The last Sunday I served at the altar was Sunday the 6th. It was much like many others and serving is something I always look forward to and inevitably puts me in a better frame of mind for the start of the week. At the nine o’clock service, Father Michael was about halfway through his sermon and it suddenly dawned on me where I was and what was going on.
You see I had kind of gotten lost in the moment and had been admiring a lady. Not just any lady but our lady, Mother Mary in our Nativity window. She was back. It was her first Sunday back since the restoration. Seems odd that I would become so absorbed in the moment appreciating her and her being back. It was like a piece of home had returned. It was comforting. Perhaps part of who Emmanuel is had returned; Not completely, and not exactly the same. Not in a finished sense but part of who we are was back.
You would have to understand all the moments I have shared with her. All the processions that have started at her feet. The quiet still moments alone with her in the sanctuary. Watching my children grow up under that window. Enjoying the early mornings where the dawn crept from one side of the window until the whole glass was finally lit and glowing to the spectacular sunsets where the light from outside drifts away and the inside lights take over. Through the joyful voices lifted in praise, the candle lit ceremonies, the baptisms and the funerals she has always been there for us.
And then she wasn’t. And it wasn’t the same. Something we always counted on wasn’t there. Our normal was gone. Or maybe, just maybe our normal was new. I believe this is part of our lives right now. Our normal is new.
It is right to feel uneasy about our changes and restrictions to what we are used to. It is Human to be sad at loss. It is understandable to long for the old, but we can also find joy in the new. We can and are finding new strengths. We can see new beauty in our 'todays' that we had not noticed before. If we decide to, we have the chance to notice things that have been among us the whole time yet had been drowned out by the volume of our old normal. I think God has a knack for hiding joy in front of us to find, but it’s on us to look for it.
When our special lady came back, she was still her, but she was better, she was strengthened and rebuilt. As we come back through all of this, we too have an opportunity to be better. If we decide, we too can be strengthened and rebuilt. In our newness we can love better, help better find joy better. In our new normal let us be better for each other and ourselves.
The Rev. Nathan Johnson, Deacon Emmanuel Shawnee