Pastoral Message – Sunday 5th July

Dear friends

Wearing masks in public is now not only greatly encouraged but also actually required if you’re travelling on public transport or attending a medical appointment.  So, in our house, we’ve just recently taken delivery of the masks that we may need to wear when we go to the hairdresser, or visit friends, or eat out over the coming months. 

It’s highly likely that we’re going to have to get used to wearing masks quite frequently in the future and it makes sense to do so given all the medical evidence to support how much their use reduces the spread of coronavirus.  But they’re not the most comfortable things to wear are they, certainly not if you have them on for a long time?  You can get very hot, your ears may become sore from the straps around them and if you’re someone who wears glasses, then I’m told that they can get steamed up quite quickly!

In addition, it does make recognising some people a little more difficult.  Some of you may have seen the joke that has been doing the rounds on social media, about the couple who went grocery shopping with their masks on, but when they got back home, the wife realised that she had returned with the wrong man!  Covering part of our face certainly makes it harder for others to recognise us, especially those who don’t know us well. It’s also causing problems for those people who want to unlock their phones using face recognition or who need to see other people’s faces and their moving lips in order to understand what they are saying.

However, for those of us who sometimes think that our face always gives away what we are thinking, or who are worried about the shape of our nose, or who get anxious about whether our make-up is just right, or who think that our teeth could do with some attention, the opportunity to cover up some of what we think of as flaws in us may be quite welcome!

In fact, as I think about that, I reflect that many of us wear masks all the time – not the physical masks that I’ve been talking about so far, but the metaphorical masks that we so often wear to present the kind of face to the world that we think that world wants to see!  We may even have different masks for different people and places.  For example the members of our family, the colleagues alongside whom we work and the people in our church community may all see a very different image of us because of the way that we present ourselves and behave in each of those contexts.

We manage to look interested when in fact we’re really bored, we nod in agreement when actually we’re not but don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, we smile when inside we are in pain, we pretend to be something that we are not in order to be accepted by others.

I guess, that sometimes, wearing those masks can be helpful.  It aids harmonious living and prevents others from being infected by our negative or hurtful responses and attitudes.  But there is a real danger that if we wear our masks for too long it may not just be our glasses that get steamed up.  The mist that rises will prevent others from seeing who we really are and mean that none of our relationships are based on honesty and reality and we won’t receive the help and support we might really need.

Pretending to be who we are not, is not something that any of us can sustain for long without really damaging ourselves and putting ourselves under enormous strain.  So, whilst wearing a physical mask is a really good and helpful thing to do in these days to protect ourselves and others, I encourage you, each time you take off your physical mask, to consider taking off any metaphorical mask that you may also be wearing because it’s not the approval of other people that matters but the knowledge that God knows you, accepts you and loves you just as you are.

Remember those words we find in 1 Samuel 16 “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

May you be blessed by the experience of being fully known and loved by the God who created you.

Every blessing,

Gill Newton, District Chair