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Moving forward to a new normal

What follows is a devotion I led this morning, July 13, 2020.

I begin with an excerpt of a devotional email I received late week written by Brian McLaren.

In these challenging, difficult times, we are discovering a wisdom that we needed all along, and that wisdom is that we are all connected. We are not separate. We used to think that we caught diseases as individuals: “I’m sick; you’re not.” But now we realize, no, we catch diseases as individuals who are part of families, and families who are part of cities, and cities that are part of states and nations. We realize now that our whole species can become infected, and that our whole globe can be changed because of our interconnectedness. . . .

Maybe this is also an opportunity for us to become enlightened about some other viruses that have been spreading and causing even greater damage, without being acknowledged… Social and spiritual viruses like racism, white supremacy…, Christian supremacy, any kind of hostility that is spread, based on prejudice and fear…

In this pandemic, many of us are nostalgic for the old normal. We want to get back to our favorite coffee shop, our favorite restaurant, our church service. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with so many of those desires for the old normal. But I’d like to make a proposal. If we are wise in this time, we will not go back unthinkingly to the old normal. There were problems with that old normal many of us weren’t aware of…

As we experience discomfort in this time, let’s begin to dream of a new normal, a new normal that addresses the weaknesses and problems that were going unaddressed in the old normal. If we’re wise, we won’t go back; we’ll go forward.

From Brian McLaren, “We Are All Connected,” Wisdom in Times of Crisis (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), faculty presentation (April 20, 2020), YouTube video, as quoted by Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for July 9, 2020.
Image via Picpedia.org. Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0.

It was March 11 when the World Health Organization declared an official pandemic. That means Saturday was 4 months and today is day 124 of this season. And we’re tired: Tired of being home, of living in a Groundhog Day reality of today feeling just like yesterday.

It’s pretty easy to get discouraged. Coronavirus numbers are going up in Tennessee and elsewhere. There are reports today of another officer with a knee on the neck of someone they were arresting. It’s easy to think that nothing is going to change.

But when I read McLaren’s thoughts, I can’t help but wonder if the same interconnectedness that led to the spread of these physical and social viruses, can also help spread a new reality, a new normal. And maybe it only takes a handful of people to get the ball rolling.

I’ve been drawn recently, the scriptures that call us to persevere, like Philippians 3:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 NRSV

Let us continue to move on together toward something new—forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal. And may it spread around the world.  

Let’s pray…

God we come to you today tired… Tired of the pandemic, tired of racism, tired of the division in our nation, our world, our church. God we pray for renewed strength to press on, to move forward rather than back, to lean into and onto you rather than our own strength. Give us courage to hold onto one another, and together to do the work to which you have called us.
Encourage and bless us O God for the week ahead.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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