Sunday, December 28, 2008

How do our plans for our lives compare to God's plan?

When I first arrived here in Florence I was told the Narthex would be finished by late September or early October but as we all know that plan didn’t work. Something told me when we blessed the foundation two weeks after they were scheduled that we were in for a game of faith when it came to completing the Narthex according to the plans. Things don’t always work out as we plan for them and sometimes that is for the good especially when God is involved. I’m sure we all have stories about how our plans for something didn’t quite work but the result was much better than we had ever imagined.

The same I’m sure is true for Joseph in this morning’s Gospel. As if it wasn’t difficult enough for Joseph to believe the angel about Mary’s Son, now an angel tells him to pick up his family and move to a foreign country. We know from the Gospel that Joseph had other plans but his plans didn’t work out like he had expected.

Joseph was a widower with children so his plan was to find another wife to care for his children. When God got involved in his plans everything changed. Sure Mary was able to help with his children, but nothing in his wildest imagination could have prepared him for Mary’s Son. Once Jesus was a part of Joseph’s life he had to be willing to change his plans. Just listen again to this morning’s story: “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’” (Matthew 2.13) And when Herod did finally die and Joseph was on his way back just as the angel had told him, “he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.” (Matthew 2.22) Does this sound like Joseph was keeping to his original plan?

Plans change; at least our plans change. There is only one plan that has never changed…God’s plan to save the human race from eternal suffering. God has never wavered from His plan to save us, whether He was speaking through Moses or whether He was telling Joseph to stay away from Judea. What changes is our reaction to His plan. In the story of Christmas Joseph allows his personal plans to change to allow for God’s plan to work.

My brothers and sisters we have plans just like Joseph. We all have personal plans and we have plans as a community. We have plans to complete the Church. We have plans to build our new Hellenic Center. Some of us have plans for an Orthodox School in Florence, or some of us may have plans for an Orthodox retirement center. I’m sure we all have plans for our community to grow in the future. But we must ask ourselves, before we are warned in a dream like Joseph, if our plans are the same as God’s plan.

God’s plan is simple….save the world. Joseph’s plan was simple…find a new wife to help with my children. As long as Joseph remained in communication with God, his plan worked. Even though Joseph had to flee to Egypt, his children were still cared for. I’m sure Joseph wondered how his plan would work. God allowed for Joseph’s plans as long as he was open to God’s desire for Mary and her Son, Jesus.

God will bless our plans too as long we remain open to His plan within our community and our lives. Just like Joseph we have witnessed and celebrated the birth of God and now we must open ourselves to whatever God has planned for us. God is now a part of our lives, and we must remain in communication with Him. We must remember that God allowed Joseph’s plans so long as they were consistent with His plan for Mary and Jesus. Sometimes God asked Joseph to change his plans. As long as our plans for our personal lives and our community remain a part of God’s plan, He will allow them to work.

This morning’s Gospel shows us that other things can also affect our plans. St. Matthew tells us, “But when he had heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” (Matthew 2.22) When Herod was dead Joseph was supposed to return. That was the plan but there was no mention of Herod’s son. Since Herod’s son was now ruling, Joseph had to change plans even though his original plans were told to him by the angel. The question we must ask every day is, “How do our plans for our lives and this Church compare to God’s plan today not just last month or last year?”

Things are constantly changing around us and we must be in constant communication with God about our plans for the future. God’s plan has never changed, just our part in them. God may need something different from us in 2009 than He did in 2008. Just think how things have changed for our parish in the past year…different priest, different economy, different mayor, some members have died or moved away and others have moved closer. One thing remains always the same…God’s plan.

We must be ready for anything this year my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Joseph was ready to take his family and move to a foreign country even though he had other plans. With God in his life Joseph’s plans were fulfilled when he allowed God’s plan to choose the path. God will bless our plans also when we allow Him to choose our path.

So the Narthex expansion will be complete in a few weeks by the grace of God and if God wants us to have an Orthodox School in Florence, it will be built. As for our plans for a larger community…God’s plan is to save the world and that means bringing more people into this Church. All we have to do is be ready to travel to foreign lands first.

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