Funeral for Normal: A Letter to West Franklin
West Franklin Family,
No one enjoys a funeral. No one gets excited about attending a funeral. No one is eager to get to the funeral home and delights in being around sad people. Due to the nature of my vocation, I have been to my fair share of funerals. Never once have I looked forward to one. I have been blessed by many of them. But never been eager to get there.
Yet they are necessary. Critical. In a very bizarre way, helpful. Even this guy said so.
Funerals are never convenient. No one thinks on Monday morning, “Oh, I will need to schedule in a half day on Thursday to hopefully attend a funeral.” Nope. We are at the mercy of the timing of the deceased, the family, and the funeral home.
Yet we attend. We adjust. We make new plans. We figure out a way.
Funerals aren’t fun and are never-ever convenient. But they are non-negotiable.
A funeral allows us the opportunity to honor the person, get some closure, and recognize things are different.
Now. West Franklin – I am gonna need you to sit down. . .
I hate to say this. I don’t like it. I wish it weren’t true. But I feel like I need to: We need to have a funeral.
Normal is dead and needs to be buried.
That’s right. Normal has died. It’s time to put normal in the ground and recognize things are different now.
Of course, I am talking about church and how we do church, but consider. . .
- My children had their first day of school yesterday from their bedroom, looking at a chrome book, interacting with teachers and other students. (You might want to read that sentence again.)
- My family’s regular practice now is to pull up and have groceries placed in the back of our car after putting everything in a virtual cart. . . from our phone. . . while watching television. . . at home.
- I now watch live baseball and basketball and golf – with no fans in the stands.
- When I go somewhere – anywhere – in public, half of my face is covered.
- I haven’t walked into a branch of a bank in . . . I honestly cannot remember when. I do my banking from my phone.
Now consider this:
- Not one soul was in our church building on Easter this year.
- Most of our members have not been on our campus since the first week in MARCH. (You might want to read that sentence again.)
- The Lord’s Supper has been observed in our living rooms.
- You have met with your groups while still in your pajamas.
- Vacation Bible School was all on-line.
- Weddings are attended via Facebook.
Normal has died. What I am used to doesn’t exist anymore. The coroner has pronounced that any signs of life in normality have ceased.
I don’t like it. I wish it weren’t so. It makes me mad. It makes me sad. It is frustrating. It has ruined many of my plans.
But that doesn’t mean it is not reality. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Normal is dead.
Are you still sitting down? If not, go back and take a seat. . . I’ll wait.
Since this is true, we have to quit saying, “When things get back to normal.” Why? Because normal has died. Things are not going back to normal because normal doesn’t exist, remember? Even if the pandemic ended today (please, Lord!), there would be no “getting back to normal.” We cannot say this anymore because there is no normal.
What does this mean and what should we do?
First, it’s okay and necessary to grieve.
Have your own personal funeral for normal. Write down what you loved about the way we used to do church. Give thanks to God for the “good ole days.” Be specific. Honor the memories and the things God did during particular seasons. If you need to, bury the sheet of paper with your memories. Throw the paper in a fire. Do something that symbolizes it’s over. I honestly believe we all need to take time to get some closure to what was normal.
Second, lean into the new way of life that is the new reality.
When you walk out of a funeral home, there is a new reality. A new way of doing life. A loved one has passed. It’s going to be different. We don’t like it. We wish it weren’t true. But it is. If normal is dead (and it is), then a new way of life is now afforded to us. We must accept it. We must embrace it. We must grieve (honor the past and get some closure) and now walk out of the funeral home door.
Enough of the somber stuff. I have one more challenge for you.
Third, run (don’t walk) to the new opportunities before us.
Do I believe we will be able to gather again without fear of a pandemic? Yes. Do I believe we will open our building again for ministry? Of course. But do I believe it will look anything like it was in pre-March 2020? Nope.
But that’s not all bad. A lot of things about normal needed to die. Sacred cows make delicious hamburgers. (Can I get an “Amen!”?)
This affords us an opportunity unlike we’ve ever seen or experienced. You see, here’s the thing: the mission is still the same. That hasn’t changed. I am more convinced than ever that existing to “engage the whole person with the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ – anywhere, anytime, with anybody” is right and good and true and best and biblical and THE thing we must strive to be as members. We don’t need normal to do this. We don’t need quarterlies or pews or a fellowship hall or coffee (okay, maybe we do need coffee) or a table or folding chairs or hymnals or Sunday School rolls or bulletins or all the other things we thought we had to have to be and make disciples of Jesus.
We need the Holy Spirit, each other, the Gospel, and a Bible. That’s about it. Perhaps we are finally beginning to see that we have delegated to rooms and space and a particular time slot on Sunday morning to do what we have been intended to do all along?
Now that normal is gone, what opportunities are before us that might just allow us to be what we have always intended to be?
Normal’s dead. Buried. Gone.
The church isn’t. Our mission isn’t. As a matter of fact, God tends to do his best work after a burial. And come to think of it, didn’t Jesus come to make all things . . . well, you know.
Walking with Jesus. . . Seeking the New with You,