A "New" Normal: Thoughts on Covid-19 & the Church
I'm tired. Yup...I said it. That feels good. I wouldn't be shocked if I speak for most of those reading this post. What we were all hoping in March would be just a few weeks of extraordinary circumstances that would give way to normality by the Easter...wait...maybe the summer...surely by Thanksgiving leaves us wondering what we can expect for 2021. The novel virus known as Covid-19 has surely done a number on all of us this year. It has been dizzying. Whats worse is that it feels futile to think about the future not knowing when all fo this will end. We are all tired.
Yet the church is not a people without hope. Far from having our ambitions in the recovery of 'normal', we are called to a "new" normal. To be sure, it is not wrong to want what we once knew as "normal" because what we mostly mean by that is the recovery of the normal ways of life created by God and part of His creation mandate. Even so, what we must remember is that the 'normal' we all want back was just as broken by sin and the fall as what we know now...just differently.
This is not to say that we should turn a blind eye to our current circumstances and not work for better days. But the pathway to better days is often not what we think it is. The 'new' normal of the Christian life is the call to love God and love neighbor. The 'new' normal is the call to "go and make disciples." This should shape everything we do as we seek to normalcy we all want back. We should never want normalcy at the expense of the glory of God and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Now I know how overly "spiritual" that sounds but perhaps that is actually what we need to be reminded of right now. As we have seen in the book of Daniel, our citizenship is in heaven not of earth. We are merely aliens and exiles while we reside here. Like most aliens and exiles in our world today, we do not have full citizenship here and never will. Our 'normal' as exiles is NOT defined by the "city of man" but by our citizenship in the "city of God."
This profoundly helps us as we live here and wait for Jesus. We recognize that the 'normal' of this life is broken by sin, and that includes our families, vocations, societies, and even our churches. That means that we will have to learn to journey through the 'valley of the shadow of death' until Jesus returns in every sphere of life Covid or no Covid. Psalm 23 is not a funeral text. But our hope is that our 'new' normal is defined by our heavenly status in Christ. Regardless of what our lot is here and now, we must keep our eyes on the supremacy of Christ, love His church and make our ambition the mission of God.
So Covid-19...take your best shot! I find it interesting that in 2020 of all years, that God would choose our 4 year old church to grow by 10 families! Only God can do that and I believe He can and is willing to do it again. 2020 has been tough nonetheless but God is clearly in control.
So I want to be clear. The elders have and will remain committed NOT to the temporal aspects of church life BUT to the eternal aspects of the church. Loving God...Loving Neighbor...Making Disciples. How we do that may take different forms during this extraordinary season. We may continue to face difficult decisions as it relates to life at Grace Church. Yet we hold out hope that God will see us through it all. It is not easy to have our beloved church scattered across the sanctuary, fellowship hall and across many homes on Sundays. It is not easy to plan and suspend ministry programs such as Sunday morning Bible Study and other activities. Nonetheless, our church will worship the risen Christ together in some form each Sunday and we will seek to make disciples in many different ways knowing God is faithful to His people.
Brothers and sisters, I, too, am tired like most of you. I can't wait until words like "Covid-19", "Social distancing" or "face coverings" are a distant memory. But this is where God has placed us sovereignly. We are placed here for this moment to embrace the new 'normal' of God's grace by loving God and making disciples. So let me ask a personal question. If Jesus returns tomorrow, what 'normals' will He find us pursuing with our lives?
I cannot wait until we can resume and even expand on the 'normals' of life at Grace Church. That day will come if Jesus tarries. Until then, let's be like Daniel and embrace the 'new' normals of God's grace and mercy in a land that is not our home. Like Daniel, lets continually pray steadfastly to our good God in heaven, longing for our real home with Him but never forgetting that God has situated us right here and now for the love our neighbors, friends and family that desperately need to know Jesus.
Speaking on behalf of the elders let me remind you we dearly love you! We are honored to shepherd and lead you. We are proud of your love and witness. We too feel the fatigue but we also see that God is bringing a harvest. May God use this season to raise up workers for the harvest at Grace Church until Jesus returns.