Thoughts from the Vicarage
‘The New Normal’: Acts 7.55-60; 1 Peter 2. 2-10; John 14. 1-14
I find words, written and spoken, fascinating, almost a 6th sense through which we relate to, communicate with and learn to understand ourselves, our relationships and our place in God’s purposes; words are after all how God spoke all that is into being, revealed Himself to humanity in Jesus, (John 1. 1-5) and how He continues to speak through the Bible (Hebrews 4.2).
There is a phrase increasingly common at the moment, ‘The New Normal.’ Politicians, the media and us ‘normal’ folk are having to grapple with and adjust to the knowledge that life, work, relationships, are not going to return to how they were due to Covid 19. But the word ‘normal’…what does that really mean?
In Yemen, ‘normal’ means living in fear and starvation due to a civil war; in parts of Africa, ‘normal’ means the threat of famine due to locust swarms; closer to home, ‘normal’ was/is struggling to put food on the table on a zero hours contract at a warehouse in Chesterton, or desperately trying to keep your sleeping bag dry while homeless on the streets of ‘Castle.
www.etymonline.com says ‘normal’ means ‘conforming to common standards or the established order,’ and its origins are in the Latin word ‘norma’ meaning ‘rule or pattern; made according to a carpenter’s square.’ So perhaps ‘normal’ more precisely means something (someone?) conforming to the standards required by its purpose.
A building, for example, conforms to precise specifications in order to stand strong. Peter likens those who know God, (who are known by God?), as ‘living stones’, being conformed to the Capstone, Christ, as He builds His Church. For Peter, perhaps this was his vision of ‘the new normal’ at that time. For Stephen, the ‘new normal’ compelled him to speak out against those who wished to cling to the old ways – and it got him killed, as of course did Jesus’ works and words get Him killed – for us.
Maybe this locked-down Easter Season can serve to teach us that ‘the new normal’, a new reality, has actually been with us since the Resurrection. It is ‘the established order’ of the New Covenant which promises a ‘dwelling place’ with God to those who believe; in other words, it promises hope.
We, and those amongst whom we live, need such hope – those for whom their ‘new normal’ means they’ve lost a loved one to the virus, lost a job, their business has collapsed, their relationships have broken down; previously ‘normal’ foundations have been swept away in the realisation that their previous ‘certainties’ cannot provide the peace, the wellbeing for which we are created and purposed (John 14.27).
If we see life ‘in Christ’ as ‘the new normal’, then by the grace and wisdom of God (Romans 8.28), Covid-19 may be a wonderful opportunity for us to proclaim Christ to those around us as ‘the new normal’ that all are seeking in these abnormal times…
Collect for 5th Sunday after Easter
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.