September 4, 2020
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. -Psalm 51:16
I wore a mask most of the day yesterday. Hospitals are allowing community clergy to visit again, as a member of the care team now and not as a member of the family. At last! My “Volunteer” registration and Identification Badge commits me to self-monitoring for symptoms of fever, sniffles, fatigue, aches-and-pains, difficulty breathing, and to disclosing if I have travelled outside the province in the last 14 days, or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 infection. When all my answers are “no,” the security guard hands me a blue paper mask with the order, “Wear it everywhere all the time.” And I did, with joy, because at last I could visit in the hospital again, pray and be prayed for, listen and grow in wisdom as faith and hope and love are shared, and share the holy supper of the Lord with family members and patients of Zion.
Almost all students going back to school next week will have to wear a mask. “I don’t like it,” one young student stated on the news, “but it’s a small price to pay to see my friends again.” Some very interesting dilemmas are developing around wearing a mask at school: how to eat lunch? How to scratch or blow my nose? How to keep my glasses from fogging up? How to give or receive a kiss? All the answers relate back to the central fact about wearing a mask: by wearing a mask, we are protecting others, not ourselves. How amazing that God has brought the whole world to a new consideration of the gospel meaning of the Fifth Commandment! Called “God’s Gift of Life” in one explanation of the Small Catechism, we read:
You shall not kill.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbours in any bodily way but help and support them in every physical need.
We will have to wear a mask when we come back to church. Its required by the Public Health Authority, recommended by our church leaders, and a reasonable protection of our neighbour. All of this pales like the face of the moon when the brightness of the gospel begins to dawn: for beyond and beneath and far above every reason is the love of God the Father through the Son Jesus Christ on the cross dwelling in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. When our Saviour put aside his divine dignity and took the towel to wash dirty feet, he said, “This is how to show your love for one another.” Wearing a mask during worship is pretty tightly woven into the long tradition of loving, careful gospel service.
Some really good questions come up around wearing a mask during worship. How do we wipe our tears of repentance and joy? How do we communicate with people who are hearing impaired and rely on lip-reading? How do we understand the readers and the sermon when their voices are muffled by a mask? How do we receive communion? How do we sing? These are only a few; you may have others that we need to hear too. The Blue Level Training for COVID-19 Preparedness has some answers and you can still sign up. We will address questions during the announcements when we gather for worship. Our Re-Opening Zion Committee is doing a walk-through next week to anticipate many of the situations that arise as we return. And we have our own learnings and wisdom to share. What matters most is that we take all our questions back to the gospel, moved by the love and grace of God, welcoming, worshipping, and working together in witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.