Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
“We will not go back to normal.”
I wonder when the apostles finally figured that out? Was it when Mary Magdalene showed up that first morning and declared, “I have see the Lord?” Surely not. Surely there was a lot of wondering and questioning…who took his body away?…where did they put it?… Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus last week…are still wondering…what is going on? “Some women astounded us…but we don’t know what any of it means.” Their hopes are dashed, and yet, do they still expect that the pre-Easter reality will somehow return…Christ has risen, sure…but…so what? Good news for us, but what about everyone else? Maybe (someday) the Romans will be defeated…and maybe (someday) the reign of God will come…but…right now…things are going to return to normal, right?
No. We will not go back to normal.
For forty days the apostles sit in their rooms—(or maybe went fishing)—talking with one another… Jesus appears and disappears…Then—the gospel of Luke tells us—one day they gathered outside on the mount called Olivet, and Jesus says, “don’t leave Jerusalem…stay here…wait…the Holy Spirit will come”…and he is lifted up out of their sight (Acts 1:9). Did they get it then? …that things are not going back to normal…
I’m not sure…see once they return, they get busy replacing Judas, and probably doing routine daily tasks…they’re getting ready for “something”….but normal…eludes them…because, ten days after Jesus ascends, the Holy Spirit blows in and breathes its fiery wind into them…and nothing is the same. Peter—impetuous, volatile, flawed Peter—becomes the rock upon which this new church is built…This rag tag group of individuals band together…Share what they have…Give to any in need…Praise God…and then… Then, they are scattered to the winds…sown like seeds in the four corners of the globe… They will never go back to normal.
I’ve seen a quote floating around the internet the past few weeks, “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was.” I first saw it attributed to Brené Brown. And you know I’m a big fan of hers, and even more so now, because last week she posted the whole quote with this tweet. “I’ve seen this attributed to me, but it’s not my quote. After digging in, we found the original and it belongs to Sonya Renee Taylor. [source] She then reposted the whole quote with the proper attribution, and asked everyone to do the same. Sonya Renee Taylor is a black, queer, body-positive activist and the whole quote that she wrote reads:
“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was never normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, My friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” [souce]
Sonya Renee Taylor’s pre-corona normal sounds an awful lot like the pre-Easter normal of the gospels…defined by greed…inequity…exploitation…disconnection…hate…lack…All of the things that Jesus spoke against, taught against, and came to heal us from…Jesus was crucified by what was normal. And then Easter happens…and after Easter we cannot go back to normal.
Nor should we long to…at least not the normal that means white collar work is viewed as important, and blue-collar or “unskilled” work is viewed as somehow not-essential…The normal that means some skin colors…some body shapes…some gender expressions are more valuable than others…We should not long to return to a world of redlining, and generational poverty, and food deserts…We should not long to return to a world of inadequate health care, and predatory loans, and a frayed social safety net. We should not long to return to a world of unbridled consumption, and peak oil, melting glaciers, rising oceans, and polluted air and water…We should not long to return to a world of hate, mass shootings, and violence. We should not long to return to a world where the claim is always that these problems are too big, too complex, and too intractable to do anything about.
We cannot go back to that normal. It’s after Easter…and Pentecost is coming…Christ has risen and the Holy Spirit is on the way. We will not go back to that normal…now is the time to be busy stitching that new garment… Woven from the fabric of truth…spun from the threads of empathy, and grace…adorned with precious jewels of the least, the lost, and the left-out;…a garment that is durable enough to help us do justice, pliable enough to help us love mercy, and comfortable enough to allow us to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)….one that fits all of us…one that fits all of creation.
Another writer, reflecting on this quote from Sonya Renee Taylor, asked: Can we as a country and as individuals “come back” from a crisis of pandemic proportions?” And then concluded, “Perhaps that’s the wrong question to ask. Maybe a better question is, ‘How can we become a higher version of ourselves—one that is holistically healthy in and of itself and allows others to be likewise?’” [source].
Jesus calls each of us, by name, to follow him…to be…the highest…most whole and holy versions of ourselves…and to allow others to do likewise.
We will not go back to normal…because we are being called forward, by Jesus, into God’s future…into God’s realm peace and justice…into God’s shalom. Listen for the shepherd’s voice. Follow where he leads. Do the work that he is asking us to do…let the Holy Spirit transform us, and we will not go back to normal…We will walk through this valley and into that place where the needs of all are met, food is shared with glad and generous hearts, God is praised, and health, wholeness, and goodwill abounds.