Plan On It

J. D. Ousley

22Jul12

“Plan on It”

 

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

 

I recently read a book about people who talk with God.

The book is by an anthropologist named T. N. Luhrmann. Dr. Luhrmann spent years interviewing members of an evangelical denomination known as The Vineyard. The interviews discussed the intimate dialogues these Christians hold with God.

Now, for those of us who don’t have such conversations, this practice is a bit hard to comprehend. For example, a woman reported that during her prayer time one morning, God said that he wanted her to wear a blue dress that day instead of a red one!

Another woman claimed that when things go wrong, she gets angry at God and she yells at him. However this Christian assured Dr. Luhrmann that even when she has problems, God is still her best friend!

As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help thinking of questions I might ask the people who were interviewed: For example, is it really possible that the Lord of the Universe is concerned about what you wear today? Isn’t God greater than this? Isn’t prayer much more complex than conversation with a human friend?

Yet as the book proceeded with story after story, I kept reading. And I found that these dialogues raised questions for me, too.

For even though, I feel no urge to adopt this practice of talking with God in an informal way, I do believe that God does care about my daily life. And while it may not be important in the divine scheme of things whether this morning I put on black shoes or brown, surely it does matter to God what I think and do. So while I may not be comfortable with some forms of prayer, I know I need my own ways of communicating with the Divine.

For all Christians, evangelical or not, may hope that God has a plan for our lives. This idea appears again and again in the Bible. We see it in the Creation of human beings in the first Book of Genesis; we see God’s plan in the vision of Christ’s final triumph over the forces of darkness in the last Book of Revelation.

God’s plan also appears in the story of King David, which we have been hearing in various Old Testament readings this summer. In today’s First Lesson, the Prophet Nathan announces that God will make for David, “a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more.”

Nathan further proclaims to David that ”the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you.” The offspring then shall build a house God’s name, and God will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

The divine plan carries on through the centuries into New Testament times. St. Luke’s Gospel announces that Jesus of Nazareth, who is “of the house and lineage of David,” is the Messiah sent from God.

According to the Bible, then, God has ordered the universe. And it is up to all of us to ask ourselves, How can we live in such a way that we fit into this divine plan?

Well, one way to do this, whether or not we have daily talks with God, is to look for signs that God wants us to move in a particular direction. For even folks who are not religious, seek evidence of a larger plan.

For example, someone who has lost her job may hear a friend say: “When one door closes, another opens.” In other words, the end of your career may make possible a new vocation.

This makes sense from a Christian perspective, too: if God wants us to have “abundant life,” then life may well include satisfying labor. Looking on a dismissal from your job as an opportunity instead of a curse may then be a way of acknowledging divine providence. It may reveal to you how you fit into God’s plan.

That said, we can never be absolutely sure that God has given us accurate knowledge of what He wants us to do. However close we feel to God, there remains an infinite distance between us and the divine. And if we forget this distance, we can have unrealistic thoughts about god’s plan for us.

Thus, in Professor Luhrmann’s book, there is a woman who encounters all kinds of difficulties—she loses her job; a relationship falls apart; she needs to borrow money. After those practical difficulties, she then concludes surprisingly that God wants her to go on a mission in Africa!

This could be God’s plan. But the idea does seem to be suspiciously self-serving. The woman has had so many failures in life—wouldn’t it be a bit too convenient for her to leave everything behind to take on the noble profession of serving others in a foreign land?

We can’t expect that God will always arrange things the way we want them. Perhaps God really wanted the woman to take a job at a supermarket for a while, until she got back on her feet financially—and paid off her debts to other people. God’s plan for us can be humble.

On the other hand, of course,the woman might be right. God could send her on a pleasing spiritual adventure. But as we look for God’s will for our lives, we have to be aware of our human propensity to see God’s plans as following our own wishes.

Thus we need to be both spiritual and realistic. If you have lost your job after a corporate merger, you have to admit that this might have been just one of those misfortunes that happen in life.

In other words, God may not have planned that merger. And God may not necessarily have another job ready for you.

That said, however, God’s Spirit can still be a factor in what comes next. The great plan of God might not mean $200,000 a year and a corner office.

But the Holy Spirit will always be there. So God can help you to rise up from your bad luck.

And so, a door may eventually open for you—even if that door might not be what you expect. For instance, it might be an opportunity to serve as a volunteer. In other words, the general plan of God is to give us abundant life.

And that general plan points beyond our individual needs. Intimate talks with God shouldn’t distract us from the values that Jesus preached: the Kingdom of God and the fellowship of all God’s people.

And finally, when we look for God’s plan for us, we should give thanks for blessings that are ours, whatever happens. As the General Thanksgiving says, we receive “the means of grace” and “the hope of glory.” God has a plan—that plan includes gifts that surpass our human understanding.

 

And now unto that same God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.


Leave a Reply