A Deeper ‘Yes’

It seems the whole world is imploding, or at least its governments.

This past month not only have governments risen up against their leadership in the Middle East but also in Ireland and even Wisconsin. Our collective anxiety is amped up, and maybe the world needs to step back and take a few deep breaths before it starts trying to figure out a few things.

If you’re a follower of the lectionary, this year, you’ll be stumbling through Matthew, which upon first encounter seems discouraging, the way a backhanded compliment does. The same way someone tries to offer you hope by saying, “Really, don’t worry, you’re not as shallow as you first seem”. Even this month in Matthew 6, Jesus pulls this very move, telling us that we, like the birds of the air and the grasses of the fields are pretty much toast, but don’t worry about it, okay?

But we do worry about today and we worry about tomorrow and though we may take deep comfort in knowing God will not forget us or abandon us or stop loving us, that’s not the first thing that pops into our mind during tax time. Not with a good third of church budgets tanking and a recent report in one denominational magazine saying yes indeed, the mainlines are dying. Not with war breaking out all over and economies collapsing and projections that our homes are worth less than we paid for them. These words from Matthew 6 are probably not on the mind of protestors in Tahrir Square in Cairo or the state capital in Indiana.

Years ago, when I was going off toward internship I expressed my dread to Jim Nestingen that I was facing my first experience in the parish during lectionary year A, the year of Matthew. “All that weeping and gnashing of teeth” I said, “the thrown into outer darkness.” “Don’t worry,” Jim told me, “because beneath the hard ‘no’s’ of Matthew there is a deeper ‘yes’.” And it was true. As I dug into Matthew, starting with the Beautitudes and it’s awful little text on divorce, and as I continued on burying myself in terrifying text about the wedding banquet (Ch. 22), I also found right next door Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Ch 23), where Jesus longs to gather the people he so dearly loves as a hen gathers her brood.

We will worry. Especially these days. And though we have plenty to worry about today, it also feels like there’s plenty left for tomorrow and next year as well. But maybe these texts from Matthew are exactly what we need right now. We need to be reminded that beneath these hard ‘no’s’ of the world, Jesus speaks to us with a deeper ‘yes’. That as we look at all the ‘no’s’ in life that confront us daily, whether we are watching our financial portfolios, or opening up the bill for day care, or watching the taxes on our homes increase while their values decrease, while we watch the world and its governments protest, each saying ‘no’ to this or that, there is a deeper, more profound ‘yes’ beneath it all. And even good, old Matthew comes to that. For at the end of his gospel, when he is commissioning his disciples, this seemingly street-tough Jesus tells his disciples, and us,

“Do not worry. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. And remember, I am with you until the end of the ages.”

This great yes, this tremendous promise, that is deeper than a whole lot of todays, far more than a bunch of tomorrows, and raises all our forevers.