I’m writing this Sunday afternoon, so perhaps this is an attempt at prophesy, but I am assuming that, this morning, life in Johannesburg is going to resemble something of what used to be normal, and yet, it will be a new normal.
As perhaps scholars go back to school (sorry, I wasn’t able to prophesy what Angie Motshekga said last night); as liquor stores become deluged with, for the moment anyway, sober customers; as lawnmowers are heard in our neighbourhoods; and as millions return to work, life is going to become a lot more busy with an appearance of the old normal. Traffic will once again crowd our highways, school bells will ring repeatedly, long queues at the licensing department will snake to the parking lot, runners will be seen beyond the 9:00 AM curfew, and the drive-through at McDonalds will circle the building. Ah, the good old days! Well, kind of. Though much today will return to pre-lockdown routine, we all know that things are not the same, and they won’t be for a long time.
Millions of faces in the workplace will be covered in the ubiquitous masks. Schools and places of business will smell like Dettol depots. The inside of taxis will look like the rapture has taken place. Professional sportsmen will train to compete in empty stadiums while schoolboys daydream of playing rugby as they walk by their closed sports fields. And something else will strike us as a new normal: a greater degree of fear and anxiety.
Though, among some, a fresh optimism may prevail, looking forward to new opportunities, I suspect that many whom you encounter will be saddled with the weight of concerns. Some will fear contracting the dreaded virus and therefore social engagement (though 1.5 metres apart) could be even further minimised. Many people we encounter today will be anxious over the future of their employment. Others that we engage with may have buried a loved one during lockdown, including those who died of the coronavirus. Doubtless an emotional heaviness will permeate our city and our nation. I suppose that such sadness and anxieties will be a part of the “new normal” in our land. How will—how should—we respond?
As Christians, we should view a return to this new normal as an opportunity to engage others with the hope of the gospel. Like the first new covenant church, our disposition should be one of “awe” over the goodness and power of God, coupled with a demeanour in which we are daily “praising God” (Acts 2:43, 47). I don’t mean something that is plastically put on, but rather a disposition and demeanour arising from the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.
On that famed Pentecost Sunday so long ago, a radical, because regenerate, change took place in the life of those who repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of the difficulties facing them in the “last days” (Acts 2:17–20), those Christians persevered in joyful perseverance turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6), which means that they were turning it right side up!
They lived with the kind of hope of which Peter wrote, the kind that caused people to scratch their heads asking the “reason” for this (1 Peter 3:15).
Brothers and sisters, today, in many ways, we are entering a whole new world. Not a Disney kind, but rather one which, for many, is dismaying and even dark. And in this darkness, we have the opportunity to shine the love of Christ, illuminating the gospel path of a new normal, one where joy pervades and hope abounds. May God the Holy Spirit empower us to proclaim and to practically demonstrate the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” into the new normal.
Energised with you,