Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
From Personal to Communal
Caitlan and I are preaching on Stewardship this October using the theme, "Yes... And..." We are looking at four ways Christians are first called to say YES to God, then to add AND, to go beyond and give extra. The YES is good, and when the YES is followed by AND, we find ourselves being led toward the fullness of life God imagines and provides us.
For much of my younger life, I was resistant to others requiring me to say YES to God. I heard preachers make altar calls, stroking the emotions of people to step forward, say YES, and pray the sinners prayer. I heard youth challenged to say YES to God and be baptied as a shortcut to avoid hell. I saw street preachers verbally attack people they judged, and bemoan their fate unless they say YES to God and "accept Jesus into your heart."
Have you heard Christians demand others say YES to God?
I still despise the threats some stripes of Christianity make on others to say YES. However, I now find more value in saying YES to God.
Yes, pray. Yes, be baptized. Yes, learn more and more about God every day for the rest of your life, especially the unique amazing God I happen to know in the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, join a faith community. Yes, serve God's coming Kingdom. These YES-ses we say to God are important and do make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those around us.
But, our YES doesn't save. Our YES-ses to God are important. They start or continue a journey. They pledge our allegiance, and bind us to God and one another. They point our path forward. But our YES-ses do not save.
The great YES that saves is the YES God says to us, and to all creation in Jesus the Christ. That's the one and only saving YES.
When God looked upon creation and called it good, very good, that YES started life and gave it the full potential of wholeness and peace. Then, when God saw how our abuse of life's freedom brought sin into relationships, community, and creation itself, God said YES again. God sent God's own self, God's own child back into the world as one of the world. In Christ's life, teaching, death, and resurrection, we hear God's great YES for all creation and all creatures, including us.
As you pray today, listen for God's calling to say YES. Listen for one way to say love or be love toward someone, perhaps even yourself. If possible, say YES to God. Then, add something to that YES. Go the extra mile. Give a little extra, not because your doing so gets you anything in return, but because this great and generous God is worthy of our YES and our AND.
Blessing, Laughter, and Loving be yours!
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert