Improv actors have this rule. It’s the one rule you absolutely have to follow if you’re going to do improv. It’s the only way it works. You follow this rule.
And the rule is: always say yes.
Just say yes to whatever comes.
Did somebody just say you’re their long lost uncle from Kansas? Say yes. Just go with that.
Did someone just pretend to be making dinner on an invisible stove and they knocked over the pot of spaghetti sauce all over the burners? Say yes. Just go with that.
Just say yes to whatever someone throws at you because it’s the only way that this works out.
I did a little bit of improv as a kid, and I found this rule of “say yes” to be quite challenging. Before the “yes” came all kinds of thoughts; all sorts of ways that I could think through ideas of doing it slightly different; questions that I had. Things came up and it got in the way of the flow.
On Thursday morning of this week, just after coffee and toast, an email came in with the subject “At the hospital.” I knew what that meant. We’d been waiting for it. We all had been waiting for it. Andria was at the hospital.
And just like that, everything changed. A new life was on the way. A new addition to the Skornik family, to the world, to this church, All Saints. And a new role for a relatively new priest. That’s what was right in front of me.
And did I say yes?
Absolutely!...For just a little while.
I said yes until something didn’t go quite according to plan. It only took a couple hours for that to happen. And when that happened I said, "No! That wasn’t what I planned. That was not how I designed this in my imagination."
And at that moment the improv was put on pause.
Jesus has been throwing parables at his disciples for weeks now.
Well, in the context of the story it all happened at once but for us it’s been weeks.
Each one of these parables is a different way of thinking about the Kingdom of God.
Seeds scattered. Lots of food metaphors. Today, a mustard seed. Some yeast spread out. A treasure in a field and a pearl, both so precious that they’re worth selling all your possessions for. A net that scoops up all the fish--edible and inedible--and then the careful sorting that follows.
“Do you get what I mean?” Jesus says, after throwing all of these different parables out, one after the next. And what do his disciples say?
At first read you might, like me, think, Really? Do you really get them? Well that’s great because they seem to go in so many different directions. Such an abundance of meaning that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’re saying, Lord.
But maybe it’s not about the exact meaning here; maybe it’s the process. The action of saying “yes.” The improvisational quality of life–this life–that we’ve been given by God, and that God is continually giving to us.
When I was stuck on Thursday in my “no” I got broken out of my stuckness by a photo of a newborn baby. This fresh face, only in the world for mere minutes, but there he was on my screen, looking like heaven.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a stubborn man who gets stuck in his ways of thinking who is then broken out of it by the face of a newborn baby in a text message.
Do you get what I mean?
Jesus is throwing out these images of a Kingdom in which love is abundant, and the world is just, and all things are reconciled to the God who created all things in the same way that God’s Spirit is reaching out in the most ordinary moments of our life–especially the ones in which we’ve fallen into our own stuckness–and God is giving us these options, just throwing them at us, to say “Yes”. Yes to the abundance of life that God wills for us.
And what does that life look like?
Paul lays it out in our reading from Romans. It looks like a life in which God’s love is so inextricably linked to our life, so much a part of our being, our reality, that we couldn’t escape from it if we wanted to; if we tried.
And not only that, but there is nothing in all of existence, says Paul–not death, not life, or anything in between–that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Even our own stuckness; our own proclivity to say “no”; our own capacity to convince ourselves that God’s love is somehow conditional.
Even that can’t separate us from God.
We are already reconciled. We are already forgiven. We are already beloved.
Jesus intervenes with a new parable, a new image of God’s love for us, and Jesus calls us to say “Yes.” Say yes with the abandon of a person who would sell all his possessions and become poor for the beauty of the smallest part of God’s creation. Yes with the giddiness of a priest who would forget God’s grace for an entire morning before being reminded of it by the face of a newborn baby.
I don’t know what Jesus is throwing your way to lift you out of whatever you are stuck in, but I invite you to consider walking the foolish and often unthinkable path of discipleship in which we all say “yes” to the God who made us, who loves us, and from whom we will never be separated.