The 5th Sunday after The Epiphany

I find that often I don’t mind wearing a face mask. It keeps my face warm! I know I don’t wear it all the time when I work and trying to speak clearly through it takes a bit extra concentration but the thing that I find the hardest to process is smiling. Behind the mask, people can’t easily see mine and me theirs – though someone mentioned that we’re getting good at reading eyes for smiles! And I agreed! I find myself drawing in the air a smile in front of my mask to communicate that I am smiling (and occasionally wonder whether this makes me more like the Joker with his permanent smile!). I do wonder more regularly whether face masks are here to stay – an acceptable fashion accessory – similar to the prevalence of masks in Asia since the outbreak of SARS nearly 20 years ago. What do you think?

If that happens, will there be a bit more of an atomisation of society? Will we show our faces in ‘safe places’ but cover up when out and about? Will eating in public change? How will our social interactions, particularly the clues we all pick up from people’s faces, change? I must return to these questions in a few years time.

I wonder whether Christians will adapt any differently at all to a more masked world considering they have been dealing with the paradox of the masked face of God their entire lives? We don’t see God face to face as we see each other but we are blessed with the words, “… The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you …” as we see the pastor’s face!  When wanting to artistically present God’s face, it is the face of Jesus that comes into view (2 Corinthians 4:6) – and we are seeing the glory of God! – yet it is all an artistic interpretation.  And if we want to focus on Jesus’ face, we draw to mind, I suspect, the images we saw as children or we move into our heads as remember our receiving Holy Communion – seeing and holding and tasting bread and wine – ‘masks’ of Jesus – and yet Jesus! At that moment Jesus is studying our face and all of us completely, we have no masks to hide behind, no

secrets from him (but maybe from ourselves to which he will want to draw our attention) and he is with us inside and out, always gracious, forgiving, healing, blessing. 

Who doesn’t want to see God? For many people, that would help them. Christians, however, accept the mystery that Jesus crucified is God which means that when Jesus was most visible, God was hidden under what our eyes told us was the opposite of anything divine. The world didn’t see the holy righteous God on the cross – though at his death there were comments that perhaps Jesus was more than he seemed to be (cf. Mark 15:39). The resurrection confirmed it! Jesus is Lord!

And so Christians do expect to see God in all glory in the heavenly realm but for now, here, where we can see each other, God is still ‘hidden under the opposite’, still in apparent weakness because all we have are words, water, bread and wine – but when used as Jesus directed, they reveal through faith the presence – and the smile! – of God with us.

Maybe that will mean in a more masked world that we will look for many clues around the masks and listen more carefully to the words people say? What do you think? GS