PostScript: A new normal
A reflection for Easter Day 2020
We are living in times that are unprecedented and events that none of us have had any experience of before. Many of us feel ill equipped to be teachers in the home; to be carers for relatives that we can no longer visit; to be encouragers for our friends, families and neighbours when challenges confront us. In this ‘new normal’ we can no longer rely on supplies being delivered at a time we choose, or on the delivery containing exactly the items we had ordered.
Our relationships are now conducted by phone, email, Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or similar – or not at all. Our work is unreliable; school is online; meetings happen in virtual space and programme reports on television are filed from people’s living rooms. We work in our front rooms – and sometimes in our pyjamas - we struggle with social distancing and worry about whether our children should be doing lessons because being together seems ‘not enough’.
We miss physical contact just when we might be in most need of a hug, and we are apart from the things that give us our sense of rootedness and belonging and an experience of faith that is relational and tactile.
Where is Jesus for us in all of this?
The Easter Exsultet is sung in some churches at the Easter Vigil after the lighting of the Easter (Paschal) candle brings light into the dark building. It is full of imagery of light and transformation. Written in language of ‘now’ but also of ‘not yet’ it contains these words:
Jesus Christ, our king, is risen.
Darkness vanishes for ever.
In Matthew’s account, we see the dramatic moment when there is an earthquake and the stone is rolled away from the tomb. Jesus has risen, just as he said he would. But this is a reality that feels life changing and transformatory.
And yet...darkness remains. There is still work to do. There is a world that needs resurrection hope. Matthew, of all the Gospel writers, is keen to remind us that the resurrection offers hope for the whole world, even though it begins in personal encounter.
The resurrection happens in the now, in a garden where an angel announces the news to curious women, where the risen Christ appears on the road and the disciples hear the news with astonished amazement. The darkness of the past days is suddenly transformed into light by the news that Jesus has risen. It changes ‘now’ but it is also an event that can change the future.
We too are witnesses to the ‘new normal’ of the resurrection. Are we ready?
Bearing witness to the new normal is work that belongs to us all and it is rooted in our everyday lives – just as Jeremiah described the hope of restoration for God’s people in an image from the everyday: ‘Again you shall plant vineyards...and enjoy the fruit.’ (Jeremiah 31.31)
Where can we see signs of hope in the new normal of our world?
Everything was silent and still.
Nothing moved in the just before dawn darkness.
Life seemed suspended, as if by a slim thread,
delicate as a cobweb in the hushed air.
Where there had been footsteps -
slow or frantic, wandering or hurrying-
now there was only gently rustling leaves in the whispering trees
and the lonely cry of a slow-waking bird,
piercing the gloom with its silver song.
Did anyone hear?
There was silence in the street.
Silence in the lanes and alleyways behind the houses.
Playgrounds and parks lay deserted –
games and conversations interrupted.
The swings rest still and empty
and the slides shine eerily in the half light.
No movement here.
As day was dawning
There was no silence outside the hospital.
Instead, the loud wailing of a siren
The rumble of trolley wheels
and the frantic clang of metal on metal
as the doors of the ambulance swing open.
Here as in every hospital and ICU in the country
staff stand on the edge of a new day,
knowing more than most
the precarious balance of body and soul
that keeps us in this world:
Holding on to life.
While it was still dark
shelf stackers and refuse collectors,
shop assistants, care home staff and transport workers,
the underpaid, unappreciated and often unassuming
make their weary way home.
Transport hubs are stilled as trains rattle down the tracks out of town,
carrying their socially distanced passengers to rest in suburbia:
As day breaks
yesterday’s news is silenced
by the new horror of the headlines
and the casual graphs of death:
A single leaf unfurls from the clenched fist of its bud.
Two women hurry along a road
and an angel as white as snow –
for the moment
unobserved and unannounced –
is poised to roll the stone away from the tomb.
King of love,
we come to lay at your feet
the costly offering
of all that we have and all that we are.
We are empty handed.
Meet us here.
Give us courage for the week ahead
and joy in the everyday hope around us.
May we lean on your faithfulness,
and rest on a love stronger than death
that will never let us go.
Diane Craven is a freelance Education and Spirituality Consultant and a Reader in the Church of England.
While worship services and groups of all kinds are suspended, PostScript offers reflection and prayers that you can share with your community for use at home.
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