Plan A; most of us have one. I remember coming to Lake Edge in 2011 with Plan A in tow. I also remember thinking I knew this church; its circumstances, and what it would take to move us forward. And I remember how inadequate I felt when my Wisconsin Conference Minister wasn’t the least bit impressed. Sometimes no matter how sincere and dedicated we are to the task, circumstances can often move a lot faster than our vision, and Plan A can demand further thought. We need a “Plan B.”
The Prophet Elijah knew about Plan B. God sends him to take on a morally bankrupt king and his equally corrupt queen. Distressed, Yahweh God sends Elijah to deliver the bad news; King Ahab’s violation of basic human decency will cost him and all the people along with him. God’ll bring drought, and associated famine to the land of Israel until the King repents. Yahweh God goes right after the false God Ahab has allowed his Queen to drag into the land. To prove Yahweh God’s power over the natural world, where the false god supposedly reigns, the land’s turned to dust.
Telling off Ahab and challenging the Queen was Elijah’s Plan A. When the monarch’s double-down on stupid and Elijah’s life is threatened, he needs a Plan B. Sometimes Plan A can be so effective it can create the need for a second gear; enter Plan B. Plan B doesn’t mean Plan A was a failure; far from it. The reality of the situation can require a series of plans, not just one. Which is why we say, “God is still speaking,” and why we better be listening.
At Lake Edge, our Plan A was the 2013 Strategic Plan. Anyone who’s led a group, team, committee, or even a church knows the importance of a plan. It’s just sound management. But we should never let our plans, our ideas become little gods, like the story in the First Book of Kings. For us in our time, we must be wary buzz words like “Strategic Plan” don’t end up with god-like qualities. All hail the divine “Strategic Plan!” Now, to be fair our Strategic Plan’s a sound framework and should be taken seriously. No plan should get so etched in stone it can’t be reconsidered or revised. We all witnessed the value of our Leadership Council’s Plan B at our Annual Church Meeting.
In our story after an intense period of push back by the King and Queen, God gives Elijah his Plan B. As we were taught last week, the further the plan gets from our ownership, the more difficult it can be for us to trust. Elijah experiences this first hand. Standing up to the corrupt couple was something a self-righteous Elijah could get behind. When Ahab turns up the heat, Elijah running to safety felt like losing. Whenever our plans cause us to retreat and reevaluate it can be painful, and very easy for us to lose hope. God sends Elijah to a place of relative safety and calm to recover. But then God asks Elijah to go to the heart of the drought; the hometown of the corrupt Queen. “Go and stay with a widow there,” God tells Elijah; a widow so destitute she’s preparing her last meal before she and her son perish. That’s an awesome plan; not!? To make matters worse when things start looking up for the widow, her son dies. Now Plan B looks even worse than Plan A. Elijah loses faith in God’s plan, as is often the case with us today. Yet, hope is unlimited when we trust Plan B. New life’s just around the corner, if we stick together and believe.
God’s outcome is what Kate Huey, referencing Walter Brueggemann, calls the “otherwise” in this story, “…the new, unimaginable, and very different way for things to turn out, instead of the worn-out, despair-producing, cynicism-provoking ways of thinking and acting we believe (are the only) way the world has to work.”
The Good News for us: Don’t just mouth catch phrases like “God is still speaking,” believe them. Trust in Plan A, B, C and whatever else God tosses our way. Never give up, especially when all logic tells us the end is near. There’s always resurrection waiting right around the next corner.