Our societies are loosening their restrictions on the movement of people as in many countries the Covid-19 virus seems to be subsiding. This isn’t the case in all countries of course and some of our cities have been locked down again, however, one of the joys for many has been the re-opening of barbers and hairdressers so that the weeks of hair growth can be tamed.
A visit needs to be booked in advance and sometimes a deposit is paid. Entry to the haircutting establishment is met with staff in face visors and protective gowns. Washing hands with sanitiser is mandatory as well as a hair wash before the joyous cut and, of course, a face mask is worn throughout the procedure.
For some this is a welcome relief and they come out of the barbers and hairdressers looking normal again, but the process, of course, is not normal. For others they have kept their hair in good shape during the lockdown with partners cutting their hair or using hair clippers. Some will not go back to the barbers or hairdressers. There is perhaps a new normal emerging.
As we start to go out more, visiting family, seeing friends, visiting restaurants or pubs and even going back to school and places of work; we are being encouraged to keep a social distance to prevent the spread of infections and to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops, in tight spaces and in doctors surgeries. These moves are designed to start our economies again whilst protecting the health of one another and the subsequent load on medical care.
Churches are beginning to open with seating far apart from each other, no singing, no shaking hands or hugs, but the chance to be part of encouraging one another together and receiving the consecrated broken bread, a symbol of Christ’s body broken for us. The joy of receiving this sacrament brings a physical feeding of a spiritual presence. as we remember what Christ has done for humanity in restoring us to God, the Father, wiping away the burden of our wrongs, so that we can know him more fully in our lives. This act has been undertaken by Christians for hundreds of years, it is our normal practice, yet the process is different, a new normal is emerging.
Yet our Christian faith is all about a new normal. The living presence of Jesus Christ, through the power of his Holy Spirit, brings about change, often radical change, as what it means to be people of God is inspired in us and justice and freedom for all is brought about. Our world is very different today from the one lived through in Roman occupation and oppression in Jesus’ time. God has been and is at work through us.
I have often been inspired in my ministry, along with many others, by the commands given by Jesus to his disciples as he helped them know the character of God and his desire for our world. Jesus came to show us the model for our world, a heavenly place where God is present amongst us, a holy place. He gave his disciples a foretaste of this kingdom by giving them authority over unclean spirits and over sickness. Matthew records this event in his Gospel of good news. (Matthew 10:5-15):
‘These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.‘
This is a radical step by God himself in our world that brought about a radical change. To send believers out, with the authority of God’s Holy Spirit, beyond their comfort zone, giving up what they have and taking very little with them and showing signs of God’s presence and his restoration and healing. Faith in Jesus was paramount for those disciples as they were sent out, that things would be as he told them. It is a typical path for any ordained full time minister or missionary today, in the resurrected ministry of Jesus Christ. They need total faith in Jesus as they leave their lives behind and move to live with a welcoming Christian community, where restoration and healing is sought in the name of Jesus Christ. I have seen demons flee and healing take place, spiritually, mentally and physically, in Jesus’ name. I have also seen Jesus’ name and the peace he offers rejected and the resulting separation from God and his Church that occurs. Can we call on Jesus’ name as this new normal is emerging?
The Church is starting to meet physically and some have been meeting virtually. How important it is, no matter how we meet, or how we don’t meet, to call on Jesus Name, to proclaim his presence and to keep our faith and hope in him. By faith we know his peace, that passes all understanding, in our prayers and actions in this new normal. The writer of Hebrews brings our attention to the faith of ‘the ancients’ in changing times in Hebrews 11:1-2 & 7-12.
‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.‘
‘By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.“‘
Faith, brings us hope which in turn brings us a vision of how things could be, that turns into reality. Jesus gathered his disciples to him:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Church, in whatever form it takes, will continue with this commission in faith and in the new normal and we will see Jesus name proclaimed and the world will continue to change as it is restored to God and healed, because our God is one who brings radical change, a new normal; salvation!
Everyone needs compassion
Love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a saviour
The hope of nations
He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender
Shine your light
And let the whole world see
We’re singing for the glory
Of the risen King
Perhaps our prayer in faith could be:
Lord God, have mercy on us when we don’t trust you and lose our faith in you. Renew in us a right spirit, so that our faith may grow and through our growth in faith, we may play our part in serving you and see your saving grace grow in our world.
We know that you save us to yourself, through the grace bought for us by the life and resurrection of Jesus, our Saviour. May we know this in our hearts and be inspired to proclaim your name in our homes, communities and Churches. Bring into our lives and our world your radical change of restoration and of healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
An Anglican prayer.
Lord God, your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.