This weekend, my husband Curtis preached his first sermon in ‘big church.’ In my humble, totally unbiased opinion, it was wonderful. I’ve excerpted a portion of it here, along with Brooke Fraser’s Crows and Locusts, which was the song the worship team did right before he began.
We are God’s Plan A and there is no Plan B.
The reality or failure of the beautiful dream that God has for the universe is put in the hands of his human creation. God’s plan is not to be a micromanager, its to give us, humans, real responsibility in the world, to rule over it alongside of God himself. That is what we were created for, to be God’s partners in achieving his dream for the world, blessing the world through our wise, good rule, working with God to make it right. We were created to be like water in a dry, parched land. The story in Genesis goes on to recount, however, the way that humans decided, in our infinite wisdom, that rather than partner with God we would really be better off going it alone. Sin, then, breaks apart our partnership with God, preventing us from fulfilling the purpose that God gave us. And this doesn’t just affect you and me as individuals.
The fact is, the whole world suffers when God’s people forget their purpose.
Bill Hybels tells the story of a trip to Africa to see the work that Willow Creek had been doing there. He saw their partners caring for the poor and those with AIDS, feeding and distributing food for the hungry. And at some point, as he watched these people walking away with bags full of food that they would have had no access to otherwise, he realized, without this work we’re doing these people would be dying or dead right now. Their work wasn’t just a good thing, it wasn’t just to help themselves feel good, or get in good with God, they were the difference between life and death for many, many people. They were water for people in need of water.
There is work Hillside is doing in the world that the same is true of. When God’s people don’t partner with him to help make the world right, people die, in more ways than one. In our affluent suburbs, people are dying, not of physical hunger but of hunger for love, significance, respect, God. In those times, the world becomes dry and parched, it becomes a dark, dangerous, distrustful, hate filled sort of place. Which is exactly what happened in the book of Genesis, after Adam and Eve’s sin, and it continues to happen to this day where God’s people aren’t blessing the world. You and I have experienced that world.
The song that was sung earlier is a haunting picture of that world…but even so, included in that song is a picture of something else, of hope, the knowing in her guts something still is gonna grow, she ain’t leaving til it does. Hope that this messed up world we’re in is not the final word, its not the end, God still has something to say about all this. And his plan to get things back on track, after we humans messed things up, surprisingly enough, also involves humans. God, for some reason that I suspect has to do with his amazing grace, is firmly committed to working with and through human beings to begin to make the world right again.
God has to start somewhere, so he shows up to this guy named Abram. We aren’t told any particular reason why God chose Abram, soon to be Abraham, out of all the people he could have chosen, but for whatever reason God decides that Abraham is the one he is going to partner with and he introduces himself in Genesis 12:1-3.
Look again at what job God gives to Abraham, you will be a blessing …and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you. The key thing to see here is that God’s plan is the same, he hasn’t given up, he’s going to use humans, partner with humans, to bless the world, it was true of Israel, and Jesus and the New Testament makes clear that it’s still true of the Church. Throughout Scripture a consistent theme arises – our purpose as human beings, and, more specifically, our purpose as the people of God, the Church, is to bless the world, to partner with God to start making things right again. We are God’s water in a dry land.