The ‘new normal’ that is emerging is fascinating to contemplate. The talk in the shopping line queues and by neighbours calling out to each other from their front lawns and online is that the world just won’t go back to how we were at the beginning of 2020. Sure many things will resume and we’ll have new appreciations of things but this COVID-19 experience will also change us.
At some stage someone is going to do some sort of chart about countries, populations, type of government, level of trust in the government, type of health system, level of IT infrastructure, numbers of infections and deaths and produce all sorts of metrics – and, no doubt, many disagreements. Philosophers, political scientists, sociologists, and others will discuss – are discussing – issues such as liberty and freedom, individualism and communalism, the economy and social welfare, and more.
From a religion point of view – and I think there are many PhDs to be done – it will be fascinating to track how religions have responded. My sense of the Lutheran response globally is that while we say we have similar theology, the Lutheran church bodies (and we are not structured as the Roman Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion) have responded largely in line with instructions of their country’s government. Our theology is practised in context and what churches do is different if public worship is closed in one country but can happen elsewhere and different issues arise if the group allowed to meet – but still be socially distant … or not – can only be 10 or 25 or whatever. The strands of our historical origins are also revealed in what we teach about the Sacrament of the Altar, about communing in one kind, about its place in our personal and congregational lives, and in the discussions about digital ministries. Another thing, I think, revealed is how churches (actually religions) regard, react, and respond to science (and where God fits in science). As I said … fascinating. Have I been thinking too much? Who knows what the ‘new normal’ will be?
And I wonder whether, today, Easter Sunday, we can now tune in, that little more closely, to the disciples’ thoughts and feelings, their emotions and their imaginations on that Sunday evening when the morning message of the empty grave – no, we didn’t take the body! – and Mary, what are you talking about that you have seen the Lord?! – gave way to an account of a walk to Emmaus and then Jesus’ appearing and eating some fish? What?? He’s alive!! What does this mean?? What will I do now? How will this change the world? This changes everything, where will it end?
What is the ‘new normal’ when someone goes into the grave with death but then comes out alive? What indeed? Disciples of every generation live in their time and place, working that out! Our ‘new normal’ of each day always has Jesus with us and his ‘Peace be with you’ – ‘Don’t be afraid’ – and that’s how we live through whatever the planet, our country, or us personally are going through.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!)