For the month of August I will continue preaching in my series on Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, with the focus in August being Second Corinthians. It is one of Paul’s most personal and pain-filled letters. He and the Corinthians have had a devastating break, and he is writing to them in pain and in hopes of restoring their relationship. While his second letter to the Corinthians is not as eloquent as the first letter, we do see Paul at a basic level of pain and anxiety and seeking restoration and reconciliation. Even at that, however, there are powerful and memorable phrases in this second letter: “Therefore we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (II Cor. 4:7); “So, we are ambassadors for Christ” (5:20); “God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7).
The verse that leaps out at me, however, is 1:20: “For in Christ every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’ to the glory of God.” I remember reading a translation where the “Amen” is translated as “Yes,” meaning that we are asked to say “yes” to God, who has said “yes” to us in Jesus Christ. On an intellectual level, who would not say “yes” to the love of God? Why not say “yes” to the power of love and acceptance? Who would say “no?” Yet, on the individual and experiential level, we all know the difficult answer: we all say “no” to God in one way or another. For some of us, it is anxiety; for some of us, it is resentment; for some of us, it is exploitation and injustice; for some of us, it is comfort and affluence. On a basic level, Paul is asking the Corinthians and us to consider our resistance to saying “yes” to God and to look for ways to begin to say “yes.” What will motivate us to hear and to believe that we are loved? The answer to that question is the heart of the Gospel, and it is one that we will be considering in August.
Caroline and I have been looking back over the last 45 years of Oakhurst history this summer, trying to get a handle on it, trying to put names on photographs, and trying to find themes that are woven through the remarkable story of this church. One theme that has struck us is how many people (and how many times) said “yes” to the future of Oakhurst. When 90% of the congregation fled over a 20 year period, there were plenty of “nos” expressed. But that 10%, that remnant, said “yes,” and with the power of God’s Spirit, those “yeses” gained traction and began to build the new community. It was a difficult struggle, but the community deepened and broadened. White people began to hear and to believe that the Gospel was more powerful than race. African-American people began to hear and to believe that there were some people classified as “white” who might be redeemable. Women began to hear and believe that they were called as God’s daughters, and men began to hear and believe that women were partners, not property. People said “yes” to God’s work here and made sacrifices so that this small experiment could take hold. We are deeply grateful to all of you who have said “yes” to God’s mission here, a mission designed to proclaim that God has broken down the dividing walls in Jesus Christ.
We are now looking at another time of transition here at Oakhurst, as my retirement looms at the end of this year. Caroline retired in 2012, and now I am near retirement, and it will be a big transition for us and for the church. In this time of shifting and re-booting, we are asking that you keep this transition in your thoughts and prayers. We are also asking that you consider saying “yes” when our Transition Committee or Nominating Committee or Session asks you to step up in the next few months. Thanks to those who have said “yes” in the past, we are in much better shape at Oakhurst than we have been in many years, and we give thanks for your hard work and support in ministry. We will need you to deepen your commitment in this year to come, and we will need those of you who have said “no” or “maybe” to move into the “yes” column. Let us join Paul and be those who say “yes to God through Christ Jesus, to the glory of God.” Amen? Amen!