Well, we made it. 2020 is nearly in our rearview mirror. Ahead of us lies 2021. But what awaits us in the new year? One too many times we have been reminded that 2021 will not be a return to the past, but the establishment of a “new normal.” But what does that even mean?
Well, much has been written and editorialized about the brave new world that is forming: more people working remotely, more virtual options for schooling, more conservative estimates on economic growth. Even researchers who are studying the future of the church see long term changes in the way many will worship (or not worship) in the years ahead.
As we ponder these changes, we all could make our own “plus/minus” list about the things we like about these changes, and the things that are driving us crazy. But in the end, most people I talk to have some sense of uneasiness about the change around us. Again, some of the things changing may be improvements while others are abject disasters … but just the fact that all of this is “new” unsettles us and forces us to establish a new equilibrium.
“New” is hard because it changes the “old” … and sometimes we like the “old”! This is especially true in situations where the “new” cannot be added alongside the old, but must replace it.
I was thinking about this dynamic today as we prepare for Sunday and the start of a new year together as a church family. This Sunday we will be starting a new sermon series called “The New Normal.” Now, some of you are rolling your eyes right now. I know, I know … but hang with me. This is not a series about how to use Zoom for business meetings or Canvas/See Saw for online education. This is a series about a massive change that happened 2,000 years ago when Jesus ushered in a New Covenant between God and man.
Make no mistake about it … what Jesus established was an upgrade in every way. The old required constant animal sacrifices and hundreds of laws. The new would bring an end to sacrifice (while delivering forgiveness of sins) and would offer just one new commandment: love one another as Jesus has loved us. The old would require pilgrimage to a distant Temple, while the new placed the Holy Spirit of God IN ALL OUR HEARTS! The old had a priestly system led by corrupt people with personal agendas, while the new has a Single High Priest who would die for our benefit, and lives today to make intersession for us. The new Jesus normalized was a massive upgrade.
But from the moment Jesus normalized this “new” many representatives of the “old” were unsettled. Their equilibrium was thrown off and they wanted to have the new Jesus established simply added alongside their old covenant with God – instead of having it replace their old. They wanted all new Christians to go to their church, but still not eat bacon. They wanted all new converts to give to their cause, but circumcise their male infants. They wanted to mix the old they liked with the new Jesus ushered in.
Was this a big deal? Yes. This was a big deal. How big a deal?
- This very issue prompted the writing of Paul’s first letter to a church (the letter to the Galatians) where he begins the second paragraph by calling down a curse on those who wanted to mix the old and the new!!! That is serious.
- This very issue (dressed in different clothes) would be the spark of the Protestant Reformation, in an era where many Christians were martyred by other Christians for their insistence on clinging to the “new” Jesus normalized.
So what is the “new” Jesus normalized, and how do we embrace it together as a church family? Well, this is what we will be exploring throughout 2021 as we look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians together. Our first 7 messages from Galatians begin this Sunday in a series called “The New Normal” based on Galatians 1-2. In part 1 this week, we will get oriented to this letter as we look at Galatians 1:1-5. We hope you make plans to worship with us this weekend at Wildwood Community Church in our 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30 services (in person and with full children, student, and adult classes meeting), or online at 10:15 (wildwoodchurch.org/live)
Let’s learn to live following Jesus FORWARD into the new He has established, resisting the temptation to float back to the “old” we may be comfortable with. See you Sunday!