General Eisenhower, I’m reliably informed, used to say that ‘plans are worthless, but planning is everything’. I’ve learned how true that is in recent days and weeks. In order to re-open the church for public worship I have had to produced countless pages of planning material. Some of you will have read (some of) it! But these ‘plans’ are, if not entirely worthless, not really the point. The point is the process which I and others have been through in working out all the many precautions that need to be taken and details that need to be adjusted in order to make public worship as safe as it possibly can be. It’s the fact that we’ve been through the process that enables us to respond to the inevitable surprises that pop up.
This is not my comfort zone. I left the world of policy-making and crafting of legislation a long time ago. Yet there does seem to me to be a spiritual message present in it all. Wisdom, I think, recognises that good plans are flexible and open, never so rigid and closed that they can’t respond to the unforeseen. And that is actually a very Christian view of the future.
I like to say that that the future is not fixed but is in God’s hands. Our faith does not teach us a kind of religious fatalism in which everything is pre-ordained and nothing we ourselves do can make a difference. When we say that God has a plan, we don’t mean that God shuts the door on human freedom and human creativity. God’s plan is to reconcile all things to Godself in Christ, and ultimately God will bring that plan to completion. But the plan is relational, and therefore responsive. By God’s grace (and only by God’s grace) we’re invited to be part of the process. And being part of God’s process of bringing God’s future into existence is simply the greatest privilege I can imagine.
The process of restoring public worship in our church building is part of that process, however bureaucratic and limiting and frustrating it may appear. Throughout this crisis, our Christian duty of loving service to the world has required us to balance a proper concern for public health with the real need for spiritual care and ministry. That balance remains at the heart of our project as we move forward, and the only way we will get it right is if we understand ourselves as being participants in God’s much bigger plan to save and redeem the world in Christ.
‘Plans are worthless’? Well, perhaps. But prayerful planning, focused on God’s future? That is indeed essential.
May God bless you all,