During Advent, you’ve heard me talk about Clark Griswold in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. I like his enthusiasm although it’s often misdirected.
He wants to have the perfect Christmas and family vacations, so he makes plans in his head that are not practical-he conjures up this pie-in-the sky type of stuff that no one can achieve.
So, everyone of his plans falls apart, which makes for a funny movie, but as a neat freak, I’m thinking who is going to clean up all the messes that his half-baked plans have made.
Anticipating that he will get a Christmas bonus, he makes a down payment on a swimming pool. But, it doesn’t seem like he is getting the bonus, and in his anxiousness, his plans become even more intense that drive everyone else crazy.
The Christmas lights don’t want to work, and somehow a squirrel got in the Christmas tree and makes for chaos in the family living room as it jumps out on everyone.
In first Vacation movie, Clark sets the family out west from Chicago for a vacation of his dreams, but he gets lost, has flat tires, loses his suitcases, and he finds out that when he does arrive-after crossing half the country-that Wallyworld is closed for repairs.
Nothing goes according to plan for Clark Griswold. His plans that never work put deep meaning into Robert Burn’s line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often run askew.”
The story goes that Robert Burns was out plowing his field, and he plowed over a mouse’s nest. He figured that this mouse had spent a lot of time building his nest, so he wrote the poem, “To a Mouse,” to apologize to the mouse.
It seems strange to want to tell a mouse, “I’m sorry,” but poems are suppose to make us think about life.
From mice to humans, plans have their way of going wrong.
Any animal and any human wakes up in the morning and has a good idea what it wants to be doing for that day.
I’ve watched the Nature channel enough that I know that for most animals any day is about finding something to eat.
But, after a snowfall like we’ve had this past week, animals were finding that their routine for finding food was interrupted.
The animal world is tough. As a critter goes out to find a meal, it might become a meal for a bigger critter. Poor little critter, becoming a meal while looking for a meal is a plan gone dreadfully wrong.
Well, for us, it’s basically the same thing. Our regular schedules had to be adjusted, so we could shovel out many cubic yards of snow in order to go anywhere.
And our world is tough. We live in a competitive global economy. You can have dreams and visions of success, but many other people have those same ideas-gotta be as tough as nails if you’re going to make it out there.
Animal or human-no one knows what we will wake-up to. With all that can get dished out to us in a day, the best laid plans can’t even anticipate-just so many ups and downs.
One of the most dramatic stories of all time is the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Abraham had no idea what he was waking up to that one day when God told him to make a sacrifice using his son, Isaac.
We need a little of the back story here to see how Abraham could put it in his mind to set out to implement God’s plan to make a sacrifice to God using his son.
God has been building a relationship with Abraham for decades. For Abraham, God had big plans for him to be a leader of many people. This plan took many conversations between God and Abraham.
For instance, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were old when God told them that they would have a son.
They didn’t think it was possible in their old age to have a child, but they did have a son.
So, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Abraham trusted God.
Before we go into more of the drama of the story, there is a phrase that Abraham says, “The Lord will provide.”
In seminary, the professor of Hebrew said that a more exact translation is, “The Lord sees.”
With this translation, we realize that our Lord sees everything from eternity into eternity. Hmm, eternity into eternity-that’s an interesting phrase.
You see, God has no beginning or end, and He has all that infinite space figured out. Only God can do that.
To be able to see everything and to know all outcomes, the Lord is able to provide for all to turn out according to His plans.
In other words, all is under God’s control for He is the creator and author of all things.
God has only one plan. His “A” plan is the only plan that is in the works for the world for all time.
From the beginning, God had a plan for His creation, especially the plan of salvation in Christ.
God’s one plan covers everything from the beginning of this world to the very end-the Last Day when Jesus comes again.
Knowing that God has only a plan “A” and sticks to it, it leaves a lot of questions.
God also gives us free will, so does God know if I am going to chose to wear my black or brown sweater today?
Along with a lot of other choices, how is God involved in the specific details of my life?
Not to deflect to a simple answer that is really a non-answer, but how many things come about in our lives is a mystery.
To come up with a concrete answer that explains how God works in our lives with His plan “A” will wind up with a word jumble that will make our heads swim.
For any kind of answer it comes down to a matter of faith. We trust that God sees everything in our lives for this moment and all of our moments in the future.
And in that trust, we believe that all will work out.
Let’s get back to Abraham. He has bounded Isaac’s hands, placed him on the wood, and he has his hand holding a knife raised in the air to come down on the chest of his son.
We don’t know the thoughts and feelings of Abraham. Was his hand shaking so much that he could hardly hold the knife? Were there tears in his eyes? Was his heart heavy with sorrow?
Did Abraham stall to give as much time for something to happen to change the course of events?
From the words of Abraham, we hear a man who is convicted of what he has to do. He has heard the command of his Lord and is willing to follow through on that command as hard as it is.
Abraham has so much trust in his Lord that he would do anything and everything for his Lord, even to sacrifice his own son.
Here is the mystery. Did God know that Abraham would follow through as to actually go so far as to be ready to plunge a knife into the heart of his son?
We really don’t know the full answer, but if we go with that God only has a plan “A,” we can confidently assume that God had Abraham covered-God did provide a substitute sacrifice of a ram.
I think all the English translations have the name of this place where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son named, “The Lord Provides.”
But, we remember what my seminary professor said that a better translation is, “The Lord Sees.”
We, also, have a relationship with our Lord as Abraham did. God has called us into his family at our baptism. By His Word, God comes to us, so we can know more about Him, especially His love and care for us.
God has given us His very own Son’s body and blood that enters us when we eat the bread and drink the wine, so we know that all that God has for us is in us.
Only God can both see us now and all the steps that are ahead of us, and as a God of love and care, he is providing for us every step of the way.
Life has so many twist and turns that it seems that we are going through all the letters of the alphabet in our plans that keep changing-plans A, B, C, and it keeps going until we are running out of letters.
If you noticed, I used the word “seems” in talking about our plans that keep changing.
As humans with our noses closely down into our lives, it looks like everything keeps going out of plan.
But, from God’s perspective who sees everything, He is seeing that all is going according to His plan “A.”
When we are going through our lives day by day, and when things do seem like all is going upside down and off the rails, we can live by faith that God is seeing the road ahead and all is going to work out by His grace and love.
We can at least know a few essential things that are always working for us:
We know always that are sins are forgiven and will be forgiven.
We know in that forgiveness we have power to make changes in our lives.
We know that eternal life is ours, and in that certainty, we know that God has everything else worked out for us.
All of these gifts are God’s plan “A.” From the beginning, God said all was good, and although evil did come into the world, all is good because God sent Jesus to make all good.
Jesus came into the world as a human to be born, to live, to die, and to rise for us, and Jesus will come again to take us to heaven forever.
On the first Sunday in Lent, we talk about testing and temptation.
For us to do well in life, it’s important to know the difference.
Temptation comes from the devil, and testing comes from God.
If the devil is tempting us, we are in place that is heading to something wrong.
If God is testing us, we are in a place that will strengthen us.
It’s important to keep this simple. Falling into temptation will only yield bad results. But, to go through a time of testing, we are learning and coming closer to all the good that God has for us.
In a time of testing God is seeing all with His plan “A” in mind that can only be good for us.
I remember this from a philosophy course, “It’s not that I’m upset with you that you lied to me, it is that I am upset I don’t know when I can believe in you in the future.”
It might seem to you that God has let you down with things that have happened in your life that have not gone according to plan.
When we look at our lives, we might say something about life not turning out as we expected.
If you noticed, I used that word “seem” again. I don’t want to minimize the pain and sorrow that we have, at times, in our lives.
But, we can remember that God has only one good plan for us. He loves us for we are his creation-we are His beloved children.
God has stuck to that one and only plan to redeem us, to forgive us, to make us as white as new fallen snow, which we can imagine as we looked out our windows this past week with our winter storm.
God made us out of dust. This doesn’t sound like an auspicious beginning, and after that beginning we have sinned, and we will return to dust.
At first, when we hear this news, it doesn’t sound so great, but God has a plan.
God’s plan is to get us through this life to eternal life. By God’s grace and love in Christ, we can only do well as we live by faith in God’s plan “A.”