When I was in the fourth grade my teacher (my favorite teacher ever!), Mrs. Ryan, helped us learn about many countries around the world. One of the destinations we studied was Switzerland. My class put on a Swiss Festival for other students and our parents. I made a hat from some scrap red corduroy material. In the side was stitched “Swiss” with two little crosses (the symbol on the Swiss flag). As a fourth grader I fell in love. Even to this day I’m not sure exactly what it was that drew me to this land and its people. I wanted to go there. I wanted to live there.
That idea has never left me. It has always been on my must-do list at some point in my life. As most of you know, this summer Shelly and I had a chance to go to Switzerland.
We flew to Zurich and then took a train to Solothurn where we stayed as home-base. There are so many stories to tell. We had some wonderful encounters and experiences.
The one thing I want to talk about today is this verse, “I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Once I returned I was working with my spiritual director, Brenda Buckwell, who preached for me while I was away. It became clear to me during that conversation how much God has been at work in my life. That not very confident, sexually abused, uncertain little boy of ten got to realize a life-long dream at fifty-five.
At ten I couldn’t tell you that I knew for certain who God was or that God was with me. I wasn’t able to look into the future forty-five years. I had no idea what those years would hold.
I’m not one to say that God made it all happen, but I do believe that God knew that I had a future. I believe God was at work in my life in ways that I wasn’t aware. I believe that God’s grace was leading me, keeping me, so I could claim for myself this promised “future you hope for,” as Jeremiah put it.
This year has been amazing for me. Last fall memories of my childhood became clearer and things that had been pushed out of my consciousness for fifty years came to light. The timing of the Renewal Leave, the trusted friends, counselor, coach, spiritual director, mentors, congregation, family, poured into me at just the right time. All of them, God in flesh to me.
Here’s my word to us today. God loves you. God’s plan is for you to have abundant life. There is healing. There is growth that is waiting for each of us. There is resurrection.
The God who became flesh is the God who knows our human condition personally. The God who saves us is the God who sends the Holy Spirit to aid us. This God is with us! This God sends us to the world, which may very likely be the neighbor next door, to proclaim that truth of Emmanuel! God is with us!
As a disciple of Jesus I am one who worships Jesus, is being transformed by Jesus, obeys Jesus’ commands, serving others for Jesus, and leading others to Jesus.
I am a living witness to the living power of grace. And, so are you!
That realization excites me beyond measure. How can I keep from singing? How can I keep from worshipping this God? How can I keep from saying, “Yes,” with my life?
After all, God said, “I have a plan.”
Mason UMC, God has a plan! And God’s plan can be trusted. Even if it takes forty-five years (or more) to see it happen. In the meantime, God is with us.
In my office is a framed picture of me in the Alps along with the hat from my fourth grade Swiss Festival. It reminds me every day to give God thanks for the future with hope that is mine!
Grace and peace,