Pastor’s Corner – About Masks…
Several years ago, I was preparing to lead a chapel for school. Whenever possible, I try to make chapel interactive with the students. So I began looking for a few illustrations of how people can see the same thing from different perspectives. As I was on a nutrition kick at that time, one of the ideas that came to mind was to bring some food. I searched through my pantry and the best unopened/simple illustration I found was a jar of peanut butter. During chapel, I held it up and asked students what they saw and of course got the expected answers: “food” and “peanut butter”. I explained how I saw protein and oils which give me energy (and a little added sugar that I was trying to eat less of). Illustration accomplished.
After chapel, I chatted for a few minutes with a school parent who attended chapel that morning. I shared that I was glad my illustration was a success because you never know what the students might say when you ask for a response. The parent replied, “True, when you held up the peanut butter, I’m pretty sure my child saw death.” Woah! You see, this parent’s child is deathly allergic to peanut butter. While the parent was very gracious to me for this insensitive mistake, I’ve never forgotten how that illustration helped me see things very differently too.
For decades Cross has made accommodations for students dealing with allergies. But last year, we made a courageous step and banned all outside classroom snacks that were not first pre-approved. This was a difficult change, but it was also a huge relief for some of our families. The change was a long overdue act of love for a particularly vulnerable group of our Cross family. Jesus says “Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Currently at Cross, we wear masks in our worship services and in our school setting – anywhere we gather indoors unable to maintain appropriate physical distance. This has been a difficult decision because it is inconvenient. I don’t think any of us look forward to wearing a mask. But, it is an incredibly loving sacrifice that those who are healthy can make for those who are the most vulnerable in our population.
I know this is a sensitive topic. For many, it represents more than just a mask. It represents freedom, grief, acknowledging this virus is real and so much more. For others, however, masks don’t represent anything; masks are literally protection against death from a very real virus as they struggle with their own health challenges. Some of our school students go home to a parent that is battling cancer, a grandparent that lives with them, a guardian who has received an organ transplant, or have some sort of close contact with an individual that is particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Another difficulty is that information about the virus changes every day. We know it is difficult because we are all grieving the loss of “normalcy.” Our natural reaction is to say “enough is enough!” We want to put our foot down and end all the uncertainty; we want to just say “no!” to get some control over all the things that feel out of control and have been taken away from us. What we must remember is that God is in control – not us. We need to take a step back and see the big picture. God gives us people to help us see the big picture when we just want to say “enough.” When we are children we have parents, as we grow we have mentors, and bosses, spouses and friends.
During this pandemic, the leaders God has given us have asked us to wear masks. Our Governor has mandated mask wearing. Our Health department has put forth recommendations and our State education boards have written requirements for state recognized schools. God has placed these leaders in our lives and it is our duty to honor them in their role of authority and leadership as commanded by the Fourth Commandment. It does not mean they are perfect – just as no one has a perfect mother or father – but we are to honor them for the position of authority and leadership God has put them in.
Our principal Paul Goffron has put together a reopening plan for our school that takes all of this into consideration. We are inviting everyone to work together to provide input and to create as great a school and ministry year as possible given the circumstances.
At Cross, we believe the full Christian life is not about protecting one another from the outside world. We believe God brings us together to provide support as we go out into the world. Cross Lutheran Church and School is focused on preparing, equipping, and sending disciples of Jesus to bring good news of hope in the face of an uncertain world. This cannot be done in isolation; this cannot be done when we refuse to tackle new challenges. This can only be done when we face the world together and build one another up toward love and good deeds.
When Paul talks about the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, he draws special attention to the parts of the body that are hurting and the parts that are the most vulnerable. We do not leave them out on their own, but rather the whole body hurts with them and provides special support to overcome. For us today, how we choose to respond to the world also teaches our children how they should respond. Do we teach them to retreat from challenging situations? Or, do we teach them how to work and adapt to overcome the circumstances? Working together as the family of God, let us overcome challenges together and demonstrate the power of God in our midst.