A New Normal For Us?
“Is it ever going to get back to normal?” That certainly is the cry coming up from the underbelly of our lives and society. The Covid 19 Pandemic has upended almost everything in and about our lives. It has also replaced the normal sense of security and peace in our hearts with a spirit of uneasiness, uncertainty, and even the nagging fear that life as we have been accustomed to before Covid will never return. Unfortunately some of our leaders are adding more consternation by insisting we will never get back to normal. “Embrace the new normal,” they insist.
Now, if you are anything like me, then you bristle under such a notion. You don’t want a new normal. You want the old normal. “Why can’t we go back to the way things used to be before masks, quarantines, Zoom, social distancing, and this phobia that drives you to imagine that every person you meet is a dire threat to your health, your safety, and even your life? We yell in our heart if not also from our lips, “I want my freedom back! I want to be free to go where I want, when I want. I want to get together with people again, large and small groups without hiding and choking behind a mask. I want to go to sporting events, take in a movie at the theater, go out to eat, and yes, I want to join with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and hear His Word and receive once again my Savior’s body and blood for the forgiveness of my sins.”
Dear friends, I can’t assure you that everything in society will ever get back to the old normal, but I can assure you that, if you haven’t already discovered for yourself, you can feel safe to return and join your family in Christ in public worship. Many of us have been meeting regularly since the end of last April. No, things have not been totally back to the normal as we were used to them but the totally essential elements of our worship experience; the hearing God’s Word, the receiving of Christ’s blessed body and blood in the Holy Sacrament, the singing of the liturgy and the hymns of praise, and the being together with our fellow members of the Body of Christ have continued unabated. Of course, we have been following suggested safety guidelines like social distancing, refraining from handshaking and hugging, and making available facemasks and hand sanitizer for those who desire to use them. And, yes, we have also made some adjustments to the way we distribute the Lord’s Supper and the gathering our offerings. But our normal assembling has continued. The “emergency,” if it ever truly existed, is over. Your elders, congregational leaders and I are committed to remaining faithful to our Lord’s mandate to “Remember the Sabbath Day and by keeping it holy.”
Now, speaking for myself, this ongoing Sabbath in the Lord has been especially wonderful, strengthening and calming in the midst of all the craziness, fear and changes of life confronting us elsewhere in this Covid world. Here Jesus has continued to meet with us as He promised to strengthen, feed, and encourage us to the extent that we have been made to cope, persevere, and even thrive. Thanks be to our gracious and loving God we have not witnessed any outbreaks of the virus among us despite all the warnings and hysterical rhetoric you may have heard by some government officials and in the media. Also thanks be to God and the generosity He has brought forth from His people, as of last July, our building loan was paid off 4 years early, our school has doubled in the number of students over the previous year and early notices of planned registrations for the next academic year indicate we will see another increase. I’m also happy to announce that we are in the process of securing another full time grade school teacher. On top of all this, thanks to several hard-working and dedicated volunteers and hours of loving labor, in all thanksgiving to God I can report that new, beautiful, restroom facilities in the basement of the new addition are almost finished and ready for use. Even as shut downs have become the norm in our society, the LORD’s work and His Kingdom growth have flourished among us. God be praised!
Something else has become crystal clear amidst this “new normal.” Society’s almost schizophrenic handling of the pandemic has not only served to add to the ongoing eradication of our personal freedoms, especially the freedom to learn and profess the truth, but it has also made the darkness darker. Deception, falsehood, and untruth have spread over our nation faster than light travels.
However, in the midst of it all, by God’s gracious providential care, the light of the truth of Christ has been made to shine even brighter among us. The contrast between the true light of Christ and His salvation and what the world passes off as salvation has been made even more stark. Covid has been revealed not to be the real killer. Like the wickedness of men and the ploys of the devil, it has been shown to be that which can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, what has again been brought to light is that falsehoods, false hopes and false gods kill souls. Similarly, what has been made perfectly clear for all to see is that a vaccine is not the real Savior but the crucified and resurrected Jesus is.
Return To The Lord
The apostle Peter writes to encourage Christians everywhere and of every time, “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). As Peter had already testified in the preceding verses, he knows of what he speaks. He is not just espousing made up truths or second hand information. He was “and eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty” (1:16). Peter heard with his ears God the Father’s voice speaking out of the “majestic glory” concerning Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Like the holy prophets before him and the other apostles of Jesus with him, Peter “spoke from God as (he) was carried along by the Holy Spirit.” His and their testimony concerning Jesus enlightens every man with the real Truth that saves, the real Life that gives eternal life, the real Way back to our Heavenly Father where the true “day dawns and the morning star rises in our heart” (John 14:6).
This past year may not have been the “normal” we were used to nor the life we would have chosen, but thanks be to God it has been an amazing and enlightened experience. God has made us “like flint” (Isaiah 50:7), resolute in our efforts to exercise our freedom to worship our God and Savior Jesus Christ and to boldly preach His name. In fact, God has enabled us to be in an even better position to boldly shine the light of Christ into our part of this darkening world to the extent that no pandemic, no governmental decrees, no amount of public pressure, no leftist propaganda, has stifled us. Why, now our services are even broadcast on the world-wide web via YouTube! God be praised for our new normal. In these days of fear and change, He has blessed us to be in an even better position to witness to more and more people the eternal truth and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, who is the same today, yesterday and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)
Soli Deo Gloria!