“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev.1:4-6, ESV)
Life has changed. What used to be normal is normal no longer. My typical Tuesday morning routine previously consisted of visiting Starbucks on St. Anne’s Road and do my work from there. But that ‘slice of enjoyment’ has ceased for now. We can all point to typical activities that have ceased, or certainly subsided. Life is different, but we trust life will return to normal, whatever that normal may look like…it may look different.
Times of significant upheaval like we have experienced recently I would suspect are difficult for most of us. Routines change, schedules change, appointments change, and so on. Things are not as they once were, and this at times creates inner turmoil. I will assume that we all prefer stability over instability, order over disorder, and structure over chaos. But as we have all experienced, life at times is unstable, disorderly, and chaotic. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on the book of Psalms, employs the terms orientation, disorientation, and new orientation that reflect the stability/instability, order/disorder, structure/chaos that we as humans experience in the journey of life.
The term orientation Brueggemann defines as “life consists in satisfied seasons of well-being that evoke gratitude for the constancy of blessing.” This describes life as stable, when things are as they should be. Routines are normal, schedules are normal, where there is “constancy of blessing.” We enjoy these seasons of well-being as they are characterized as stable which evokes gratitude within us. The term disorientation he defines as “anguished seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death.” This describes life as unstable or abnormal, when things are not as they should be. The current state of our world would best be described as being in a state of disorientation; there is hurt, alienation, suffering, and death. This current state encompasses much of what life is about overall, whether dealing with significant upheaval or not. The final term, new orientation he defines as “life consists in turns of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy breaks through the despair. Where there has been only darkness, there is light…a fresh intrusion.” This describes life as not only back to “normal”, but includes a fresh burst and intrusion of the goodness of God.
Brueggemann suggests that “human life is not simply an articulation of a place in which we find ourselves. It is also a movement from one circumstance to another, changing and being changed, finding ourselves surprised by a new circumstance we did not expect, resistant to a new place, clinging desperately to the old circumstance.” Suffice to say the most recent events in our world have probably left many of us “resistant…clinging desperately to the old circumstance”; deeply longing for things to return to normal, to experience “seasons of well-being…constancy of blessing.” And ultimately, we long for a state of new orientation where “we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God…a fresh intrusion that makes all things new.”
I long to return to the typical Tuesday morning routine of coffee at Starbucks…I long to return to the typical Sunday morning routine of gathering as a community…but for now, that will have to wait. We are heading into the Easter weekend. Things for us as a church are anything but typical, things are not normal – we should be preparing to gather physically in-person for a communion service led by pastor George on Good Friday, and a message by Bishop Dave Reimer on Easter Sunday. In a sense we could say we are somewhat in a state of disorientation – we are experiencing pangs of “alienation and a season of hurt” from not being able to gather as a community of faith. It pains us to not be able to come together to worship and fellowship with one another. Life is a bit disoriented on many fronts, including church life. We resist this restriction but we must accept it. We can still worship, albeit quite differently.
This weekend, let us rejoice in the blessed hope of Easter! Let us give thanks for the constancy of blessing when we are in seasons of orientation, and for the comforting presence of Christ in seasons of disorientation. Let us rejoice that Christ offers seasons of new orientation, where we are once again awestruck at the wonders of God, where we experience joy breaking through the despair! May we be reminded through what has transpired the last number of weeks, though life does change and sometimes drastically, though routines and schedules change, we serve a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb.13:8) – who is and who was and is to come! Let us bow down and worship the One who loves us, has freed us from our sins by his blood…to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Blessings to you and your families as you celebrate the resurrected Christ!