Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: The New Normal

Sunday after Ascension Day
24 May 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

There has been much talk in the past week about when will we get back to “normal”

We have already seen some return to “normality” and this will, hopefully, increase in time

Something is said to be normal if it conforms to a general pattern

It comes from the Latin “normalis” which described something made with a carpenter’s square.

In other words, we can be relatively certain what we are going to get

But of course “normal” can change over time.

What’s normal today may be “abnormal” in the future

Similarly, what is normal to us today would almost certainly be abnormal to those who came before us

And in any event, I suspect that we are all going to have to get used to a “new normal” in the future

Our journey over the past eight weeks has been anything but normal, but we are not alone

For, as we have heard from the readings, the same can be said for Christ’s disciples

From the entry into Jerusalem to the crucifixion,

From the resurrection to ascension,

Their lives have also been turned upside down

Furthermore, believing they were over the worst, they were then warned by the risen Christ that his presence with them would not last either

And we marked Christ’s ascension on Thursday

But before Christ left the earth he sought to reassure his disciples that they would not be deserted

If I depart…I will send [the Comforter] to you” – he tells his disciples

And today he tells them that he will “send the Spirit of Truth” to them

However, he correctly foresees that they will be scattered and killed after he has ascended

It will be a rough road ahead 

This journey of the first disciples shows us, above all, that the journey of faith is not easy

Rather than a life a great joy, lives are often punctuated by one highly disruptive event after another

We all know what that feels like

In the case of the disciples, they experienced the resurrection and then ascension

For them there was no “normal” and they were constantly being presented with “new normal” at the same time

But the imminent arrival of the Holy Spirit in their lives means that the new normal is not the disaster they anticipated

This is because the arrival of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than the continuation of Christ’s incarnation within the life of the Church

Christ might have ascended to heaven but the incarnate Christ is still present in all our lives.

As Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel

Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt 28:20)

So, like the first disciples, we too have to struggle with ever changing circumstances

We do not know from one month to the next what will befall us

What was normal in February may not be the normal we return

What was normal in the past may be abnormal in the future

And those who came before us would probably not recognise the Church that may emerge from this crisis

But despite all the changes

But there is one thing we do share with the first disciples

And that is the “new normal” of Christ’s incarnation in our lives through the Holy Spirit

This was the “new normal” for the disciples and remains the “new normal” for us

And for that certainty alone, in these uncertain times, we give you thanks on this first Sunday after Ascension