Summary: A sermon for the 16 Sunday after Petecost, Proper 20

16th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr.20] September 20, 2009 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for coming among us in the person of your Son, Jesus the Christ, who gave his life to restore us to a right relationship with you, our Creator. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen us in faith, that we might turn from our selfish ambitions and serve you by serving others, especially those in need. Let our lives be a mirror to others of your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

William H. Willimon began his commentary on our Gospel lesson for this morning with this thought. “From time to time I’ve heard people say, ‘I believe that God has a plan for my life.’ Perhaps they are talking to me about some difficult decision they have to make, and they want to make that decision against the background of their conviction that God has a plan that will work out in their lives…

I’ve had prospective brides and grooms say to me, ‘I knew that God had a plan for the one I ought to marry. It just took me until I was 38 years old to figure out what the plan was.’

I confess that sometimes I wonder that as life in the contemporary world becomes more uncertain, even at times chaotic, as we lose our confidence that we can predict the future and know just what tomorrow will be, maybe people of faith talk more about God having a plan… We can’t often see that plan, and can’t say for sure, when looking at a given event, that God’s plan is being worked out. We nevertheless believe in the ‘plan,’ because we really need to believe that there is a plan.” End quote.

This is a topic that Pastor Burkness and I have discussed at some length during one of our January weeks together at my camp, pretending to be hunters. And I must admit that neither one of us came down on the side of affirming that God has this master plan for an individual’s life, all mapped out from our birth to the grave. Neither one of us find much merit to the concept that God has predetermined the details of a person’s life. There are just far to many problems in subscribing to such a belief.

For example, if God has this great plan for our lives, what does that say about an individual’s ability to choose which direction to take, when they face decisions. If God has this plan for my life, then each decision that I make must be according to God’s design. But I know from my own life, that there have been a number of decisions that I have made that I would rather God forget about, on the day of judgement.

And what about the mass murderers and terrorists that have destroyed so many human lives in our world. I can’t believe that this is according to God’s master plan for life here on earth. Like it or not, evil exists here on earth, and I don’t believe that God is responsible for the twisted decisions that certain individuals make to diminish the life, or quality of life of those who might be affected by their decisions.

This past week, Pastor Blair and I met for an enjoyable hour or so of theological discussion. In fact, Ralph gave me a rather favorable picture of what retirement could by like, as he shared with me the various study and courses that he has pursued, which I don’t have time for. However, in the course of his sharing his excitement over what he has recently learned, we also came to lift up in our conversation a book that we have both read – Karl Mennigers’ book entitled What Ever Happened to Sin?

I believe that the greatest problem facing our church today, is not really the decision of our church to adopt the stance that they took on human sexuality. After all, the church also gave congregations the right to, in good conscience, refuse to call, or consider for a pastor those who differ from their core beliefs on this issue. My concern for the church goes much deeper. I am concerned about how contemporary thinking has influenced the way the church approaches theology and Biblical interpretation, as well as the roll that sin plays in every human life.

The sad reality is, that many people today, as Ralph and I discussed on Tuesday, no longer have a concept of God as the Creator of the universe, and the giver of life here on earth. As I have said before, I do not have a problem with the theory of evolution as the means by which the earth was created. But there is nothing in this current theory of the creation of the universe that would deny that there was a God, who through these means, created the heavens and the earth!

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