A Normal April
I don’t think it can happen. I am not sure it ever happens. A “normal” April? How can a month that starts out with a “Fools Day” ever be anything even vaguely resembling “normal?”
This year it begs another question: “What is “normal”?” And another: “Were there things we thought were ‘normal’ that we should have abandoned a long time ago?” And another question: “Are there things that are heading towards ‘normal’ that we should be very sure never get there?”
April is almost always deep in the Lent/Easter Season at Church. This year, it is a most excellent occurrence that April begins with Easter. The new life, freshly embraced by recent observances of Good Friday and full-throttle celebrations of Jesus’ Resurrection are impetus for re-thinking, re-planning, re-newing, re-fueling, re___ (you, by now, could add your own suffix to that…)! Easter can, in fact, power our embrace of seeking God’s renewal for all that we do. It can shape what we do as individuals. It can mold what we do together as followers of Jesus the Christ. The empty cross and the empty tomb can become April’s gift to strengthen our faith. The witness of the Women at the tomb and the Angels in attendance and the open crypt door can become a remarkable abundance for lovingly living out God’s mission this April. I suspect we need that encouragement this April, maybe more so than ever.
That leads me back to the “begged questions.” I don’t have answers for you; but maybe we have answers together.
In his interview with Pontius Pilate, Jesus declared “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). The Roman Governor responds to the Truth, literally staring him in the face, by asking “What is truth?” He then condemns the Truth-in-Human-Form to death on the Cross. That Truth rises from death, opens our tombs and changes our truth. Easter changes what normal is.
Deacon Brenda Tibbets, our Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA, Synod Minister for Leadership Support wrote in her most excellent (read it if you can; all PPC members got a copy via email and there are hard copies available in the narthex) March 15 Article, Return to What? Return to Whom?: Yes, indeed, return. We can hardly wait. But this detour through Covid-19 has also provided unique opportunities to really take a look at what was before. Not all things i.e. behaviors or the way we have always done things in the church should be returned to. It has taken a cataclysmic shift in our culture to allow for space whereby the Holy Spirit can bring new vision, new dreams, new courage for a new day.
Easter can help us begin to see that any form of injustice perpetuated by any form of excuse should never have been normal. Maybe we can begin to see that if it ever becomes completely normal for us to be unable and unwilling to respectfully listen to each other in the public square, our world will suffer; we all will suffer.
And while it has always been “normal” for our own opinion, or our own bias (see my article in the March 12th Pine Knot) or our own needs to be more important to each of us than what is factually true; that is one normal that needs to be challenged every time we discern it. The Bible tells us many stories of how God’s normal and our normal, our truth and God’s truth (see John 18 above), our ways and God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8) are too often not in conjunction.
April, Easter, returning from COVID-imposed meditations, and Lenten disciplines can all conspire to help us let God’s Spirit create in us “clean hearts… and renew a right spirit within” us (Psalm 51:10). God is ready to lead us to a new normal. We will need each other to make that real. We will need to listen and respect each other to make that real. The journey is mapped in our Baptismal promises “… to strive for justice and peace in all the earth…” (Affirmation of Baptism, ELW p. 236).
I am on that journey with you.