False Positives, False Negatives, False Promises
To be sure of the things we hope for. To be certain of the things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1-2 (adapted)
Suffering sometimes wears a silver lining. The reverse is also true. A good new job sometimes results in disappointment. “It was what I always wanted and yet…” Also, a bad virus can have positive coattails. “Without the pandemic, I would never have finished that photo album or become a friend of my daughter-in-law.”
There are false negatives and false positives, and not just in tests.
We bought a whole new house so my husband wouldn’t have to commute. Along comes the virus, and he is teaching remotely. My kids left Brooklyn to get their three kids enrolled in school; then the school in Brooklyn opened up and the school in Massachusetts closed. Make plans, they say, if you want to make God laugh. Congregations have lost some regulars who moved away and gained a lot of their diaspora who now worship with them.
There are false negatives and false positives. Really excellent planning is a good idea, except that it doesn’t always control the future.
Uncertainty is a sure thing. Therefore: Take aim. Have direction. Beware confusion and fragmentation. Increase your personal executive authority over your hopes and dreams and direction. Be sure of the things for which you hope. Be certain there are things you can’t see.
Aim for God’s time, commonwealth, kingdom, shalom, salvation. The rest is adiaphora, Luther’s word for the non-essential. You can aim there no matter what school opens or close, houses sell, churches grow or not. You can avoid false promises from anywhere. You can receive true promises from anywhere, as well.
Help us take aim, O God, for and with you. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.