What is normal? What is or was the "old" normal? And if there is or was an "old" normal, what is the "new" normal? And, how valid is the cry, "Can we just get back to normal?" Which implies there is no "old" normal or "new" normal, just normal.
Like in the following meme I saw earlier this week: "The old normal? Change happens. The new normal? Change happens." Therefore, the only normal is just normal and that is: Change happens. I can buy that. (Although, I'm not willing to spend too much money on it.) I often declare, "God is a God of been-there-done-that." God is a God of change. The universe started with the IAM exploding and beginning the billions and billions (my best Carl Sagan imitation) years process of changing and growing into ever more complex ways of being and expression. God is a God that changes. From the covenant with Noah where God promises to never again lay waste to creation, to the covenant with Abraham, descendants as numerous as the stars, the covenant with Moses, the law, then a covenant with David, your descendant will sit on the throne of righteousness, and finally, with a new covenant that Christians find to be authoritative.
And ever since Peter's first sermon in Jerusalem, we preachers have been trying to find meaningful ways to share that new covenant - made around a table - share it with others and if accepted to encourage those people to fully live in to that covenant. AND, believe it or not, not much as changed. Peter addressed the crowds. I am addressing the crowds. Sure, the technology has changed a little bit. The message remains the same. So, then, maybe God doesn't change? Maybe in the midst of change, even chaotic change, there IS something "normal" and change-less.
What IS that normal, change-less something? Perhaps it is asking the question that Peter's first audience asked of him. It is an interesting phrase that opens up today's scripture reading. "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart." Cut to the heart. The listeners have just been implicated in the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter finishes his sermon with the words, "God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ/Messiah and you crucified him." Cut to the heart; a sense of being in great distress, wounded deeply, the core of one's own very being, pierced. Cut to the heart.
And the first thing the listeners do is ask the question, "What should we do?" Cut to the heart. Soul-pierced. Their very way of being turned upside down. Their eyes opened. A new knowledge of Good and Evil. A recognition of their complicity in crucifying the innocent one of God.
It is a cry that rejects their old normal that crucifies. The old normal of saying that's just the way things are. The old normal of saying, I can't do anything about it. The old normal of shrugging one's shoulders, meh. The old normal of averting one's gaze and looking the other way. The old normal of crying out, Crucify him, because if he brings down the empire, well, my way of life and my very safety is threatened. Better for him to die then for all of us to die. The old normal that...turns my closing words from last week inside out...the old normal that does NOT speak the language of love for the other. The old normal that causes Peter to exhort his listeners, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."
And I hope that you, MY listeners, are reading yourselves into this ancient story that is taking place now and unfolding today in our midst. If you are not cut to the heart by life around us today and how you have participated in what Paul calls the "powers and principalities of this world" that have created this mess...well...using the words of the story that Jesus tells about that most human Samaritan, I will cross over to other side of the road if you need help. Or, using a metaphor from life today, if you choose to protest the way things are by not wearing a mask in public and you happen to get infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, nurses and doctors will still take care of you.
And THAT is as close to fire and brimstone as I will ever get...feel free to hold me accountable.
I far prefer sharing the Good News. After asking the question, What should we do? After repenting of your sins in the participation with the powers and principalities of this world. After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift from God, come and see what the world looks like! "Day by day, as they spent much time together, they broke bread from house to house and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people." Does that not sound like heaven on earth? Does that not sound like a way of being worth pursuing and living into? A dream as old as human beings have been dreaming. A new normal.