A Change of Plan
February 10, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
Isaiah 6:1-8 Luke 5:1-11 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Have you ever had your plans change?
It’s the kind of thing that often happens but sometimes it happens more dramatically than others. In 2005, when Patti and I were serving the Johnsville and Steam Corners churches in Morrow County south of Mansfield, I was in the car taking our kids somewhere when suddenly, I got a phone call that one of our members was in an ambulance on his way to the emergency room. I wasn’t yet far from home, so I called Patti, turned around, we switched cars in the driveway, Patti took the kids wherever we were going, and I headed straight to the Morrow County hospital emergency room.
Cars get flat tires, flights get cancelled, professors miss class, the power goes out, one of your kids gets sick just as you’re leaving the house. Life is never completely within our control. Sometimes our plans change.
And sometimes those changes are big changes.
Sometime around 2001 or 2002, I was working in an engineering job that I liked. I thought engineering was going to be my life’s work. But then I got laid off. Even though the economy was good, and the job market was decent, I was unemployed for two years. And in the process, I began to consider the possibility that God might be calling me to do something else. At the time, pastoral ministry was about the farthest thing from my mind. I grew up in a Methodist preacher’s house, and I always knew that I didn’t want to do what Dad did.
But God had other plans. That whole story is a sermon or two all by itself, but my point for today is simply this:
But if we look, that story is not a new one. Last week we heard how God called the prophet Jeremiah and this week as we read Isaiah 6:1-8, we hear the story of how God changed Isaiah’s plans as well.
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook, and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
You might remember that Jeremiah protested to God that he was too young and didn’t know how to speak, and God wasn’t buying any of his excuses. In this passage of scripture, we hear Isaiah make a different excuse, saying that he isn’t good enough, or pure enough, that his lips are not clean enough to speak the words of God. But God’s answer is a lot like his answer to Jeremiah. One of the angels in the throne room of God grabs a hot coal from the altar, flies over to Isaiah, and touches his lips with it saying that now you have been purified, your guilt is gone, and your sin has been paid for. There is no longer any reason to prevent you from answering the call of God, your excuses and your obstacles have been removed.
And, despite the reality that Isaiah was totally intimidated by his obvious sinfulness when faced with God’s holiness, he understood that God was calling him to a change in plan and accepted by saying, “Here am I. Send me!”
But dramatic changes of plan don’t end with the Old Testament. In Luke 5:1-11 we read the story of Jesus meeting, and calling Peter, James, and John to join him as his disciples.
5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
When Jesus showed up at the lakeshore (at the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret = Galilee) to preach, he and the fishermen already knew one another. Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law, they had been together at the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, and on a few other occasions, but clearly up to this moment, Peter, James, and John had planned to be fans of Jesus but believed that they would keep their jobs as fisherman and follow Jesus from a distance, or on weekends, or something. Giving up their jobs, and their livelihoods, was not a part of the plan.
But when they met Jesus, there was a change in plan.
And we see the same thing again in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, as the Apostle Paul tells his story.
15:1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
Paul was not originally a follower of Jesus. Instead, Paul was a Pharisee and a part of a group that was violently opposed to the followers of Jesus. Paul was a persecutor of Jesus’ followers. He was the guy that had warrants for the arrest of any Jews who wouldn’t deny Jesus and would drag people back to Jerusalem to face trial for heresy. Paul intended to keep right on persecuting Christians and never planned to stop. He certainly never planned to become a Christian, let alone a leader in that movement.
But then, while he was traveling on the road to Damascus, Paul met the risen Jesus.
And suddenly, there was a change of plan.
And you’ve probably noticed by now that from Isaiah, to Peter, James, and John, to Paul, and even to this very moment, there is an obvious pattern. Whenever a human being has an encounter with God, or with the risen Jesus Christ, there is an almost certain probability that your life will exhibit a change in plans. Simply because we’re human, we are likely to resist those changes. We don’t like change. We’re selfish. We want what we want. We want to follow our own path, and our own plans. But in all the examples that we saw in scripture this morning, we also see that God is able to remove our excuses and clear away all the obstacles that stand in the way of taking us to the place where he wants us to go. God’s plans are always bigger, and more powerful, and vastly more important, than the ones that we came up with by ourselves.
God may not be calling you to be his prophet, or the pastor of a church, but he is calling you to walk with Jesus. God isn’t interested in collecting fans who follow his activities from a distance, God is calling you to be his disciple. Christianity has never been a spectator sport. God wants disciples, not fans. If you are serious about being a follower of Jesus, then you need to accept the fact that God has called you, not only to church on Sunday, but to be a part of his plan to change the world and to rescue the lost.
And since this is Scout Sunday and we have a room full of scouts today, I can make this next comparison. “Scout” is a verb. Scouting isn’t just who we are, it’s what we do. We don’t just sit around and read books about scouting, scouting is something that we do. What we do here at church is very much the same. “Disciple” is a verb. Being a disciple isn’t just something that we read about, it’s something that we do.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ isn’t just about believing, it’s about doing. And if you think that you can just sit back and watch from the sidelines, be prepared for…
… a dramatic change in plans.
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