Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sermon, Proper 3A, Matthew 6:24-34

There's an old saying that goes, "We plan, God laughs." This is in response to the belief that ultimately God is in charge and that God will send us to where we really need to go. It's all very Calvinistic. As an example, the plan was for me to live the rest of my life in Spokane, raise my family, retire, and die there. Instead, God thought it would be funny if he sent me to seminary.

I began thinking about these plans of ours and how God tends to ignore them, when something came to mind: how many of our plans are thwarted by God because we leave him out? In other words, do our plans tend to revolve solely around us, me, I; or do our plans revolve around God?

If our plans revolve solely around us, then I contend that they aren't plans at all, but worries. We worry about our kids. We worry about the groceries. We worry about our job and our paycheck and career. We worry about what we're going to wear.

We spend all our time worrying about these things because we have put ourselves at the center of the universe, or we have made ourselves the priority and we can't help but wonder how it's all going to affect us. Taken to the extreme, we find ourselves chasing the next best thing or latest fad.

There is another way. Because you are sitting here, you already know the answer. The other way involves moving God to the center of your life. It involves allowing God to be at the foundation of our plans and to receive the honor due his name. If we lived like this, God wouldn't laugh at us nearly as often.

What might these plans look like if we put God first? Jesus said not to worry about what you will eat, drink or wear. Do we need those things? Do we need food, water and clothing? Of course we do. But worrying about them might not be the best way to go about obtaining them.

Food is food and clothes are clothes. Instead of buying name brand items, why not buy generic? Instead of buying a box of Tony the Tiger, why not buy cereal in a bag? Instead of buying Levi Strauss, why not buy Costco brand? You'll still eat. You'll still be clothed. And here's a novel thought: notice how much you've saved and increase your pledge by that amount. Or put the extra change in the mission jar.

The point here is that if we stop worrying about us, and plan for God, think of what we could do. Using the physical plant as an example, look what happened when we quit worrying about the roof or the carpet and we planned. By putting God first and planning for the health and mission of our parishes, we will succeed.

That success will come form a plan about our present and immediate future. How do we interact with God now? How do we support this parish now? How is what we are doing now addressing the future mission? Are we planning for the physical and spiritual health of this place and our people? By thinking on these things and planning for these things, we are striving for the kingdom of God; which is exactly what Jesus tells us to do.

So we plan for a new roof that protects worshipers. We plan for a new paint job that increases our visibility and protects the building. We plan for yard work that shows we aren't dead. We plan for new carpet that says we aren't simply a museum. We plan for learning opportunities that help us delve into the mystery of our faith. And we plan to support our missionaries to Belize.

We do all of this because we have moved God to the center of our lives. In him we live and move and have our being. And when we reflect on everything we have done, we just may come to the conclusion that we have planned to allow God to use us. We have planned to be part of God's life.

As we reflect on the things we have done, we will also come to the realization that, for all of our work, for all of our worrying, for all of our planning, for all of our striving, it doesn't end with us. The kingdom of God reaches past us to our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond. Are we including them in our plans?

At some point we will all pass away from this earthly existence. Have we planned to help that future generation? As we strive for the kingdom and work to make the Ruby Valley Episcopal Churches viable and vital again, have we given thought to the future? There is a Planned Giving program that allows both current and future generations to benefit from that type of gift - a gift to future generations of these parishes who could benefit from our willingness to put God first.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for can any of you add a single hour to the span of your life? Instead of worrying about yourself, plan on refocusing your life with God at the center. If we intentionally put God first, if we plan on being used by God, if we strive to live into the kingdom of God, if we make those kinds of plans, then God won't laugh -- he'll smile.


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