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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 2013 - When You're Making Other Plans

2013-03-31 Easter

Loosely based on 24 Hours that Changed the World by Adam Hamilton

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church

Mark 16:1-6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

16 When the sabbath was over [that is, sundown on Saturday], Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week [that is, Sunday morning], when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.


Do you like to plan things?

I like to plan things.

I'm not very good at it.

But I like to think I am.

So when something unexpected happens, I can go, "Ugh! All that planning, down the drain!"

Doesn't mean I planned well.

Or for the right thing.

It just means I can take solace in my frustration.

I can feel entitled in my disappointment.

At least I have that.

And that makes me feel better.

John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."

I know he didn't mean for that to be used in a church service.

But, when you read the Bible, especially when you read the Bible on Easter, there's an awful lot of life happening, when people were making other plans.


I love the verses about the women who went to anoint Jesus' body.

That was not pleasant work.

No wonder the men were nowhere to be found.

Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.... And very early on the first day of the week [that is, Sunday morning], when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

Three days after the fact, they went to clean the crucified body of a beloved friend.

To provide some dignity.

To wipe the blood from the scars.

To lovingly wash away the stains of a hideous death.

At least, that was the plan.

They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"

Didn't really think through that part.

Maybe one of the men had said he'd plan to get up early and help.

Or maybe, they were kind of, sort of, secretly hoping they wouldn't be able to roll the stone away.

Save them from the ugliness.

Then they could say,

"Well, we tried...."

"Stupid stone."

If they couldn't hold onto Jesus, at least they could hold onto their frustration.

It might even make them feel better.

Or maybe the plan they'd been devising, for at least a day, just wasn't that good.

And they knew it.

Even on the way, "They had been saying, "Who will roll away the stone for us?"

They knew they couldn't do it themselves.

Did their plan count on the luck of a strong, passing stranger?

An earthquake?

A miracle?

A miracle.


And that's what they got.

Just not the one they were planning for.


Maybe you're a plan-maker.

A list-maker.

A post-it note goddess.

Like those women, very early every morning, when the sun has risen, you're on your way.

You're off to do something.

Something meaningful.

Something loving.

Something that brings dignity.

That's your plan.


maybe you're more a seat-of-the-pants kind of person.

You let the Spirit, or something like it, lift you like a feather toward a purpose God has yet to reveal.

Luck, or a muscular stranger, or a miracle will do the heavy lifting for you.

It's kind of an anti-plan plan.

But it's your plan.


maybe you're like one of those absent apostles.

The ones who were too afraid, or too ashamed, or too disgusted, or just who slept right through the whole thing,

and therefore never left the house,

because depressing facts are facts,

like stones that can't be rolled,

so why bother?

That's your plan.

Whichever way, it doesn't really matter.

Should fate smile or should it not, either way, at day's end you can still hold onto your intentions.

"Well, I tried."

"Well, it's just not meant to be."

"Well, I chose to conserve my energy."

At day's end you are still the gauge of your own satisfaction.

You can still claim your frustration.

Or your anger.

Or your correctness.

That's the beauty of a plan.

It's always yours.

God is not yours.

God's life happens, when you're making other plans.

It happened to those first women on that first Easter morning.

And it's happening to you, today.

Isaiah 55:8 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."

God's thoughts are nothing like your thoughts... and God's ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

Life happens.

Life happens, whether your plans succeed or fail.

And that's what Easter is all about.


People talk about God's plan.

I always get a little scared when they seem to know more about the plan than God does.

If God has a plan, I don't think it's the kind that flows from Step A to Step B to Guaranteed Results.

I think God's plan is more like a promise.

A plan is something you hold onto.

It's yours.

But a promise is something you keep, and...

And it's never completely yours.

You keep a promise, you honor a promise, but always on behalf of someone else.

You keep it for them.

Because you want to honor them.

Because you care for them.

Because you love them, you keep the promise.

Since it involves someone else, a promise kept will always take you down paths you could never have planned.

So while we're busy making plans, God keeps a promise.

The women peek around the stone, step inside the tomb, and see the young man, dressed in white.

He says, "You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified."

[THAT was the human plan, executed, to its guaranteed result.]

He says, "You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified..."

"[But,]" He says, "[But] He has been raised; he is not here...."

Now. THIS. Is God's promise. God's promise, kept.

"He has been raised; he is not here," is God's promise of life.

Way more than a plan, this is God's promise - kept.

Kept for those women.

Kept for you.

It's God's promise of new life.

New life that dances way outside the steps of the plans.

To call it a plan implies that you might have figured it out, given enough time,

that you might be able to understand it.

But a promise always defies plans.

A promise defies reason.

Here's how I know.

Think of how far you'd go for someone you love.

And then go infinitely farther.

God's ways are beyond anything you could imagine.

And, thank you, God, for that.


Today is Easter.

For many, it's a day of plans.

Plan the clothes.

Plan the brunch.

Plan the afternoon nap so you can wake up in time for the Lady Vols.

Plan the service.

Plan the music.

Plan ways to bring you all back before Christmas.

Yep. We have plans.

In a quiet moment, before everything started, Carla and I were looking at the sanctuary.

The flowers, the bells, the table set with care.

We talked about how we were pretty sure everything was all planned out.

Which, when you're a minister or an organist, is a really nice feeling.

We were admiring our plans.

Because, that's what you do, with plans, admire them.

And then, we realized.

It was time.

Time for us to step aside, time for our plans to be rolled out of the way.

Time to let the Holy Spirit take over.

Easter isn't about anyone's plans.

Easter's about God's promise.

God's promise of life.

And the promise is always, always, always kept.

For you.

No matter how your plans turn out.

It's kept for you.


And now it's your turn.

It's your turn to let your plans - whatever they are - to let them be rolled out of the way.

It's your time to rejoice.

To rejoice in the promise of Easter God keeps for you.

But more, it's your turn to keep the promise.

Your turn, to keep it for someone else.

To keep it for people whose plans haven't worked out.

You know them.

And they need you.

God needs you.

To keep the promise of love,

to keep the God's unbreakable promise of life,

for the sake of your world,

for the sake of your loved ones,

and even for the sake of the people you can't stand.

Keep the promise.

Whatever plans you have.


Someday, when you're looking into the empty tomb of your grand plans, and you're frustrated that they didn't turn out the way you expected,

remember the promise of the angel.

"Do not be afraid; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised."

Let that promise keep you.

"And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, our risen Lord." (Phil 4:7, parap.)

Let's pray.

Almighty God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, whose love is beyond all we can see and hear and imagine: Thank you. Thank you for the promises of Easter. Thank you for continually surprising us with instances of grace, with flashes of joy, that confuse our plans, and reassure our hearts. We praise you, because we will never understand you. And we promise you, we will do our best to keep the promises you've given us to share. In the name of our Risen Lord, Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.