Is there a plan?
David Parry reflects this week on all the plans which have come to nothing – and the one that hasn’t.
“Gras a thangnefedd i chwi oddi wrth Dduw ein Tad a’r Arglwydd Iesu Grist. Byddaf yn diolch i’m Duw bob tro y byddaf yn cofio amdanoch, phob amser ym mhob un o’m gweddïau dros bob un ohonoch, yr wyf yn gweddïo gyda llawenydd. Diolch y byddaf am eich partneriaeth yn yr Efengyl o’r dydd cyntaf hyd yn awr; ac yr wyf yn sicr o hyn, y bydd i’r hwn a ddechreuodd waith da ynoch ei gwblhau erbyn Dydd Crist Iesu.”
Philipiaid 1: 2-6
Beibl Cymraeg Newydd © Cymdeithas y Beibl~
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the Gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1: 2-6
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised
© National Council Churches of Christ USA~
Reverend David Parry writes:
Doesn’t 2019 seem like another Century now? Back then we put dates in our diaries, set budgets, agreed 5 year strategic frameworks and had personal routines. We booked our holidays, took plans for granted.
St. Paul seems a bit 2019. He is confident (do you remember how it felt to be “confident”?) about the future God has for the little church he founded in Philippi. The “good work” started there will be completed, even though he will not be there in person to see it through with them. To the cynical, anxious and pandemic-weary world of 2020 that is in danger of sounding like an empty pep talk, especially with the apparently vague time scale for completion, “by the day of Jesus Christ.”
Except that nobody can accuse Paul of naive optimism. He wouldn’t see things through in person because of the martyrdom he chose – and as he wrote these words his body was already scarred from beatings, imprisonment and shipwrecks. Meanwhile for his friends in Philippi, “sharing in the Gospel” had entailed persecution, poverty, family and social estrangement: a radical change of lifestyle.
Paul wants those hearing his words to understand that God’s plan will unfold with a similar gritty personal and political reality. After all disease and war were hardly unknown 2000 years ago. The average life expectancy for a Roman Citizen was under 40 years old. Perhaps we are just learning a truth which was self-evident to the first Christians. Planning is about listening to what God has in mind, not our own priorities and preferences.
But don’t worry about that. It isn’t as grim or alien as you might at first assume. You and I are already part of God’s unfolding plan. In fact we are already “partners in the Gospel.”
Perhaps our relationship began in a postcode, in the physical space provided by villages and a town in North Wales (or another parish). Perhaps it came through extended family, a mutual friend, curiosity and shared interest, an affinity or online connection, something someone shared or a happy ‘accident.’ Maybe Bro Celynnin ministered to you in a time of sadness or joy. Maybe you ministered to Bro Celynnin as a volunteer, supporter or neighbour. But now we are a family.
And what that means is that we are all part of the same beautiful, wise, compassionate, radical and peaceful plan. What Jesus passed on to Mary Magdalene outside His empty tomb, what the victory He won on the Cross offers to the world, what the Holy Spirit plants and waters….all of that, you and I share.
That’s the plan and (unlike our plans) it can’t be thwarted, hijacked or cancelled. It’s a good plan, because it is Good News. And what God has started in you and me, I can confidently assert, He is going to complete.
Bywiol Dduw, deuwn,
fel y daeth dy bobl
ar draws y blynyddoedd,
yn ceisio dy arweiniad,
yn awyddus i wybod beth yw dy ewyllys
ac i ddeall y pwrpas.
Gelwaist ni i fod yn bobl i ti;
cymorth ni i glywed dy lais. Amen.
Living God, we come,
as your people across the years have come,
seeking your guidance,
hungry to know your will
and understand your purpose.
You have called us to be your people;
help us to hear your voice. Amen.
You are warmly invited to Zoom Coffee tomorrow morning at 10.30am,
for friendly and engaging conversation about this week’s theme, and of course a great way to belong.
[or use Meeting ID: 881 3417 1456; Passcode: 430751]