As the coronavirus outbreak continues we continue to feature regular video messages from the senior clergy of the Diocese on our Diocesan YouTube channel.
There will be one a week every Wednesday.
Should there be a need for additional messages outside this schedule, in response to particular developments with coronavirus for example, these will also appear on our YouTube channel and on the Diocesan website
All messages thus far from the senior clergy can still be viewed on the channel here.
Today's message is from Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley and the full text can be read below the embedded video. You can also download it for printing here.
We know of many parishes providing information in printed form and sending via Royal Mail to parishioners who are not able to get online. If your parish is doing that, why not add these weekly messages to your future mailings?
It’s the expression I keep on hearing. I’ve even used it myself. It’s the sentence that begins, ‘When we get back to normal…’
When we get back to normal we’ll book that holiday, visit that restaurant, take the kids to Legoland. It’s as if one day the government will simply declare this crisis to be over and we’ll pick up our lives from exactly how things were in February.
That must surely have been how the disciples were thinking at the start of the 21st Chapter of St John’s Gospel. With all that business of following Jesus over now that he had died and, some said, come back to life, they could get back to normal. So, they went back to their old homes in Galilee, back to their old jobs as fishermen and tried to pick up their old lives.
But it didn’t work. They’d lost the knack. All night out at sea and not a single fish to show from it. Until they looked to the shore and saw a strange figure. They later found out it was Risen Jesus. He told them to cast their nets to the other side, they obeyed and caught 153 fish, a sign of their new work as messengers of the Gospel. The lesson is clear. There can be no going back to normal. There is now a new normal, a new life, with Jesus at the centre. Because of his rising everything is made new.
For a Christian, life is never static. It’s a journey that Jesus calls us to share with him, one where the future is a thing of joy rather than something to fear. So, in the midst of this crisis, we shouldn’t want to get back to normal. We should be looking to embrace the new normal that Jesus has in store for us.
But what will that new normal be like? There can be no doubt that the world will be fundamentally changed by this pandemic, but how? One possibility is a terrible, dystopic nightmare with vastly increased social inequality, with global co-operation undermined as each country looks to its own interests, with climate change forgotten. It could be that this whole crisis is simply delegated to the poor whilst the wealthy and powerful swiftly revert to life as normal. That could be the new normal.
But it doesn’t need to be like that. There are signs that this crisis is building a greater sense of national unity and calling out from people new gifts of service. We could instead be looking to a new age of compassion, of co-operation, of localism as we seek ways to serve those who are vulnerable and value all the more our families, friends and neighbours.
The new normal is in our hands. And as Christians we have a strong vision of what we want that new normal to be. In recent weeks we have found new ways to feed the hungry, to share the Gospel, to keep up connections with the lonely, to pray for the sick and the dying. And as we have done all this, we have borne witness to the sort of world that Jesus wants, the sort of world that we as Easter people are committed to building.
Things will never be the same after this crisis. But they could be far, far better. So let’s hear afresh our call to build a world like God’s world. Let’s hear afresh the Gospel vision of justice. And let’s play our part in creating a new normal in which all people honour the dignity and beauty of human life, made in the image and likeness of God.
+Philip Burnley (27 04 20)
Ronnie Semley, April 2020