Sermon – 20 January 2017 – Nick

Recently a Christian who just moved into a new area posted on Facebook that they had unexpectedly walked into a job that hadn’t yet been advertised. Obviously many people were pleased for her. Some even talked of ‘God’s amazing timing’ and ‘God’s plan being worked out’. A week later she left the job after finding out it wasn’t all it had cracked up to be. So what do we do with these initial comments about God’s involvement in this job? Was the job part of God’s plan for this lady or not? And if it was did she muck it up by not sticking it out? Indeed can we muck up God’s plan or is that sheer vanity? Or do our ideas about God’s plan not do him any justice? Is there a difference between God’s will in any situation and God’s overarching plan? Let’s look into the story from the Old Testament we heard earlier to help us with this.

Saul was to be Israel’s first human king. Up until now they have had God as they King. But obviously that’s not good enough and the Israelites start to look around at the other tribes and nations around them and they notice something – they all have Kings, or human rulers. Israel is the odd one out. Momentarily blinded by the lure of comparison and the need to fit in Israel demand to be like everyone else, completely forgetting that God chose them to be different, to show the world a different way of living, to show the world God. That was God’s plan and he’s gone through a bit to help them with that plan, yet the plan is never enforced on them. They never have to go along with it. And when they ask to change the plan and do something else – like get a human King, God let’s them!

Plus he chooses someone who could have been a great King. Saul could have been one of the greats, physically imposing, a fighter, and with some wits about him. Saul could have been the first in a line of Kings who did make Israel stand out for good reasons. God was fully willing to change part of the plan to achieve his ends, he was fully willing to let humans have a say in his plans. Saul however had different ideas. The clues are there right from the beginning when at his coronation service he is no where to be seen, quite a feat for a man head and shoulders above everyone else!  He is found hiding among the baggage, and this baggage this insecurity that he has will continue to blight his rule. Image how different it could have been! The people could have stuck more closely to God’s plan, Saul could have. But what was God’s plan? I actually don’t think that is too hard to figure out. I think God was quite honest about it right from the beginning. He told Abraham he would be blessed to be a blessing. That is the grand scope of God’s plan and the beauty of it is that he involves us. The point of Israel was to share God’s blessing with the world that would be done better with God as King but could be done with a human king! So going back to the opening story I don’t believe the job was part of God’s plan or not. The point is that God’s plan could be carried out in that job or not.

Why is all this important? Because what we say shows what we think about God. Our platitudes may be well meaning, but to people who don’t know or understand God they seem like a plaster over a gunshot wound. What about suffering? What do our platitudes say to suffering? When we announce it is God’s plan for someone to get a job while in other parts of the world injustice is rife? How do we feel when people blame suffering on God and don’t attribute the good to him? Of course this isn’t to say that God doesn’t directly intervene in our lives at times, but perhaps we’d be better at noticing it without the assumption that he is. Ultimately though well meaning we can reduce God to our diary planner rather than the wonderfully powerful being who is big enough to give us freedom and cope with whatever that means.