Last week we followed the journey of the wise men to Bethlehem.
We admired their faith and courage to say “yes” to something beyond their comprehension and control. I called this the holy practice of saying “yes.”
This week I want to talk about the holy practice of saying “no.”
No is inherently negative. Few of us like saying “yes” but even fewer like saying “no”.
Perhaps you remember your parents saying “no” to buying you that ice cream.
Something about “no” hurts.
Perhaps we feel like we are going to miss out on something or worse let someone down.
It’s so much easier to say “yes” now and let our future selves pay the price of overcommitting than to momentarily disappoint a person in the present.
But this is not the same as the holy practice of saying “yes.”
Because committing to something, especially God,
following a holy “yes” is built on a foundation of “no’s.”
Today we see Jesus baptized.
Some of you critical listeners might be wondering why Jesus needs to be baptized at all.
It stands to reason that if Jesus was perfect he shouldn’t need to wash away his sins.
My careful listeners! You are not the first to point out this hiccup!
Early Church folks fought over this a lot.
Commenters even believe that the way Luke briskly mentions this event indicates his own discomfort with Jesus being baptized.
And yet there Jesus is, wading in the muddy waters of the Jordan with everyone else.
And Perhaps thatis the point some have argued
Perhaps this is one demonstration of many of Jesus’ character; a character of never skirting the messiness of the human experience.
That is what Jesus has said “yes” to after all.
God has torn heaven apart in order to be Emmanuel: God with us.
The Gospel shows Jesus following and affirming this “yes” to humanity all the way to the cross.
But each time Jesus recommits himself to the human experience, he has to say “no” to something else.
Immediately after this scene in the Jordan River, Jesus is driven into the wilderness by the same spirit that descended as a dove.
It is here that his “yes” to being human is first tested.
The one administering the test is none other than the devil himself.
The devil offers him three opportunities to flex out of the mortal form he has taken.
Each time Jesus denies the devil the pleasure of tempting him.
Each time his actions say “I am human.”
And each time he denies the devil he shows us how easy it is for us to deny our own humanity.
As Jesus denies the devil he commits to the limitations of being human.
He commits to the humility of only being able to do so much.
And those of us who seek to say “yes” to God must also be in touch with these limits.
We need to remember that we need sleep.
We need down time.
We need recreation time.
We need to play.
It is only when we are in touch with the limits of our humanity that our “yes” has integrity.
If we very humanbeings make divinepromises we are destined to let down ourselves, our families, and those to whom we have made the promise.
Each time we hear the temptation of putting in one more hour of work at the expense of those at home, that is the devil.
Each time we hear the temptation of one more hour more of TV at the expense of our eight hours of sleep, that is the devil.
Each time we hear the temptation of being on one more committee at the expense of an already full slate of commitments, that is the devil.
God wants us to know this lesson; that we are human.
Because when Jesus baptizes himself into our humanity, God’s pleasure can no longer be contained and booms forth from heaven “that’s my boy!”
God wants us to know that we are human.
This is the greatest “yes” that we can say.
Because in saying “yes” to our humanity the fact the we fail makes much more sense.
The fact that we might keep failing starts to line up.
Because we are not God.
And that is the best “no” we can say.
We cannot control everything in our lives, families, communities, and church.
We cannot see into the future.
We cannot make money fall from the skies.
We cannot force people to act like they should.
Because,we are not God.
So, we should start acting like it.
And that means saying “no” sometimes.
But it also means trusting God.
It is when we are honest with our own humanity that we are in right relationship with God.
When have the humilityto know our limits but the faithto say that God can
Fix families, grow churches, find money, get us sober, end wars, and do all such good works,
Good things happen.
We are humans.
God is God.
It’s been that way for a long time.
Know your limits.
And know God’s limitlessness.
Let your “no” mean no and your “yes” mean yes.
Say “no” when you have to so that when you do say “yes” it will be with integrity.
And when you do, when you are able to say “yes” like Jesus said “yes”
know that a joyful God is saying
That one, right there, is one of mine.