One of the things I have probably heard the most during this Coronavirus epidemic is "when can we get back to normal?" or "when can we return to the way things were?". I can completely understand the need to re-find some sense of comfort in being able to do things in the ways we had grown used to. For example in my case that might include:
Planning trips to see our children and grandchildren
Organising holidays well in advance
Meeting up with folks over a coffee or a meal
Sharing worship in person with the church
Catching up with the church over coffee after the services and in other meetings and gatherings.
Meeting all of the toddler group mum's, carers and children
The longer this lockdown or partial lockdown has continued and a few weeks has stretched into 7 months, so far, we still see no clear end to the situation and so what was thrust upon us by the rapid change has become a sort of new normal.
Jesus' arrival heralded a new normal for all people. No longer a normal of trying to win God's favour by observing strict religious codes and rules, but a new normal of inclusion in God's kingdom through Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. A new normal of Salvation by God's grace and not our observances and rituals. This new normal caused ructions, the religious of the day wanted Jesus out of the way, they clung to the old. Jesus' words about new wine in old wineskins certainly caused issues. I am not sure he meant the old was bad and the new was good, but more that a new way meant a new container, the old wouldn't be able to hold it.
As I reflect a little on what has happened I can be sad at what I don't have and miss - the personal contact with friends and family, the buzz of church before during and after worship, the laughter and fun with the toddlers and so on. But I can also consider what is different and positive. Less meetings to travel to and so more time for other things (like speaking to church folks with real time given to it on the phone and not in snatched conversations with others waiting). Folks being able to attend services on Zoom who often work hours that make actually getting to church on Sunday hard. And then there is the on-line chats with our children and grand-children which are more frequent.
The old normal has some useful things to pull forward into the new normal but I wonder how much of the old we need to let go of and embrace the new a little more. Then perhaps it will not be so frightening but instead will become an opportunity to embrace new ways of doing things in all aspects of our lives and especially in our church lives.
God is more than able to work through each and any situation, after all church has survived two millennia so far and a good many changes have happened in the process. Maybe there is something for us in this embracing of the new, Isaiah wrote God's word to him down for us and maybe they are worth reflecting upon in the current situation. "Behold I do a new thing".