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January 3, 2016, 12:00 AM

Church at Home

Faithful Praise

by Sandy Bach

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love." Ephesians 1:3-4 NRSV)

God had a plan.

Before the the beginning of time; before he brought light and stars and moon and sun; before dry land appeared; before vegetation and fishes and animals to roam the earth; before humanity came into being; God had a plan.

That plan was for us and about us. We did nothing to earn it. We knew nothing about it until God was ready to give it to us. God did it for no other reason than divine desire and will. That plan was to bring us to God. The plan was to offer forgiveness for our trespasses, to break down that wall of sin that keeps us from intimate communion with God.

The plan was to adopt us and make us God's children. A whole new identity. Belonging to God; receiving wisdom and insight so that we could come to know God better and more intimately.

Out of God's good pleasure and lavish grace we received the most perfect gift of all.

How do we praise God for this gift? Some of us need music with simple words repeated over and over again. With hands held aloft we praise God and remember all that God has done.

Some need quiet for contemplation. I'm one who needs a good pipe organ and an Isaac Watts hymn. Okay, so I'm old fashioned. It works for me.

I wonder, at times, do we fit into God's plan or do we shoehorn God into our own plan?

Bad news always abounds, but as 2015 comes to a close, we're feeling the fear and worry about events more deeply. Gun violence, terrorist attacks, political infighting, unrest at every turn. We praise God until we tune into the news. After that, what can we do?

Jesus told us to love our enemies. It seems more expedient to drop a bomb on them. Jesus blessed the poor in spirit. We'd rather go shopping. Jesus blessed those who take on persecution and slander. A punch in the nose would offer a more instantaneous solution.

Yet, if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, then disciple we must. How do we drop that shoehorn and fit ourselves into God's Plan?

Praise comes in many forms. It can be worship, devotionals or singing or prayer. Perhaps praying with the newspaper open in front of you is also an act of praise.

"O God, your creation is torn apart with war and terror. Children and victims are struggling to find peace and safety. Yet, we know that only you have the final plan for peace. Only you can bring peace to our nations, your people and your creation. You've sent your Son, your only Son. Help us to be a part of that plan. Show us where we can be your Son's hands and feet and voice in our world that we can see real peace some day."

"God, you have blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You have lavished us with grace and you make known your mystery to us through your wisdom and insight. Use us to be a blessing to others. Show us how to use your wisdom and insight to really listen to those with whom we disagree. We ask this that we might praise you in this broken world. We ask this so that we can see the fullness of time coming near."

"God, we praise you that we can see evidence of your activity in the world.  We praise you for all of the nations who have opened their doors to welcome Syrian refugees.  We praise you for the churches who have welcomed them, regardless of their faith tradition, with one question, "What can we do to help?"  Help us to see your activity in the world and use us to make your creation a bit better than when we arrived."

I wish I could write these words more eloquently. God deserves better. Yet, I also trust that God can use my words to bring home God's point. In the midst of brokenness and fear; war and terrorism; and all the other 'isms, can we dare to see where God wants us to fit into God's plan?

Every time we turn to reactionary violence, we just might be trying to shoehorn God. Every time we use cruelty to win an argument, we're attempting to create God in our own image.

God won't be recreated. God won't be shoehorned. God is and was and will always be...God.

So, where will you allow God to fit into the plan? As Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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