Tag Archives: pandemic

Normal or New Normal… It’s All Just Normal

Whatis

What is normal? This Thought for the Week for St James’ church explores what normal is at this time, what a new normal might look like, and how this is influenced by the early church when normality was turned on its head

You can view the video here or read the transcript below

I wonder how many times you’ve heard the word normal lately. At the beginning of lockdown there was a great hankering to get things back to normal as soon as possible. When it emerged that this was unlikely to happen for some time, we began to wait patiently for things to be normal again. In the meantime the things that we were being asked to do, such as stay at home, stay alert, maintain social distancing, wear masks, don’t wear masks, wear masks, began to become quite normal things to do. People then began to talk about a ‘new’ normal.

Now this idea of a new normal is not itself new. The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martin Percy, recently pointed out in his blog ‘that pandemics have always re-reordered society’ and that following the Great Plague of the 1660’s, when over a 100,000 people, almost a quarter of the population of London died, that a ‘new normal’ emerged and society invariable re-boots itself when these type of seismic events happen.

This may well be what is happening at the moment when we look at the bigger picture, but it is also happening with each of us as individuals. Our normal is changing and it probably won’t be changing back.

If we consider what normal is, then we can see that it is simply to conform to a standard, something that is usual, typical or expected. As a society we have agreed either consciously or subconsciously the rules and laws for normal life. But for me as an individual, my normal will not be the same as your normal. My likes and dislikes, my experiences and my understandings, my prejudices and beliefs do not necessarily conform to what your idea of normal is; nor yours to mine.

Of course, the Christian faith has always embraced changes to normality. After all, a Trinitarian Godhead, a virgin birth and miraculous resurrection are not necessarily normal. For individuals too; think about a fisherman called Simon on a lake in Galilee; a name changed; a career changed, a personality changed; a heart changed – what did his normal look like? How many times did his normal become something new.

The beginning of the Christian church was in the hands of a small group of men and women, but the events of Pentecost that we have recently celebrated and the coming of the Holy Spirit, changed the lives of thousands of people, who in turn have changed the lives of millions. It turned normality on its head.

They only had to remember that Jesus said, ‘This is what I want normal to look like. I want you to respect differences, I want you to abide by the law, whilst challenging injustice, I want you to do all you can to ensure that the poor and the disadvantaged are cared for with dignity, I want you to look at everybody with the same reverence that you have for me, I want you simply to love each other.

If throughout all of these recent events we have begun to detect that our normal has changed, and actually what we have learned is that there is chance for a better normal now, then we should welcome it. If normal is now to slow down, to appreciate relationships and friendships more, to reach out to serve our neighbours in practical and emotional support, to comfort those who mourn, to act with more kindness, then let that become our normal.

Then perhaps there won’t be a need for a ‘new’ normal, because we will have already made it so.

We end in prayer

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Those who have God
Find they lack nothing;
God alone suffices.

St. Teresa of Avila

 

Link to Martin Percy’s blog
https://modernchurch.org.uk/martyn-percy-a-plague-of-numbers

Faith – By Sight? By Touch?

The Eagle Lectern at St James’ Church, West End

A recording made of an informal talk for a Service of the Word for St James’ Church, West End during the present Coronavirus Pandemic whilst our church door are locked. A transcript of the talk is printed below as well.

based on the following readings:

Psalm 16 – The Golden Secret, A precious song engraved in gold by King David
from The Psalms – Poetry on Fire (Passion Translation© tPt

1 Keep me safe, O mighty God
I run for dear life to you, my Safe Place.

2 So I said to the Lord God,
‘You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master.
Any good thing you find in me has come from you’

3 And he said to me, ‘My holy ones are wonderful,
my majestic ones, my glorious ones,
fulfilling all my desires’

4 Yet, there are those who yield to their weakness,
and they will have troubles and sorrows unending.
I never gather with such ones,
nor give them honour in any way.

5 Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance,
You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.
I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands’

6 Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places,
I’m overwhelmed by the privileges
that come with following you,
for you have given me the best!

7 The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more,
for your whispers in the night give me wisdom,
showing me what to do next.

8 Because you are close to me and always available,
my confidence will never be shaken,
for I experience your wrap around presence every moment.

9 My heart and soul explode with joy – full of glory!
Even my body will rest confident and secure.

10 For you will not abandon me to the realm of death
nor will you allow your Holy One to experience corruption.

11 For you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life,
the path to the bliss that bring me face-to-face with you.

and Acts 2:14a, 22-32 and John 20:19-31  

May I speak and may you hear through the Grace of our Lord; Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Can we simply believe what we see? I would say yes, most of the time. Even so, sight can deceive the brain because after all isn’t that what we call magic? We only have to think of magicians who have claimed to have made whole buildings disappear, such as David Copperfield and the Statue of Liberty, and the people there as witnesses at the time would have sworn on their lives that it really did happen – they saw it with their own eyes.

No don’t get me wrong, there is no suggestion of magic taking place in any part of our gospel this morning, or indeed in any part of the Easter story, but sight and witnessing are at the heart of it – except there was one who despite all of this wasn’t convinced – he doubted.

A few weeks ago, I spoke about worrying and how it wasn’t helpful, in that it can produce fear; may be a bit like the fear some of us might be feeling at the moment because of the necessary self-isolation and social distancing; and what fear does to your mind is that it leaves you doubting, it paralyses your thoughts. This sort of doubt is definitely not helpful. It’s the thing that stops us from doing the things that God is calling us to do. As the psalmist said, ‘You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master. Any good thing you find in me has come from you’

‘You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master.
Any good thing you find in me has come from you’
Psalm 16:2

Doubt, therefore, can stop us realising our true potential when we think, ‘I doubt God would want to know someone like me’ – yet we forget that we are exactly as God created us to be in all our diverse and different personalities, blessed with a variety of gifts and talents

On the other hand, doubt can be a useful, self-check tools – giving us a moment to pause and to consider. Perhaps Thomas was right to say, ‘hold on a minute, I not only need to see this for myself, but I need to have physical evidence as well’, because surely the physical always trumps the visual? So, when Jesus appears a second time he offers this opportunity for Thomas to confirm his physical presence – that he was not just some holographic projection. Yet in both of his appearances it doesn’t record that any of them reached out and actually touched Jesus. On the contrary, Thomas immediately answered Jesus’ offer with a firm declaration, ‘My Lord and my God’.

This was pure faith, the same faith that enabled Peter to later step forward and point out to the crowd that King David was undoubtedly dead and it was his faith that led him to boldly and unflinchingly declare ‘we all are witnesses that Jesus rose from the dead’.

We all are witnesses that Jesus rose from the dead
Acts 2:32

Oh, that we would be so bold, the ones that have not seen and yet have come to believe. How though are we to convince people about the truth of the resurrection? If we go back to that first encounter that the disciples had with Jesus, we can actually see that his main concern is not to provide proof of this. The first thing he offers is reassurance that its really him and the disciples rejoice – but Jesus moves swiftly on – his purpose isn’t to linger on the miraculous fact that he’s risen from the dead, but rather to enable the disciples and us, through the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive and to be able to discern when it is called for. He is inviting them and us to extend the same Peace he spoke to them in that locked room, to begin to share that in faith with others, to start others on that journey of discovering the truth for themselves.

Yet how can we do this when our own faith journeys can often be full of ups and downs. There are times when our faith runs deep and there are times when doubt threatens to take over. The fact remains that we simply cannot force anyone else to believe – indeed we can not even force ourselves to believe. Faith comes only and always as a precious gift – but it is helped by being surrounded with others who carry and hold that gift of faith as lovingly as we do.

Whether our faith runs deep or shallow we can still live as one who believes, bearing witness in our words and actions to the truth that Jesus lives because God brings us ‘a continual revelation of resurrection life’. Sight may be fallible, the physical may be convincing, but as John declares in his purpose for writing these things down, it is the written word that is something tangible, to provoke thought and reflection, to come back to time and again, to give us better understanding through our experiences to show something in a new light.

Fear can be overcome; doubt can be set aside, and faith and belief are the keys to life in all its fullness through the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen