Old Help in the New Normal

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Sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution Steve Hummer wrote recently, “Two words that have dominated this year singe my ear hair whenever I hear them: New. Normal.” That’s a fairly graphic way of expressing his feelings, but, hey, he’s a sports writer. And many, if not most of us, would certainly agree.

He goes on to expound that a new normal is almost never a good thing, and that we don’t call wonderful advances in science or everyday living a new normal. Rather, he accurately points out that this phrase “always is applied to the concessions forced upon us by difficult times.”

He recounts many difficulties in the sports world in our new normal and concedes, “Things have turned to hot garbage, so, deal with it.” Just hot garbage. Deal with it. We get no help there, no offense to Steve Hummer.

Fellow AJC sports writer Mark Bradley sounded very similar when he wrote an article with the headline, “Our July Fourth tradition is yet another victim of the pandemic,” referring to the Peachtree Road Race. “Victim” is a rather helpless word, of course.

Bradley concludes, “We’re halfway through a year that may never end. Assuming it does, it won’t be one any of us remember fondly. It will also be a year we’ll never forget. I wish I had something profound to offer, but all I’ve got is this: Hang in there, folks.” No help there, no offense to Mark Bradley.

Hummer says, “Just deal with it,” and Bradley says, “All I’ve got is this: Hang in there.” So, is that our final answer? Is that our final reality in this New Normal?

Of course not. We have so much more. In fact, we have the best and most helpful “final answer” and “final reality.” We have the Promise of God in the Word of God, which is the time-tested Old Help in any New Normal. Amen? Amen!

Another writer, Joseph Franks, doesn’t write sports columns. Rather he writes Christian Biblical devotions. In writing on the beautiful scripture, “Peace that passes all understanding,” he speaks of the “odd peace” which God gives. It’s odd because it comes and holds and heals in the most strange of times.

One of his examples is the Apostle Paul, the great missionary for Christ who travelled the ancient world spreading the Gospel and establishing Christian churches.

Franks puts it this way, “His (Paul’s) body is falling apart. His ministry momentum is coming to an end. Injustice and persecution meet him around every corner. He is presently incarcerated, and execution is on the docket.” All of which is biblically documented.

Yet, in the midst of his current difficulties, Paul encourages the church of Christ at Philippi with the following words, affirming that there is help, the Big Help, the Old Help, in times such as these.

Paul writes to the Philippians (4:4ff), “Rejoice in the Lord always; (note: always); again I say, rejoice. Do not be anxious about anything, (note: anything), but in everything by prayer and supplication (making requests) with thanksgiving (note: with thanksgiving) let your requests be made known to God.”

And here’s the The Big Help, The Old Help. Paul declares, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Is this just a silly wish? No, it’s not. It is the solid declaration of Truth that takes us out of a “victim mentality.” It proclaims we have God’s peace, which comes from His forgiveness and His hope and His salvation in Jesus that is stronger than any force in the universe which may come against us at any time in our lives.

And to put an exclamation mark onto this most powerful declaration of Truth, Paul concludes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Again, Amen? Amen!

In these days full of the tidal waves of the perils of the pandemic, it is easy for us to drift from The Anchor that will keep us solidly in a harbor of peace and calm. So much seems to be trying to force us into believing that we are helpless victims.

Is the pandemic real and powerful and dangerous and deadly, even potentially to us? Sure it is. It weighs down on almost every aspect of our lives from daily routines, to school options, to loss of jobs and livelihoods, to financial burdens, to separation of family and loved ones, to governmental mandates and not mandates, etc. Everything seems to be a reason for potential despair.

And in these days of the tidal waves of the perils of our race relations, civil unrest, deep political divides, differences in historical interpretations, hard-line conflict over human sexuality, etc., it is easy for us to drift from The Anchor that will keep us solidly in a harbor of peace and calm. Everything seems to be a reason for potential despair.

But again, we are not left to “just deal with it” or “just hang in there.” Our help in this “New Normal” is the “Same Old Help” that has stood through every circumstance of human existence. And that is “the old, old story of Jesus and His love,” as our beloved hymn reminds us. You can believe it. You can trust it. You can hold onto it for dear life.

Let’s pray: Thank you, Jesus, that you have given us the victory over our worst enemy, death. With that Truth as our ultimate reality, help us in these “new normal” days to trust you to help us through them with peace and power. In your name, O Jesus, we pray. Amen”

The peace of The Lord be with you all. And so it shall. Amen

[Kollmeyer is Pastor Emeritus at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Follow Pastor Scott Ness and the on-going ministry of this church at www.princeofpeacefayette.org. Kollmeyer is also now serving as part-time Interim Pastor at Word of God Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg, www.woglutheran.org.]