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It is exciting to see how rapidly things are beginning to shift for the COVID landscape in the United States. The New York Times reported on March 24th that 2 million doses of the vaccine are being administered everyday. The colored tier status in most states and counties continues to get better and better. United Airlines stock went from a 52 week low of $18.18 to a recent high of $63.70. My favorite restaurants are opening back up for limited or even full capacity seating. Yes, all signs are telling us that things are getting back to “normal”.
But the question remains to be seen, “What will get back to normal and what will become a new normal?” I play tennis with a guy who is in his 50s who plays guitar in a 1970’s cover band and loves to go to concerts and sporting events. He got his vaccine but said to me, “I still don’t know if I will ever do those things again.” An elderly covenant partner at one of our ECO churches said to her pastor, “Yes I got the shot, and I feel like that is an extra layer of protection, but I still don’t feel comfortable coming to church.” Some of you may resonate with these comments. Others may think they are overreacting. The point being, as we imagined, our normal won’t be totally normal, but there will be a new normal – and we’re not sure what it will look like.
I think of another time in history where things didn’t entirely go back to normal. When Jesus was crucified, and even after shortly after his resurrection, the disciples didn’t know what it would look like to go back to “normal”. Some even went back to their former vocation of fishing as we read in John 21. Basically from the resurrection to Pentecost, the disciples were at an in-between stage – waiting, praying and seeking what it would look like to live in a “new normal”. What was it going to mean to follow Jesus after he left the earth?
The liturgical calendar recognizes this whole season of 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost as “Easter” or “Eastertide”. It is the time in the earthly ministry of Jesus where he continues to make appearances, teach, preach, comfort, equip, and eventually empower people with his Spirit to live into a new normal.
I encourage you as pastors, leaders, and covenant partners to use this season to begin to think how you and/or your church will live differently in a post-resurrection AND post-COVID reality. How can the truth of the resurrection and what we have experienced during COVID change our congregations in the future? Maybe, like after the resurrection, some people are excited, while others are afraid and fearful. How might we disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed? Maybe this is an opportunity to also rethink our ministries. Let’s not simply start doing everything we stopped doing in COVID. Perhaps instead we take a look at our various ministry endeavors and ask if they need to be enhanced, modified, or even eliminated so that we have the ability to do the best that we can do, with the power of the Spirit, to make disciples of all nations.
I thank the Lord that he didn’t allow things to simply go back to normal after the resurrection, but nurtured, taught, cast vision, and empowered his people to bring about his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I pray this Eastertide is a special opportunity for the Lord to give you and your congregation exactly what is needed for a flourishing future.