Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hope Is Not a Plan

12 minute sermon for preaching class:

The disciples were afraid. Their leader, their teacher, the man who had taken care of them and loved them and showed them the way of God, was dead. Jesus was dead. And, for all they knew, they were going to be next. And, so they barricaded themselves into a room and locked the door.
Can you imagine what it must have been like in there? That paranoid feeling, jumping at sounds? How were they supposed to move forward from this? I imagine they spoke in hushed voices about the different possibilities that lay before them, fear piling upon fear, their worries feeding upon each other until eventually one of them was gonna snap. It wasn't good.
Michelle Walker always used to say, "Hope is not a plan!" I think most of you knew her.
Well, as far as we know, the disciples didn't even have hope. We don't know if they really had a plan beyond locking themselves up in that room. They were afraid, and their situation was looking a little grim.
But suddenly, suddenly, Jesus was there! And, they were so happy to see him! He showed them is hands, and he showed them his side, and he said, "Peace be with you." "Peace be with you."
I was doing a Lectio Divina with my youth group last week on this text, and that was the phrase that stood out for me. "Peace be with you." I kept seeing this image in my mind of Jesus looking at the disciples, with his hands held out in this kind of claming manner as he said it. "Peace be with you." "Peace be with you." My understanding of this image was that I was worrying too much. I needed to put my faith in God, and allow God to do what God was going to do. And when I realized that, this feeling of peace just welled up inside of me. I was able to let go.
And, I really needed that peace. Jesus, holding his hands out like that, that was the exact image that I needed to see. Because, as graduation draws near and I keep thinking about all of the things that I need to do, it just freaks me out! I think about it, and I honestly don't know how I'm supposed to do it all, and I get stressed, and my blood pressure goes up, and in all seriousness, I really think that all of this worrying might, at least in a small part, be why I ended up in the emergency room three weeks ago. My blood pressure had gotten so high that I had to be hospitalized, pumped full of drugs to bring my blood pressure down to a safe level. They ran all kinds of tests, it was nuts. I don't want to go through again.
Which is why I need what this text is telling me so badly. That Jesus is with us in the midst of our trouble, and our worries, and our anxieties. Jesus is with us, his arms open and welcoming, and he is saying, "Peace be with you." Right now, I need that peace almost as much as I need air.
Most of you know that I am currently trying to finish a 34-foot tile mosaic mural in Holy Grounds before I graduate, as part of my Spirituality Concentration. It's mostly done; I'd say maybe a good 70-80%. But, that leaves, at the very least, 20% of the mural to go, which I calculated out to be about 200 hours worth of work. Now, I have a history of over-extending myself and of procrastination, but this situation that I've gotten myself into might actually be the winner. So, of course, I've been worrying about this, and add to that the classes I have to take and church things and ordination, and it's no wonder I have to worry about my blood pressure.
But, an interesting thing happened last week. I mentioned earlier about the Lectio and this image of Jesus, standing there holding his hands out, but the next day, the day after the Lectio, I was sitting in Holy Grounds, not working on the mural 'cuz I was still getting over this cold and I just didn't feel very well, when this horde of people just descended upon me, insisting that we have a mural work party. None of these people had ever helped me with the mural before, and I had no idea that they were coming. We blasted some music, broke some plates, and stayed up late into the night, some of us not leaving until past three in the morning, and all together, we must have put in at least 20 work hours into that thing. It was amazing! It was beautiful, and it reminded me of why I love being here so much. The kicker though, what made me really realize that this was not just some coincidence, but really a God moment, was the fact that one of the people who came to help was a prospective student. I had only met her earlier that day, shaking her hand after chapel, and I honestly thought that I was never going to see her, ever again. But, there she was, pretty much a complete stranger, smashing plates with a hammer and gluing the pieces onto the wall. I didn't have a plan for how I was gonna finish the mural, other than last minute, extreme crazy panic, and at this point, I don't even know if that was gonna work. But, God had a plan. God always has a plan.
I think I needed this little reminder about the ways in which God can work in our lives. I had gotten so caught up in thinking that I had to do it all by myself, that I had to figure this out, make a plan, execute it. Little did I know that God was gathering a group of people together to help me, and maybe I should have been asking for help all along. Being part of the church means being part of a community, part of a family. And, we need to be open to the ways in which God is working through us and through community to bring wholeness and healing into our lives.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't make plans. Michelle was right. Hope is not a plan. We can't just walk through life, aimless and wandering. God wants us to do things, to help people. Plans give our lives structure, so that we can actually get things done. But, sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where a plan just isn't going to cut it. And, we have to have faith that God is going to help us. Because the choice is either to keep trying, to work through it, trusting that God will see us through, or to fall into despair and hopelessness, where we can't really help anybody. Where we can't even help ourselves.
But, I also want to add that planning does not mean a rigid adherence to a set path. No matter how carefully we plan, no matter how many contingencies we have, life will find a way to mess things up. Life is complicated, and we have to allow for course correction. And, we need to have the humility to understand that our plans won't always be God's plans, and that to stand in the way of God's plan is the way of folly and futility.
As for the disciples, we know a bit about happened to them. Their lives weren't easy. They were ridiculed for their belief, persecuted and killed. But, they lived their lives doing God's work. And they were filled with joy and love, knowing that their purpose was God's purpose. And, while I'm not going to say that I'm an advocate for martyrdom, I will say that I am an advocate for living into God's will. Hope is not a plan. But, hope should be a part of every plan that you make. And, my hope is, that in whatever plans you make for the future, you will take a moment to look and listen for God. Because, while hope may not be a plan, God's will certainly is, and we can have hope in that. So, make your plans, and try not to worry. And, peace be with you.

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