1/6/02, EpA

“The Intent
Ephesians 3: 1-14

"And this is the secret plan: The Gentiles have an equal share with the Jews in all the (spiritual) riches inherited by God's children. Both groups have believed the Good News, and both are a part of the same body and enjoy together the promise of blessings through Christ Jesus."

(3:6, NLT)

Nothing much is accomplished without a plan: An achievable long range goal, a worthy vision, a divinely inspired dream that we hope to accomplish by following a planned intent. This concept became an integral part of my psyche as a result of business classes in college and repeated emphasis upon goal setting in seminary and graduate school. Most of you share a similar experience and tend to think in terms of setting both short-range goals and long-range goals. It is a part of us now to set goals and work toward their accomplishment.

Many of you have done what you have set out to do as a result of setting goals and working hard toward their fulfillment. It is hard to imagine how anybody could achieve any truly ambitious goal without a game plan. Do you know of anyone who became a medical doctor by accident? There are few folks who have reached the top in any profession without a long-range plan. Personal planning is a part of our spiritual, logical and emotional selves.

Nearly every business, and certainly every major corporation, has a preset plan for the achievement of goals. If you have ever attended a stockholder's meeting you know that the presentation given by the governing board to its stockholders always sites accomplishments in relation to how the company is on track in fulfilling its mutually agreed upon long range plan.

Sometimes situations occur that temporarily sidetrack, and threaten to derail the long range plan. Occasionally the plan must be put on hold with the idea of eventually getting back on track. The recent economic recession in the world has put a lot of corporate, and individuals, plans on hold. However, we do not lose sight of the plan. Indeed, part of the blessing that comes from adversity is that we are forced to refocus on our plan, and perhaps reevaluate it in light of new developments.

God also has a plan and we are a part of that plan. The coming of Christ was not a random act or last minute decision it was God's intent all along to bring us into the plan: As Paul clearly stated, and as it is so plainly presented in the New Living Translation, (above). His purpose was that all people might now be joined together into the Church as one body. The gates that were closed to shunned ethnic groups and races are now flung open to all people. Entry into God's universal family once reserved for a few has now been opened to all who will come on his terms. Everyone is a potential saint in his New Covenant.

The Invitation may be most clearly stated in our United Methodist open invitation to The Lord's Communion Table:

"Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins,
and are in love and charity with your neighbors,
and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God,
and walking from henceforth in his holy ways:
Draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort,
and make your humble confession to almighty God."
(UM Hymnal, p.26)

All who can respond to this invitation are welcome to commune in our churches. Christ has a place, a calling, for each of us in his Church; however, he does not have to have any of us. We have the opportunity to be used in his Church but he will not force any of us. If Saint Paul has refused, God would have called someone else. No one could have exactly fit into Paul's mold, but someone else would have had the opportunity. Likewise, if we say no, God will put someone else in our place. If we affirm God's call he will use our unique gifts and graces in their own special place. Each of us is special in God's sight, but none of us are indispensable to the fulfillment of his intended purpose.

However, even the Almighty will not force us to individually decide to become a part of His Plan. We can refuse to cooperate, as do some students refuse to learn, and some employees refuse to fulfill the prescribed requirements and goals of their employment.

Our lack of cooperation does not derail God's plan, either for our personal lives or for His ultimate achievement of His Plan. His long-range goal will be accomplished with or without us. God does not absolutely have to have us on the team. Just as a football coach has to bench players who refuse to follow team rules, so God can continue to fulfill His higher purpose without us.

Yet, God's intent is that none fails to make the cut. Like any good teacher, He wants us all to pass the course. We all learned on the school playground that not every little boy and girl would make it.

The New Year would be a good time to reevaluate our personal plan in relationship to God's desire that we get with His Plan. Are we kicking against the plan? Are we attempting to make up our own rules as we stumble along taking the road of least resistance? Are we satisfied with where we are in fulfilling the terms of the contract that we have with God?

Most of all, our plan should be to discover His Plan and to follow it. Are we sure that we are walking from day to day in the direction that leads to eternal life?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

1/6/02, EpA