MASK

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“Anyone with such a defiling disease must … cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ — Leviticus 13:45

The things fear will make you do.

I remember in the 1980’s, there was a rumor going around my Kansas high school that somebody had contracted AIDS.  I was a little scared, shocked really that such an ominous disease was in our midst.  I have no idea if the claims were true at all, but I remember how I felt:  I felt like protecting myself.  No sympathy for who it might be, just a desire to stay away from whoever was infected.

If I could have identified that person, I’m afraid I would have gone all “Leviticus” on them.  Making them wear a mask and cry out “Unclean!”

I’ve learned a lot since then.  A lot about what can spread AIDS and what can’t.  A lot about about rumors and compassion.  And a lot about what it means to label a person unclean.

In the Bible, there were lots of ways a person could be labeled unclean.  Forgetting to wash their hands, going through menstruation, handling a dead body, a disease like leprosy, and so on.  Being unclean meant having to step outside the community until you were deemed clean again.

Today, masks aren’t just for the unclean.  There are thousands and thousands around the globe, wearing masks.  Not necessarily because they have the coronavirus, but to prevent getting it.  Some officials have begun cautiously using the word “pandemic” to describe the likely spread of this virus to the U.S.

Who knows?  In a month or so, maybe we’ll all be wearing masks like folks in China, Italy, and Iran have had to do.  Not because we are unclean — because we don’t want to be.

The things fear will make you do.

Picture riding the subway on your way to work, looking across at the other riders and seeing just the hairline, eyebrows, and eyes.  That’s it.  No ski jump noses.  No collagened lips.  No faces at all, come to think of it.  If you worked for a cosmetic company, you might be out of a job.

Can you picture it?  The whole world, hiding behind a mask.  The folks who are infected, and the folks who don’t want to be.  The clean and the unclean.  Everybody’s covered up. People say education is the great equalizer.  But apparently, a little fabric, some rubber, and a respirator can accomplish that as well.

If it ever does come to that, can I offer a suggestion?  Don’t let a mask mask who God made you to be.  As expressive and communicative as your face can be, find more ways to bring out your authentic self.

It’s not a bad idea to practice this, surgical mask or not.  It’s not about being clean or unclean, afraid or stoic. It’s about being a reflection of the One who created you.  No one and no mask can dictate that for you.  That’s a lesson it took the Israelites a long time to learn.  Actually, we’re learning it still.

If a terrible virus does come to your town, by all means take precaution.  And if you know someone who has it, by all means take them some chicken noodle soup (safely, of course!) Remember that, through Jesus Christ, we are all made clean.

But if it ever does comes time to put on that mask and say your prayers, don’t lose sight of humanity all around you.  At first, with that obstructed view, you may only be able to see people dimly,

but in God’s time

you’ll see them face to face.

Have a great week,

mask

The Recommendation

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A woman I didn’t even know changed the course of my life today.

Okay, that’s probably overstating things.  Let’s just say she changed the course of my lunch. Staff lunch today was at the Old Mill Tasty Shop in downtown Wichita.  It’s a small soda fountain from back in the 30’s, with a surprisingly tasty menu.

I was heartened to see several vegetarian items on the list, and set my sites on The cheese crisp, which sounded rather nacho-ish.  Our cheerful waitress approached, and I decided to ask her if it was any good.  I’m glad I did.

“It’s small–more of an appetizer,” she waved me off and put an arm around my shoulder. “You really should get the vegetarian burrito.  It’s my favorite, and you’ll love it.”

And I did. I’d give it 4 stars.

Now, before you think I’ve posted my Trip Adviser review on the wrong page, here’s what my waitress got me thinking.  Could I as convincingly offer a recommendation for my church, as she did for that burrito?

I don’t know.  A burrito is an easy sell.  But my church?  I really really like my church, and I really really want new people to come.  But…maybe it’s not for everybody.  Maybe my church’s praise band isn’t contemporary enough.  Maybe the pastor (me) doesn’t preach on enough justice issues…or too many?

Maybe our church only fits for people who are farmers, or in the airplane industry, or school teachers?  Maybe our church doesn’t do enough immersive baptisms, or study enough theology.  Maybe our building feels old to some folks.  Maybe we expect people to do too much.  Or allow others to do very little.

You see?  Whereas my burrito today was a slam dunk recommendation, my church may not be for everybody.  And so my recommendation might be a little halting.  People can hear a hesitation like that and question the sincerity behind it.

May I make a recommendation for all of us Christians longing to connect with people searching for a church home?  I recommend sharing unqualified enthusiasm for your church without having to oversell it, either.

“My Church has helped my children know God, and I’m so proud to watch them grow up. I highly recommend it.”

“My Church has a weekly food ministry, where I’ve learned about serving as a spiritual gift. I highly recommend it.”

“My Church has a small group I’m a part of that studies the scriptures and shares our faith with each other.  I highly recommend it.”

You get the idea.  The waitress didn’t have to tell me everything about that delicious burrito.  I believed in her recommendation because she clearly believed, too

Psalm 34:8a says “Taste and see that the Lord is good”.  Your words, attitudes, and enthusiasm can offer a taste of the kingdom to others.  Remember, you’re not selling your church.  You’re recommending a life in the Spirit, Who is at the very center of it.

I’ve tasted, my friends, and I’ve seen…

And I was filled.

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Have a great week,

Mitch