This week we start a new series, looking at the anticipated ‘new normal’. We hear so much about this ‘new normal’ and I have to admit, I wonder whether such a thing is really possible, particularly in the life of the church. What do we mean by normal?
Maya Angelou says, “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
But why do we crave normality; is it because we fear difference? Well, possibly yes.
As Vincent O’Sullivan points out “If you are different from the rest of the flock, they bite you” and that statement can have a nuance all of its own for those who shepherd the flock known as church.
So, like a true contextual theologian, I turned to scripture looking for references as to whether I could find something that spoke to this ‘normative concept.’
To my surprise, I discovered 14 Old Testament references dealing with normality. Some of these addressed the normal procedural activities such as periods required for embalming (now there’s a thought of to how to deal with some church issues - but I won’t go there this morning!) Some references spoke of legal judgement protocols, whilst others were concerned medical procedures.
However, I discovered that there are scriptural reference to occasions where something extraordinary had occurred followed by a return to a more regular pattern. For example in Joshua 4:18 “As soon as the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD had come up from the middle of the Jordan River, and the soles of the priests' feet came up to dry ground, the water of the Jordan River returned to normal, covering its banks as it had done so before.”
I wonder, following such a momentous occasion, whilst everything seemed to return to normal, how much this event impacted upon the minds of the priests and changed their thinking.
Then I found a verse in Jeremiah, that spoke deeply into my soul; Jer 8:7 “Even the stork knows when it is time to move on. The turtledove, swallow, and crane recognise the normal times for their migration. But my people pay no attention to what I, the Lord, require of them.”
In the Hebrew, this sense of normality is rooted in the notion of something that has been previously appointed. But if I am to take Jeremiah’s prophesy to heart, the normality of the birds of creation is movement, change and pressing on to new destinations. And then there is a sting in the tail for Humankind, “ But my people pay no attention to what I, the Lord, require of them.”
So here we are at pivotal point, in the pre-pandemic - pandemic - post-pandemic trajectory; the quandary of ‘what now’? Do we see this New Normal as a threat or an opportunity?
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of our minds. We praise you for the blessings you give: in how we can grow in what we know, be wise to live in your ways, and come to understand the depth of your Kingdom’ purpose in us. For your transforming truth that would refresh and renew our minds in you today and always, we bless you, through Jesus Christ our Light of Truth and Life. Amen