What is ‘normal’?

Acts 5:12-32

17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 20 ‘Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.’ 21 When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, 23 ‘We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. 25 Then someone arrived and announced, ‘Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!’ 26 Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

The religious leaders of the time persecuted the apostles because they wanted things to go back to the way they were before the apostles turned up; they wanted everything to go back to normal. During lockdown we keep hearing the word ‘normal’. People say ‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’ and there is also talk of a ‘new normal’. If you look up the word ‘Normal’, it comes from the Latin ‘Norma – Carpenter’s Square’ and the Greek ‘Gnomon – Carpenter’s Square’. Hence the picture above.

A carpenter’s square is used for checking whether things are straight, right, fit for purpose. Maybe we need to look at our churches and the Church as a whole and ask our selves are we right, straight, fit for purpose? Interestingly, Jesus was a carpenter (or possibly a stone mason) so would have been familiar with a carpenter’s square or rule. The rule Jesus says we will be measured by can be found in Matthew 25:35 onwards. We’re to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the lost and lonely. Effectively, we are called to be part of building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Bishop Robin, a former bishop of Adelaide, once said, “The danger of the Church is always the danger which our Lord met in the Temptation – to try and attain her end by self-preservation, to preserve her life at all costs, to regard herself as a beleaguered fortress, to defend herself against the world, to keep the institution going at all costs, to persuade people not that she will support them, but that they must support her”.

So when people ask ‘Are you looking forward to getting back to normal?’, the answer is ‘yes, so long as it is according to the Carpenter’s rule!’

(I cannot take the credit for today’s blog. It is based on the thoughts of another Methodist Deacon who gave me permission to use them.)

Published by Angie Allport

Methodist minister

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