STYLE OR PURPOSE? ACTS 4:32-35 PSALM 118: 2-4.15-17.22-24 1 JOHN 5:1-7 1 JOHN 20:19-31 Easter normally is the busiest time of the liturgical calendar, a time when our churches typically have more people in and out than during any other time yet this year just like last year, the churches are empty and we are wondering when things will get back to normal so that we can gather again for worship as a community of faith. Do we really think that after we are beyond this stretch things will go back to normal in the same old ways? We just do not know, which means that what we have been thinking about as interior emergency practices may continue being the new normal and that has been the case for the past year.
When things will resume more along the lines of what we are accustomed to, we may have to pause to consider whether we want to embrace fully what we once called "normal. " Will we, do we, and can we want to go back to this normal? Once again today we read the story of Thomas whom we tend to think of in terms of his doubting but what if that doubt were part of a larger insistence on dealing with reality, in getting things back to normal, on moving forward now that the worst has already happened? Thomas is not in the upper room with the other disciples who have shut the doors for the fear of the Jews. It seems Thomas has already accepted what has happened, has moved on, and is now out and about rebuilding his life from the fractured pieces that were left to him after the horrific events of Good Friday. Let us remember that Thomas prefers things that are clear and concrete; he is the one who challenges Jesus' lofty words about going on ahead of them by saying bluntly, " Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" John 14:5.
Thomas has courage that is seen when he urges the other disciples to go to Jerusalem with Jesus even if it means death -John 11:16. With these characteristics, it seems Thomas has moved on to normalcy and he cannot just believe his colleagues when they tell him that Jesus whom he saw crucified has resurrected.
When Thomas finally believes by saying, " My Lord and my God, " he is abandoning all conceptions of " normal" and opening himself to a very different reality than he could have previously imagined because creation is not static but is still happening.
How do you even think about " normal " when someone has been raised from the dead? What can possibly be the same? Is it your work, your sense of meaning, your relationships, your purpose, your view of the past, present, and future? Here we see that Jesus is challenging and inviting us to recognize that in the light of the resurrection the future is always open.
Many people are wondering how soon will we get back to normal, but what if we wonder about what we will be free to do and to try in this new normal?
What will we carry forward with regard to worshipping? What part will seem non-essential in our new normal? What will we try and get right? What will matter? Is it style or is it its purpose?