Sermon June 6, 2021 by Rev. David Hodgson

God’s Plan B for You and Me

“This is the covenant that I will make with the house

of Israel after these days, says the Lord: I will put my

law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and

I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Jeremiah 31;33

These amazing words always seem to jump off the printed page for me with a spirit of excitement that invites me to engage them with a sense of adventure.  And what makes them so alluring is the admission that God is ready to try something new with me because something old and familiar isn’t working out the way God intended it to.  Yes, God resorting to Plan B because Plan A has proven to be ineffective against the wiles ~ the cunning strategies ~ of human nature.

I know, the literalist will always be quick to point out that this passage is only about God’s relationship with Israel ~ and the convenient self-serving benefit of such an opinion is that it keeps the revelations of God all locked up in ages past so that they cannot make any claim upon those who live in the twenty-first century.  As I see it, they only deceive themselves, for the revelations of divine nature are timeless, and the Bible was inspired by God for the benefit of all God’s children, everywhere and forever!

Therefore, with renewed interest, we are compelled to revisit the text to discern what was God’s Plan A with us, and how we contributed to its failure?  And then to discover how things are working out for us now with God’s Plan B.  (Hang on to your pews.  God is about to have some fun with some of our favorite misconceptions!)

Plan A ~ according to traditional biblical scholarship ~ was to demonstrate to the ages the blessings of liberty for the human spirit by staging for one people an Exodus ~ the spectacular, middle-of-the-night deliverance of the slave population of Egypt; and a frightened people went forth in faith to experience both the promise and perils of freedom.

According to God’s Plan A, it would take forty years to transition successfully from the psychological bondage of slavery to the spiritual countenance of responsible citizenship, and for those years of wilderness wandering they documented everything for posterity:  the faith that empowered them, the fear that crippled them, the self-centeredness that brought out the worst in them and the generosity that inspired their better nature. 

And through it all, to advance the promise of Plan A, God gifted them with the moral laws of the universe engraved in tablets of stone, and led them with common vision of a Promised Land.

Plan A, however, ~ with the benefit of twenty-first century hindsight ~ was apparently devised by angel bureaucrats somewhere in glory who had lost touch with life in the real world, i.e. the temporal world, where the wiles of human nature must never be discounted. (Footnote here for angel bureaucrats in glory:  Never underestimate the capacity of human nature to sabotage the best laid plans of heaven and earth.)

Which brings us to that precious moment in scripture when divine frustration with Plan A inspires the brilliance of Plan B.  Listen once more to the sound of it ~ with references to Israel eliminated so as not to allow us to assume this refers to some other people in some ancient age with no possible relevance to us ~ and with third-person pronouns replaced by first and second-person pronouns to keep us from excluding ourselves by claiming some special exemption from God’s need to take corrective measures.

“David, (please insert your own name in your hearing it) the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with you.  It will not be like the covenant I made with your ancestors in the faith.  For this is the covenant that I will make with you:  I will put my law within you, and I will write it upon your heart, and I will be your God and you shall be my child.”

It is a bold admission by God that human nature, if left to its own devises, will inevitably self-destruct, that it needs more than the external restraints of culture and society to shape it, that it can only evolve and mature when it responds to divine influence from within!

That amazing transition from external compliance to internal resolve was celebrated by Martin Luther, the great Reformer, when he summarized all the moral laws of the Old Testament and all the Gospel instructions in the New Testament with the simple and profound admonition:  “Love God and do as you please!”  (Repeat). “Love God and do as you please!”

For when God’s indwelling presence is embraced in the heart with love, responding to the will of God becomes a joy not an obligation, living the love that motivates from within is a blessing not a burden; and ~ as Jesus imagined it ~ the Kingdom of God emerges from within rather than being imposed from beyond.

On the humorous side, that indwelling spirit caused some awkward moments for St. Augustine.  Before his conversion he had a reputation for being a womanizer, and when he discovered the Lord laying claim on his heart he prayed with renewed passion:  “Grant me chastity, Lord, …but not just yet!”  Ah, the wiles of human nature, even in heartfelt prayer!

“A new covenant I will make with you,” says the Lord.  “I will put my law within you, and I will write it on your hearts; and I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”  How’s that for a covenant relationship that restores dignity to the individual, renews solidarity to the community, and reawakens gratitude in our relationship with God!

We need to let those words of covenant formation resonate with this generation and echo down through subsequent corridors of history for they are God’s response in the twenty-first century to the distortions that we are experiencing to the liberty that God longs to accomplish for all of us.

Consider the obstacles that God is overcoming with this extraordinary Plan B:  an age in which self-appointed experts claim that we should deny our own common sense (innate intelligence) because their opinions are superior to what they perceive as our ignorance; a season in which self-educated professors are programmed to teach students what to think rather than teaching them how to think for themselves, denying the inspiration that comes from within; a time in which self-serving political agendas create one manufactured social crisis after another in order to convince us that we must surrender some of our freedoms to governmental control because …because, …you guessed it, because human nature cannot be allowed to respond to God’s Plan B!

God’s Plan B ~ a bold new way of affirming the dignity of human life, the sacramental possibilities of community life, and the eternal blessings of a divinely inspired life!

To illustrate how false narratives claim the headlines today and try to influence the public narrative ~ this week news from Kenya (display insert) that the general secretary of the Atheist Society of Kenya resigned, …because he found Jesus!  Well, that may be so, and maybe he is right to claim credit  for showing initiative.

But I see it from a different perspective, because I think it was not the General Secretary of the Atheist Society who found Jesus, but Jesus who found the General Secretary and simply introduced himself to him ~ and it changed everything.  Because the covenanting nature of God is at work in our time!

So my suggestion to the Atheist Society of Kenya would be that they not spend their time searching for a general secretary who has not yet found Jesus, but that they start dismantling their organization, or try to find a very good place to hide!