Monday, March 1, 2010

Pieces in the Puzzle

One of my mentors reminded me after I graduated seminary and was ready to start my ministry in my first call that the work I was about to do was not mine.
That in my first call I would reap the rewards of the pastor who was before me, and that I was doing work for the pastor who would follow me.
It was a reminder to me that the work we do is not for us it is always for those that come after us.
I will tell you that he was right.
All the work I did in that church was made possible by my predecessor faithful ministry.
For example, she had done an excellent job of youth ministry.
Therefore, we had four very dedicated young women in their late twenties who were all instrumental in leading our congregation.
It was not I who nurtured their faith or their love of the church.
I simply reaped the rewards of my predecessor’s hard work.
I don’t even know the outcome of the work I did in that place.
I only did what I thought was the most faithful thing to do at the time hoping and praying that it would produce good down the line.
I am aware that the work I do here is not mine either.
It is the work of those that came before me, and the work I do is really for whoever will come after me.
The good or the bad that we do in this life has not only consequences for us but for those that come after us.
And what we do now we will never fully be able to understand what it all means.
This is the message in all the texts that we have this morning.

Abram cannot fully see what God has in store for him.
What he knows now is that he has no legitimate heir.
He knows he is getting older.
What he cannot see is the future beyond what is happening to him now.
It is out of his site.
St. Paul reminds the church at Philippi that his hope for the future lies in his faith in God.
That he knows that his true home is not here but in heaven with his savior, and everything Paul does has eternity in mind.
Finally, Jesus knowing that his rejection comes at Jerusalem reminds us that his road is to be faithful to God’s call regardless of the consequences.
Yes, Herod is out to kill Jesus and he is going to succeed too but Jesus knows that is not the end of the story.
That God’s plan goes beyond even the death of His son.

You see the future is always unclear to us.
The past is done.
What we always have is today.
And today God is calling us to be faithful.
Just as God called Abram, Paul, and Jesus to be faithful.
So too God calls us to be faithful and to lean into God’s future.
To run the race of faith with courage and a hope that God has a plan and is working all things out for good.

This week at the Lenten lunches one of my neighbors Jen Steinhousen gave the talk about faith and life.
She used this brilliant illustration and I asked her if I could steal it for my sermon this morning.
I have already apologized to Bill and Gail Magan who where there and have already heard it, but I thought it was perfect for my sermon this morning.
She told us that God’s plan is like a puzzle.
Each of us are integral pieces of that puzzle.
That without any of us the final puzzle would not work.
So we are all important we all have a role to play in God’s plan.
But the only person with the lid to the puzzle is God.
Only God knows what the final plan looks like, and we are just pieces in the greater plan.

Even though we don’t know the final plan we can still.
I think our call is to faithfully fall into the vision that God has for each of our lives.
Every day we can affect the people around us.
Every day we can tell someone about God’s love.
Every day we can help someone in need.
Every day we can teach our children how to love and live in peace.
Every day we can make a difference in this world.
Remember you don’t exactly know the outcome of what you do, but as a person of faith you know that what you do for God is part of the plan of God.

Everything we do should therefore be done knowing that God has a stake in the outcome.
Think about Abram.
He did not know exactly what would happen when God called him away from his home land.
He did not know how he was going to become the father of so many descendants in his old age.
What he knew was that God had made a promise, and he believed in faith in that promise.
Paul did not know why God called him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, and I am sure he did not know why he had ended up in jail.
What he knew was that God was using his life for a greater purpose and he had faith in the greater plan.

God has made a promise to every person here this morning it is the promise that we too will be gathered under the wings of God’s love.
That God is like a hen who gathers us under her wings.
God created us and sustains us.
He did not put us here to fail and to leave us desolate.
God put us here as part of the plan and future we cannot see.
We have faith in God that in God’s plan it all works out for God’s purpose.

Today you might be struggling with your life.
We all do at some point in time.
You might be like Abram and unsure if your life really has purpose and meaning.
You might feel like Paul locked in prison for no reason.
You too might feel like that the end is written and the prophets are killed and hate and destruction always get the final word.
But remember that God’s plan is always bigger then our vision.
The final destination is always just ahead of what we can see.
Our job is to live faithfully just like Abram, Paul, and Jesus.
It is to lean everyday into God’s future.
And to believe that the work we do does help the next generation and the people that come after us.

I am reminded of a poem called the Bridge builder by Will Allen Dromgoogle
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim, near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

Leaning into God’s future we too build bridges for those that come after us.
We build those bridges to warn of danger spots and to make the crossing easier.
In faith, we walk and we leave behind us faith so that our children or the youth too may walk in faith.
We don’t know the end, what we know is that today God calls each and every one of us to lean into God’s future and to build a bridge for those that come after us.
May we have faith to lean into God’s future this day and every day.

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