Monday, April 26, 2010

God's Plan

This week at Bible study we were talking about God’s plan.
What is God’s plan?
How do we know what it is?
In the Bible God’s plan is odd it takes twist and turns.
Just when you think it is all settled something happens and the whole things goes in a different direction.
For example, just after Joseph is reunited with his brothers, after they have forgiven one another, after they became successful in the land of Egypt, then the Israelites become slaves to Pharaoh.
God rescues the Israelites from slavery, drowns Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.
All is well, and then they have to wonder in the dessert.
Just when they get to the promised land.
No sooner had they settled in when they are then attacked again and again until they are taken into captivity.
And on and on it goes like this one thing after another.
Even in the New Testament, finally the messiah comes, the word becomes flesh and walks among us.
And then he dies on a cross, only to be raised again, and then leave behind his followers the Church.
If you have any involvement with any church you know this was not a good idea.
This is a crazy plan.

Which leads me to this morning’s Gospel.
Because this morning’s Gospel in John to me explains God’s plan perfectly and clearly.
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
This is God’s plan.
That we will be the sheep, and he will care for us, and nothing will be able to snatch us away from God.
That is God’s plan.
It is a brilliant plan.
Because it depends not on us but on God.
It depends on God to keep us near to him, and to stop us following other things that might lead us away from God.

There is a problem with this plan of course.
We all know how hard it is to believe this plan.
When things in our life go off track.
When we go off track then it is hard to believe that God has not let us go.
We need to have faith in this plan.
We need to believe in Jesus for this plan to make sense.
Not that believing in Jesus is even really something we do.
It is God who gives us to Jesus.
The plan is that we, those of us hear this morning, are the ones God has chosen.
We have been given to Jesus.
Because God gave us to Jesus we know his voice and we follow him.

But let us go back to our problem.
When things go off track, or off script, or not according to plan what do we do then?
Do we still have faith, do we still believe, that Jesus Christ is there to make sure that we are not snatched away?

I was thinking this week about all the times in my life when I could have died.
There was this one time when I was about 11.
I was riding my bike around my neighborhood with my mom.
There was this really steep hill that I would go very fast down.
As I was going down this person was backing out of their drive way.
I saw it happening but could not stop in time.
I closed my eyes waiting for the impact.
Somehow, the person pulling out of the drive way stopped right before he backed into me.
I could tell you a million stories like this one.
I bet you could tell me a million stories like this one too.
I see these stories as signs from God that I am suppose to be here right now.
Because there are a lot of people out there who have stories like these that don’t end in them surviving.
They are people of faith too.
My point is this all of life is about inches.
The wall between living and dying is thin, and it is always in God’s hand.
What gives me confidence is that whether I live or die I am in God’s hands.
Jesus promises us eternal life and so dying in this world is not as bad as it would seem at first.
That is my faith in the plan.
It is in God’s plan for my life, and for yours.

But this still does not answer the most difficult questions.
The first funeral I did as an ordained pastor was for a five year old girl.
One day she was healthy and happy.
The next day she was dead.
It was tragic.
This was a good family.
They loved God deeply, they served God in their lives.
They were not perfect, but they were really good people.
How could this happen to them?
When I sat with the family I had no answers.
What was the point of this?
Was this God’s plan?
Could this be God’s plan?
We all have things like this in our lives.
We have things that rock our core beliefs, challenge our thinking about God.
We all have things that have happened to us that we want answer for, that we don’t fully understand.

For the family of the five year old girl all I had to give them was God’s plan.
All I know in faith is what is promised through Jesus Christ.
What I believe to my inner core is that Jesus gives us eternal life, and we are never snatched away from God.
Even when we don’t understand the details.
Even when we don’t know why this or that happens to us in our lives.
What we can be sure of is that God is there for us.
God is holding us in his hand, and God will not allow us to be snatched away.

Perhaps even in our darker times God finds us there too.
The crucifixion of Jesus for example allows us to have a deeper understanding of God.
For in the crucifixion we see the lengths of God’s love for us.
Here in Christ we see the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
In the crucifixion we see that God’s love is poured out into us.
That is a relentless God we have.
God will not allow us to get off the track of the plan, even when we want to.

You see all the things that happen in the Biblical witness are just life.
They are things that happen all around us.
Life, death, war, oppression, injustice, militaristic arrogance, sin, redemption, sibling rivalry, love, hate, rejection, acceptance, disbelief, faith.
All of these things are human, and through it all God is working out the plan.
To have all the sheep come home, to call everyone to God self.
To give eternal life and have no one snatched away to death or evil.

Like it says in the beloved psalm 23, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I shall fear no evil; for you are with me.”
All the time we are walking in the shadow of death, but because we have faith in the good shepherd we have faith that God is working all things out for good.

I have no answers for you about your particular situation.
Why did I lose my job?
Why are my kids not going to church?
Why were my parents crazy?
Why did my best friend die?
All I know is that whatever situation you are in right now.
Whatever situation you are facing in your life I know that God is with you.
I know that Jesus the good shepherd will not let anyone snatch you away from his hand.
I know and believe in God’s plan that goodness and mercy shall follow us all our days, and that we shall have eternal life.

So, today as we leave here as our lives continue to twist and turn let us have faith and believe in Jesus Christ who cares for us, and will not let anything snatch us away.

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