Back to Normal – May 12, 2019
Psalm 67, John 21:1-14
May 12, 2019
I know I’m using a “Hot Button” word today. And it’s the word “normal.” There are a lot of questions these days about what is “normal,” or what should be “normal.” And I don’t want to go into all of that. That’s a long discussion. But it is an interesting discussion. For now, I’ll just recognize here that “Normal” is something many people are wanting to “redefine.” What used to be considered “not normal” is now being seen by many as “normal.”
So with all the “baggage” that word comes with, I was wondering if I should use something else. Maybe I could have said, “Back to the Usual.” Because that’s what’s happening here in this story. These disciples were “going back” to being fishermen, like they were before. Or maybe I could have said, “Back to what we’re used to.” or “Same old same old.” (But I’m not really very fond of that expression…)
However, after much consideration, I decided to go with “Back to Normal.” Because, in a sense, Jesus was redefining that word for them, too. What was “normal” for them, what was “usual” for their life, what they were “used to,” was now going to be different. From now on, they were to be the ones to continue his ministry on earth. They were now to be the ones who would go out and tell others the Good News of the kingdom of God. That was to be their normal. That’s what Jesus was telling them that day by the lake!
I think you’ll agree, that was a big change for them. And as you know, we Presbyterians are often thought of as people who don’t like change. You know the old joke, “How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?” One answer is, “Nine. One to change the bulb, and eight to form a committee to talk about how great the old bulb was!” But the other answer to the question “How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb is, “Change? Who said anything about change?!”
The real problem is that we don’t like our “normal” to be changed. We are lovers of the “status quo.” Our “usual” is very important to us! But a fundamental principal of Christianity is that we are changed. Amazingly, we are changed into the likeness of Christ, “from one degree of glory to the next.” That’s what Paul told the Corinthians. (II Cor. 3:18) Later in that same letter he said, “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation! The past is finished and done! Behold, the new has come!” (II Cor. 5:17) What was “normal” for us before is not any more. There is a “new normal” for us!
Did you ever think about it that way? What was your “normal” before you decided to follow Jesus? Maybe it wasn’t different. Maybe you were simply “raised in the Church,” like I was. Later, as I was growing up, I met a lot of people had gone through radical changes when they became Christians. They had been going down all kinds of “bad roads.” Maybe you have a story like that – a story of radical change. But maybe you were like me. My “new normal” was much like my “old normal.” I just came to a greater understanding of my faith and my commitment to our Lord.
What about you? And what about the “normal” of your ongoing life – your life from that point on? And that’s where some people miss out. They think they have made a commitment to Christ, and that’s it. We often use the word “Justification” for that. We are “Justified,” and that’s the one time thing. Our sins are forgiven, and our lives our made whole through the redemption of Jesus Christ. But there’s another word that goes along with that. That word is “Sanctification.” That means “Being made holy.” That’s the ongoing process of faith where we grow closer to God and are more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Where are you in that process?
Think about Easter. I was talking with an old friend the other day, and at one point he asked me, “Ok, you’re a minister. So now that Easter is over, things are back to normal for you, aren’t they?” Now I know what he meant by that. What he meant was that things are not as intense, and that many of the programs and services leading up to Easter are now over. But still, it’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Is Easter really “over?”
That’s the position the disciples were in. All the intensity of their lives was over, all the traveling around as Jesus’ disciples was now over. All of the crowds, all of the conflict with the religious leaders, all of that was over. Now they could go back to the fishing, to their old life, to their usual life. Now they could go back to their “normal” life.
I wonder, did they still think of themselves as disciples? Think about that! Their Master, their Rabbi, the one of whom they were disciples, was gone. And yes, he was risen! Yes, he was back! But it wasn’t the same as it was when he was conducting his ministry before. Until that day by the lake, they didn’t think they’d be sitting around him, learning from him, any more. So, did they think they were still disciples? Of course we would always refer to them as the “Disciples.” And before long, they would be “Apostles,” meaning “ones who are sent.”
That day, by the lake, Jesus told them they were still his disciples! And the told them that there would be no going “back to normal.” Their “normal” was being “redefined.” They would now be the ones to continue his ministry. They would be the ones who would “feed his lambs,” and “tend his sheep.” Going back to fishing was not an option.
So I ask you. Easter is over, or so they say. But is it? Yes, all the preparation, all the extra services, all the delivering baskets to the needy, all the Holy Week activities, all the Community Lenten Services, all the Easter dinners – they’re all over for another year. But is Easter over? Yes, you are redeemed. Yes, you are Justified through the atonement of Jesus Christ! But is that all done? Is Easter over?
Well, I say it isn’t! I’d rather say the celebration of Easter is past. The activities of Easter are over. But Easter is never over for us! Easter is present. Easter is always. Remember, the Church used to celebrate Easter every week. That’s why Christians changed their worship day from the last day of the week to the first!
Living the Resurrection, and all that that means, is now the “New Normal” for our lives! Easter is now the “New Normal!” We are “Justified.” But we are also being “Sanctified!” We are now being made Holy. We are now striving to be like Jesus! May God give us the strength and the inspiration to do so!
Eternal God, we are so grateful for your redeeming work in Jesus Christ, our Living Lord. Help us to be more like him every day. Help us to know the joy of his Resurrection and our redemption every day of the year. We thank you and we praise you, in his holy name, Amen.