Just Say Yes

It sounds so easy and so good. Indeed, so much seemed to hinge on what Nancy Reagan advised during the 1980s: Just Say No. She meant of course to say No to drugs.

Okay, sure. That’s good advice. But if all we ever do is say No, we are a sorry species.

One of my best friends ever (T. Michael Dempsey, a theater and philosophy and theology guru) helped me to see some years ago now that the best and most important thing human beings can do is to say “Yes.”

Mike is a genius in many respects, not least in his ability to teach improvisational theater. Among the many exercises he facilitates with his students is the “Yes Game.” This is disarmingly simple and profound. In this game, people take turns suggesting some activity that the whole group can do, like running around the room, or rolling around on the floor, or hopping on one foot while chanting “bacon, bacon, bacon.” It doesn’t matter what it is, when someone suggests something to do, everyone says, “Yes!” And then we all do it.

I cannot describe the profound effect this “simple” game can have. To say Yes to life, to people, to love, to opportunity, to risk, to relationship, to relaxation…to God. This is what we are made for.

Tomorrow on the Christian calendar is Trinity Sunday. Many Churches will be hearing from an ancient Hebrew prophet in their worship services. It will be a portion from Isaiah, the one in which the prophet has an astounding vision of God’s presence and glory (see chapter 6).

In the midst of that praise-filled vision, the divine voice speaks: “Who will go for us, and whom shall we send?”

It’s important to note here that Isaiah’s society at the time was in something of a mess. Isaiah’s account of this moment is signaled rather precisely in the first verse of that chapter, “In the year that King Uzziah died….”

His society was unraveling, in other words. And someone had to do something. Someone had to speak some hard truths. Something had to change. (Sound familiar?)

Caught up in that astounding moment of divine worship that Isaiah describes, when the divine voice speaks and seeks someone – anyone – to make a difference, Isaiah doesn’t hesitate: “Send me!

Isaiah said yes. And that’s all that matters. Whatever comes next, whatever details need to be worked out, whatever plan needs to be negotiated and executed – all of that can come later, and indeed God provides all that stuff, as Isaiah later learned. The most important thing is that Isaiah said “Yes!”

I love Trinity Sunday and I am happily a Trinitarian Christian. That doesn’t mean that I “understand” the Trinity or that I think all other views of the divine life are somehow “wrong.” It means for me what I think it must have meant for Isaiah: the God who is above all things is also in all things; the God who is transcendent also dwells among us; the God who cannot be captured in doctrines nevertheless speaks: “Who will go for us?”

The time is now for all of us to say “Send me!” And I truly believe that worship can help each of us say that kind of Yes, just as it helped Isaiah.

That might be the most peculiar thing of all about Christian faith and life today: worship matters. In an age when “spirituality” trumps “religion,” I believe there is still much to be said for the religious rites of worship. Both Jewish and Christian ancestors attest to the life-changing, world-transforming character of worship. Praising God with others can actually change the world. I believe this. I’ve seen it. And I want to find ever new ways to say “Yes!” to it.

Let us therefore worship the unfathomable mystery of God tomorrow, and may our worship help us to say Yes to the divine call. Our world is in desperate need. Now is not the time to say No. Now is the time to say Yes to that Mystery no one can comprehend but which calls to each of us nonetheless: Will you go? Will you do it? Will you change the world?

May our worship inspire us anew to say YES!

Author: The Rev. Dr. Jay

I'm an Episcopal priest, parish pastor, and Christian theologian as well as a writer, teacher, and occasionally, a poet. I'm committed to the transforming energy of the Christian gospel and its potential to change the world -- even today. Now that's peculiar, thank God!

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