Posts Tagged ‘Planning’

Don’t You Love It When a Plan Comes Together? 


Sunday, June 24th, 2018

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Pentecost 5B),
June 24, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“I love it when a plan comes together.” Those are the favorite words often repeated by the fictitious Colonel Hannibal Smith of TV’s “The A-Team.” 

We all love to see our plans come together and work out for our success, don’t we? We love to plan family vacations, which allow us to reconnect with family and experience new things.  We also have our financial plans, and we love it when our savings and investments meet or exceed our projected outcomes so that we’re sitting pretty when our planned retirement or a special purchase becomes a reality. Then there are those career plans or an education that leads to the right job that leads to the expected promotion.  Oh, we love it when a plan comes together!

Throughout the Bible we’re shown that the perfect God of love, wisdom, knowledge and power is also a planner.  Isn’t it great to have a God in charge of, well, everything; a God who never lies, seeks to use us, or messes up a task that only He can perform? Isn’t it great to know that He is our God and we can rest easy that He’s in charge of both human history and our eternal destiny? 

In our Gospel lesson this morning we celebrate what is known as the festival of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. And in that lesson, we have a wonderful example of all of this.  In all of our readings, we get to see and hear God’s plan coming together!

We all know about plans that don’t come together though, don’t we?

Sometimes our plans don’t always work the way we desired. Maybe it’s because we procrastinate or allow ourselves to get sidetracked. Or perhaps we lose our focus or desire.  Maybe this is what St. Paul was talking about when he said, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” [Romans 7:19] St. Paul might be on to something.

Another reason why our plans fail, and things don’t work out the way we thought, maybe because, we fail to understand what is best in God’s eyes. Think of it, we work our plan and we achieve most of our objectives, and then we arrive at our intended goal and discover it wasn’t really what we wanted, needed, or envisioned it to be.

Sometimes our plans are ruined because we just plain forget what a messed up, fallen, sinful world we live in. Sometimes I think that is why our best intentions are ruined.  And when things blow up in our face, instead of taking the setback as just another life lesson, we can become cynical, bitter, and angry.

And sometimes, our plans fail because of the leaders that we look up to who let us down. Many times, political leaders we campaign for, vote for, or pray for fail us for the same reasons we fail.  But sometimes they can just outright betray us. They tell us what they think we want to hear in order to gain our support and then they just change and follow a different agenda once they’re in power.

All of us have seen our best-laid plans fail. Ultimately, all these failures can be traced back to sin, both ours and the sin of others. Our dreams can go unrealized and our hopes can be dashed for so many reasons. 

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist had experienced this sort of thing too, so when God let him in on a major development in his plans…

Zechariah was certain that God’s plan just wouldn’t work. 

Do you remember how in their advanced age, he and his wife Elizabeth were told by the angel Gabriel that they would finally have a son and that they were to name him John, who would later be called the Baptist. But perhaps the most amazing part of this plan was the fact that John was the one proclaimed to come and go ahead of the promised Messiah in order to prepare the people’s hearts for His coming.  It meant that God was indeed making good on His promise to comfort His people. All of this was to fulfill both God’s promise and plan to save His people from their sins!

Of course, all of the experiences in Zechariah’s life told him that this plan was ridiculous, a long shot at best.  The biology, considering their age made it laughable. Sure, they were praying for a child for many years, but hadn’t God missed their window of opportunity? And then there was the fact the current government (Rome) was one of pagans which had influenced and led their religious leaders a long way away from God.  Surely this was just to much for God to overcome in such a short period of time.  

So Zechariah just could not believe that this plan of God was going to happen, at least not now and not with him. And perhaps you remember that because of this lack of faith in God, Zechariah was struck speechless. So there sat Zechariah for nine long months unable to speak while the Roman rulers and corrupt religious leaders seem to prosper like never before with no apparent consequences for their collective sins. Yes, the more time passed Zechariah by, the more impossible God’s plan seemed to become. 

But then something wonderful happened, Elizabeth gave birth to a son and it was time to name him!

John’s birth and Zechariah’s song as memorialized in our gospel reading signaled that all of God’s plans were in fact coming together!

During Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Zechariah had a lot of time to think about things with a new appreciation for not just his relationship with God but also for how all of God’s promises as recorded in the Old Testament were coming true. I am sure that He was beginning to appreciate both the name of his son and its meaning. John means, “The Lord has shown favor.” God had indeed shown favor not to just an old childless couple but also on all of His people. Zechariah might also have considered the meaning of his own name, which is “The Lord remembers.” What is it the Lord remembers? Thankfully, not the sins and failing of his people. No those are as far separated as the east is from the west. What the Lord remembers is His gracious covenant plans. He proves He remembers them by fulfilling them!

Now that John is named, God let’s Zechariah speak again, but this time he speaks with more insight and respect for God.  Listen: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This song that the Holy Spirit caused Zechariah to sing, has come to be called the Benedictus. It has been a part of the church’s liturgy since at least the ninth century. It gets its name from the first word of the song, which translated from Latin to English means “blessed”. God caused him to essentially sum up all of the promises found in the Old Testament in one short song; promises that were all to finally be fulfilled.  The Benedictus affirms that indeed God’s plan had come together.

Above everything else, Zechariah prophesied that God’s plan to send the Messiah, as heard through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah over seven hundred years earlier (Isaiah 40:3-5), were now coming true. God had not forgotten His promise to comfort His people. He would finally fulfill His plan to send Jesus, the Messiah of God.

Jesus, the incarnate Son of God came at just the right time. He lived the perfect life that mankind had failed to live. Jesus suffered and atoned for all the sins of the world; a world that had always failed to keep God’s perfect Law. Jesus did this when He suffered and died on the cross, thus paying for our sins, the sins we should have paid for. But that is not the end of the story, because Jesus also rose from the grave to demonstrate His victory on our behalf. And finally, Jesus promises to come again at just the right time to usher in the kingdom of heaven in all of its fullness.

Jesus has come and demonstrated that God’s plans always come together.  God always delivers on His promises. John the Baptizer was commissioned by God to prepare the world for Jesus coming. John’s work of both announcing and bringing repentance and eternal life has continued within each of you who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church made up of people like you and me, sinners redeemed and made part of God’s plan have been commissioned like John the Baptist, to prepare the world for Jesus coming, one sinner at a time.  They like us are also very much a part of God’s plan!

Do we doubt that this plan will ever really come to pass? Will we be speechless to those who need to hear the Gospel and also be prepared for that great day when Jesus comes again? Have we failed to remember God’s promise? Let us resolve to leave these sins forgiven at the cross and washed away in the waters of our baptism, and let us praise God as Zechariah did.  Let us resolve to read our Bibles and discover God’s many promises fulfilled and to also declare His mighty works of love and salvation in all their beauty and splendor. Let us together wait for the day when the fullness of God’s plan comes together! In Jesus name… AMEN!