Oh, the Plans I Have Made For You” January15. 2023

Oh, the Plans I Have Made For You” January15. 2023

Posted by on Jul 17, 2023 in Sermon archives

“O, the Plans I Have Made for You”

Jer 29: 11

Psalm 40:1-11

Isaiah 42:1-9

John 1:29-42

I believe it was in March of 2009 that I first set foot in McCabe Chapel. Margie and I had traveled out from Montana for one of many interviews for the position of  a elementary school principal in the charming little town of McMinnville, Oregon. It was a big step for us both. I had spent only 14 months on my very first appointment at a Methodist church in Lincoln, MT and here it looked like I might have to leave. Add to that a recent cancer diagnosis and … well, the future was not what you might call ‘all tidy and wrapped in a bow’, but we were hopeful. We were hopeful that school districts in the state of Oregon treated their administrators better than Montana. And we were hopeful that a clergy position might open up in the area.

Well, as most of you know, Our hopes became real. Margie accepted a principal position at Grand Haven elementary and I eventually was appointed to the Amity and Sheridan United Methodist churches. But it was before these things happened in March of 2009 that we found ourselves visiting a cozy little Chapel in western Oregon called McCabe.

I had a guitar with me, so just for kicks I asked if they would allow me to come forward during the service and sing something or other.

Now I wish to comment that it has been my experience when a total stranger wants to come forward and sing to your congregation, it is usually wise to give them at least a small audition first. It can save a lot of awkwardness later on.

but that’s not what happened here some 14 years ago.

No, I was welcomed with open arms and I remember singing an old Stanley brothers song called “The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn” and I remember someone telling me the congregation would consider this an audition; for what, I wasn’t entirely sure.

I also remember the carpet. After spending a lifetime in sanctuaries full of deep red carpeting. I figured  a little design and a little flair were a nice change. It’s funny, the things that we remember, isn’t it?

But that was then  and a lot of water has went under the bridge since then, as they say. So now I stand before you to regrettably announce that because of ongoing health concerns and after conversations with church leadership, today will be my last Sunday as your  pastor here at McCabe.

I have a mountain of great memories with you all and for these, I am most grateful. But let’s not forget that the days ahead are full of promise and full of possibility. I truly believe that and that is why I would like to speak today about a future full of possibilities for this congregation rather than to reminisce on the past.

I’d have to say that it was a passage from the 40th Psalm that jump started this train of thought, starting at vs. 5 which reads: “5 You have done many things for us, O Lord our God;  there is no one like you!  You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all— their number is so great!

6 You do not want sacrifices and offerings; you do not ask for animals burned whole on the altar  or for sacrifices to take away sins.///  Instead, you have given me ears to hear you,     and so I answered, “Here I am;    (X2)


Now that, brothers and sisters, is some good stuff. “You have made many wonderful plans for us; plans that are wrapped up in promise: the promise of forgiveness, the promise of salvation. The promise of God’s Kingdom to come, the promise of……well, as David tells us: “You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all— their number is so great!” O. the plans I have made for you.”

My point is that this is a sad day for me. I can’t help but feel that my time with you was just getting started, but, well…we all know that time does indeed wait on no one and it is time for the next phase in the life of this church.

But here’s the thing: I’m going to be sad to leave because I will miss you all. At the same time, I’m at peace because I know that you will be blessed in your faith journey in the presence of Nancy  Slabaugh Hart who will be leading worship starting next Sunday. I have known Nancy for years and she has a true pastor’s heart. Nancy was largely responsible for making it possible for me to become a clergy person with the United Methodist Church. And believe it or not, she sings a lot better than I do.

Another reason that I am at peace with these changes is because I can’t help but to have noticed an ever increasing Response to the plans that God has made for us in this church body over the years.  Ours is a congregation that takes God’s promises seriously, and when that happens love blooms, compassion becomes commonplace, And the spirit finds a place to rest.

And so to close here today, I can’t help it but I’m going to have to steal the words of the apostle Paul in his first letter to the churches of Corinth. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I could have said it any better. from the opening verses of first Corinthians let this be my message to you: ” I always give thanks to my God for you because of the grace he has given you through Christ Jesus.

For in union with Christ you have become rich in all things, including all speech and all knowledge. 6 The message about Christ has become so firmly established in you 7 that you have not failed to receive a single blessing, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be faultless on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is to be trusted, the God who called you to have fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The words of the apostle Paul.

Oh the plans that God has made for us here today. I wish you to know that I have come to love you as a pastor and also as a friend. Our time together has deepened my faith and strengthened my spirit. I am hopeful that the spirit of this congregation Well continue to grow Through meaningful worship, study of the word of God, and the joy of community.

but do you know what? I’m not too awful worried about it. I’m not too worried because I am confident that in the months and years to come there will always be a group of believers who won’t spend their time on trappings and open expressions of piety and sacrifice. There will always be a congregation that understands God does not want or need sacrifices and offerings to forgive us of our sins. I am at peace because I can rest assured that this community will continue to thrive. Oh, the plans I have made for you,” says the Lord our God. My one wish is that the fine people of this church body continue to pursue those plans; to seek them out and be joyful in the task.

and while we’re talking about the future and stuff, wouldn’t it be cool to change or add on to our mission and vision statement with David’s words when he said, “you have given me ears to hear you,    and so I answered, “Here I am; the plans I have made for you.” Here I am Lord. Here I am.”

Amen and Shalom

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