“We plan and God laughs” is identified as a Yiddish proverb, the title of a book or two and the headline of multiple online articles meant to help people navigate periods in life when personal plans seem to disintegrate in front of our eyes. When we hear or read the proverb, it can be difficult not to nod along, especially when the phrase encapsulates something most of us have experienced: a perfected resume or proposal sent, but no word back; a flawless itinerary dissolved by the smallest delay; an event set to begin, upended by a storm; a setback or an entirely “new normal.”
As much as we might nod along, or wince at our own experience, the proverb points us in the other direction, too. And if not the proverb, Scripture certainly does.
In the Book of Jeremiah, the tone and task are predominantly focused on God’s judgment, but then Jeremiah shares the statement: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans … to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). These words were sent by the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites who had been taken into Babylonian exile. These striking, comforting words reminded them that, despite their experience of the present, God’s gesture, thoughts and plans for them — and for us — are peaceful, abundant and hopeful. “We plan and God laughs”? Perhaps. But it is just as possible that “we plan, and God imagines a future with so much more.”
Take a minute to look back on your life. Who all have you lived with? In the earliest parts of our lives, we might live with parents or grandparents or other caring adults. Perhaps siblings. Over the years, we might live with friends and extended family, family of choice or even sometimes with strangers. And sometimes we might find ourselves living alone.
No matter whom we live with now, or whom we have lived with before, God’s vision for the world is that everyone find a place within God’s kingdom—God’s house. What we celebrate at Pentecost is God’s pouring out of the Holy Spirit so that people of every identity and language can hear a word of welcome into God’s household. All belong in God’s household, and we get to live together, and learn together and celebrate together.
At Pentecost, we look especially to the children, youth and young adults with whom God has called us to live. The psalmist reminds us of the importance of faith being established during our earliest years, saying, “God from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.” God’s youngest family members need support to build their full potential in both faith and life, and all of us have a role to play.
These young ones also show and sometimes teach all of us more about faith in Jesus Christ and how the Holy Spirit is moving in our world.
The Pentecost Offering unites us in a churchwide effort to support young people in Christ and inspire them to share their faith, ideas, and unique gifts with the church and the world.
Each year on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. The Holy Spirit remains with us still, connecting us with the church of the past, continuing to inspire the church of today, and pointing us to the church of the future.
Studies show that a foundation of faith established during childhood through young adulthood, helps ensure lifelong faith and service. Psalm 71 testifies to this same truth. Verse 17 says “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.” The patterns and lessons established during these formative years continue to bear fruit throughout a person’s life.
These lessons might be taught through a congregation’s commitment to Educate a Child, Transform the World in ministries that shape a child’s academic achievement, setting them on a path toward a stable future. They might be taught through one of the youth events sponsored by Ministries with Youth at the national church that brings together young people from all over the country to share their experiences of faith with one another, and learn how their faith can help them address challenges all over the world. Or our young adults may be guided through a year of intentional service where they discern God’s call upon their lives by our Young Adult Volunteer Program.