are responsible for. We acknowledge your leadership in guiding us. You are molding us day by day. Teach us your ways, that we may say YES to the good things of life, and NO to the harmful things of life. We trust that you will continue to guide us into the completeness that Jesus promised for us. Amen.
“You are a slave to whatever has mastery over you…” 1 Peter 2:19
“…do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, YES, YES and NO, NO ? …
but as surely as God is faithful our message to you is not YES and NO…for the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy was not YES and NO, but in Him it’s always
been YES…no matter how many promises God has made, they are YES in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:17-20
There is the story of the man traveling from Washington City (Washington, D.C.) to the State of Virginia in the Spring of 1805. Between Washington and Virginia there is an insignificant stream which becomes a raging river—late in the Spring—most difficult to traverse on foot, if indeed, not impossible. The man came to the “stream become raging river” thinking he had not expected this to happen. He threw up his hands in complete frustration. He knew he could never get across without some kind of help. And where might that come from…He paused there…trying to figure out what to do…
He then noticed five horsemen who had come up over the crest of the hill behind him. He thought, maybe they’re considering crossing the river themselves, on horseback. They came down from the hill and assessed the situation before them, hardly noticing the man…
The man walked up to one of the horsemen and asked if he could hop on the back of the man’s horse and use the horse to wade across the raging river. The horseman told him to hop on the back of his horse. The horseman and the man traversed the river with the other four horsemen.
On the other side of the raging river, one of the other horsemen came up to the man and asked the question,
“How did you have the nerve to ask President Thomas Jefferson if you could ride across the river on the back of his horse?” The man was a bit astonished, looked up at the President of the United States of America in amazement. He turned to the other horseman, and said, “I really didn’t know he was President Jefferson…I just looked at all five of your faces, and I picked out the gentleman who had the YES face.”
Do you have a YES face? Do others know instinctively that you are the “go to person” for counsel, for help, for support, for friendship? And, on the other hand, how do you know you are being the YES person to really help out…Or could it be that people take advantage of you because you are a “soft touch”…Could it be that you need to help out because you feel you will be abandoned if you don’t help out. It’s good thing to be confident in knowing when you are truly helpful and when you are actually condoning some situation or behavior that makes it impossible for a healthy person to say, NO!…I think Jesus would want each of us to become confident (maybe “wise” is a better term) when if comes to the necessity of saying “Yes” or “No”.
For many of us, the most difficult word to say…is one of the shortest and easiest in the vocabulary of the English language—NO! At the risk of a certain tightness of the vocal cords, just go ahead and say, NO!
There…that wasn’t so bad…
“…for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say NO to ungodliness and worldly passions…and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age,
while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…”
NO! — it is simple to pronounce and hard to say. You and I are afraid people won’t like us, especially those whom we love, or we want to impress. We sometimes feel guilty saying NO! We may even believe that a good person, especially a person of faith, never says NO! The problem is, if we don’t take “the bull by the horns” and finally learn to say NO, we stop liking ourselves, and indeed, we stop liking the people we are always trying to please. Some experts tell us that we may even punish others out of resentment.
When do we say…NO? How can we confidently proceed to know when the word NO is appropriate. The answer is quite simple! It is…when NO is what we really mean! It needs to be said. When we learn to say NO we stop lying to ourselves. No wonder it finally feels good to come to terms with what we’ve struggled with for decades. The people in our lives may not like our new assertiveness, but they will come around, because now, people know they can really trust us in terms of where we are coming from, and in addition, we can trust ourselves, to be who we are. How refreshing, especially in Christ’s Church!
All sorts of good things can happen when we say what we mean.
If we are still afraid to say NO, we can work on it in our heart and mind. It isn’t always automatic. We can think it over. We can rehearse in front of the mirror. We can practice it. It’s probably good for us not to
think that NO is always combined with some sort of the emotional explosion. Just say NO if you mean it.
“…and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…” Hebrews 10:24
In addition—extremely important to keep in mind..We don’t have to offer all kinds of long explanations for
the decisions we make. I don’t know if you are in the habit of doing this…I know I am…but when people finally understand that when we say NO—we mean it—they will no longer question us, and we will no
longer think we need to explain. I love the expression, “What part of NO is it that you don’t understand?”
When we can say NO…we can say YES to the good. Our affirmation or lack thereof begins to be taken seriously. We actually gain control in our lives. We learn the secret…NO isn’t really that hard to say.
One of the reasons I admired Senator John McCain was because he was not afraid to say NO, no matter what it may have cost him to do so. As a prisoner of war and as a U.S. Senator, regardless of the pressure, he was never afraid or reluctant to say NO if he meant it. It was a virtue.
We can learn to say YES to things that feel good to us, especially as a reflection of what we know as God’s Word. We can learn to say YES to what we want, that is, for ourselves and the people we live with. We can learn to say YES to having fun. We can learn to say YES to meetings, to calling a friend or someone we know of who wants to hear from us.
We can learn to say YES asking for help. We need to surround ourselves with others who are willing to say YES. We can learn to say YES to healthy relationships, to say YES to people and activities that are good for us. After all, it is one of the purposes of the church, to provide friends and ministry partners in our lives who are YES people…people who have the same kind of face as Thomas Jefferson had, a YES face. People instinctively knew they could count on him. That’s probably why Mr. Jefferson was elected the President.
We can learn to say YES to ourselves—to what we want and need—as well as saying YES to the direct leading of our God. I look forward to the testimonies of those who finally decided that it was…YES…okay to allow the Lord to direct their lives day by day…and trust Him for their future. What if the Lord were to present you with a missionary call to serve in Outer Mongolia, would you at all be inclined to say YES? Indeed, what is the Lord saying to you today? It may not be to Outer Mongolia…what is the Lord calling you to do and be today in you life? No matter what other plans may have been there for you…would you say YES?
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we have told you, so that your daily life may win respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent upon anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
We can learn to say YES to our “intuition” and “instinct”. There is what we knowfor one thing…and what we sense on the other. One of the great shortcomings of Christians in the post-modern era is the lack of “Spiritual Imagination”. Often, there is a void of concern and care devoted to the sensitivities, that is, the creative humanity of the women and men (and girls and boys) touched by the Spirit who are part of the fellowship of a local congregation. We pray (perfectly correct liturgical) prayers. We live out our lives all too often as “cookie-cutter Christians”. We think we have nothing more to add to God’s story of salvation here on earth. We think we need to do everything “by-the-book”, and I guess that’s okay, if that book is the Holy Bible. I question the inspiration of a lot of Christian literature available these days. At times I get the notion that if the Holy Spirit were to peek His head into many our church buildings, it would cause great offense to many folks, even though the Spirit would bring a sense of freshness and vitality. The Spirit would say NO to the lack of uniqueness and enthusiasm…and YES to the power and grace of the living presence of God providing creativity not only Sunday worship, but the daily life in the local congregation.
We can learn to say YES when it feels right to help someone. We can learn to say YES to our feelings. We can learn to identify when we need to take a walk in the woods, take a nap, have our back rubbed, or to buy ourselves some flowers or pick up a bag of shelled peanuts. A recent survey suggests that seventy-per-cent (70%) of women and men in the United States hate the work they do. They do it to set food on their table. They do it because they feel they need to. We can learn to say YES to a job that is right for us. As things are, the routine of work is not a blessing and fulfillment for many, but really, a necessary curse for them. Most folks can’t wait to retire. This is a national epidemic adding strife to our present worldwide pandemic.
What would happen if folks considered their secular work their sacred vocation as Luther suggested. What would happen if, from the beginning in preparing for a career, people would think about—not just making money, which is necessary—but also think about what would fit in terms of fulfilling the work day and pleasing God? What would happen if, asking the question, is this the work God wants for me…I’d find satisfaction, and know that I was pleasing myself as well as the Lord with what I was doing? There are a multitude of such questions we could ask that would get us to clear YES and NO conclusions helping to make our lives better, more productive, and more fulfilling.
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” John 10:10
We can learn to say YES to all that will nurture and nourish us. We can learn to say YES to the best that life and love can to offer to us. It is so very important that the Lord Jesus made this promise for us…
(The Rev. Thomas Nibbe is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Pacifica.)