Every crisis leaves its marks. Some marks appear as scars, testifying to pain, but also endurance. While other marks take the shape of new or renewed resolve to do things differently. While none of us welcomes a crisis, crises move us forward in many ways — technologically, relationally, and spiritually. The early Church Father, Augustine, once noted that theology is developed most clearly in response to heresy than in the absence of it. Paul points out the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11:18-19
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
What marks will your crisis leave? Only scars? Or with the scars, new resolve – a new normal. The controversial mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, once quipped, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” He was paraphrasing from Saul Alinsky, who recycled his own ideas on political activism from the likes of Marx and Machiavelli. Yet, despite Alinsky’s dangerous perspectives, the truth of his sentiment regarding a crisis is important. How will we respond? Will the crisis only wound? Or will it strengthen as well? John Calvin taught that our spiritual response to crisis is not to ask “why” but “what for?”
The last two months have been a crisis of gargantuan proportions. No matter what you believe about the Coronavirus as a pandemic, a plague, a judgement of God, an act of Chinese bioterrorism, or a vast left-wing conspiracy – our response to COVID-19 has left a mark. From cabin fever, to financial ruin, to grief of loss, the impact has been far-reaching. We are all eager to reopen the world and get back to normal. But can we really go back? We will have some scars, but we will also take away some needful things from this crisis –new things we need to keep and lost things we need to recover.
Perhaps the old normal wasn’t so great after all. Perhaps it is true that “it is not good for man to be alone.” Maybe the old normal mediated by technology and not personal relationships was not the panacea it promised. Being confined to virtual relationships for the last two months has left us wanting something more. And while, it has been a good thing for the church to come to grips with new means of gathering and engaging the world, our old apathy for worship and the spread of the gospel needs a “new normal.” But this is not the first time followers of Jesus Christ have been confronted with the challenges of a “new normal.”
As we encounter the Lord’s disciples at the end of the Gospel of Luke, we find them facing a radically new normal. Jesus, their master and teacher, has finished His redemptive work. As He is preparing to return to the Father, He is preparing them to pick up where He left off. Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples during forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God, opening their minds to understand the Scriptures and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
As Jesus meets the disciples on the first Easter night, he comforts their fears, calls them to take their part in the story of redemption, and promises them His ongoing presence in a radically new and powerful way. The end of the gospel is only the end of the beginning. As Luke continues the story in Acts, he writes
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.Acts 1:1-2
This is the new normal. It remains the new normal for the Church today. Just as Jesus comforted the fears of his disciples, called them to step up and step out, and promises His presence in a radically new and powerful way, so He does to us. These things were written for our instruction and encouragement. Their new normal is the best prescription for our own new normal – looking to Christ for comfort, following Christ’s call, and relying on Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit.
How will you move forward? What will you abandon and what will you recover? What marks will the crisis leave? Only scars? Or with the scars, new resolve – a new normal. Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, April 26, as we examine the “End of the Beginning” from Luke 24 and consider the new normal for followers of Jesus Christ.