From The Garden Bench - Masks
Words by David Hollows
During the recent Covid-19 period, the wearing of masks has become part of our daily routines, whether we like this or not or agree.
So, what is your mask?
A home-made designer mask? A re-usable mask or disposable one? An NHS blue standard design or a mask with illustrations?
No matter the style or look of your mask, they certainly take some getting used to, especially if you wear glasses or have hearing supports.
Masks have been with us for thousands of years. The Greek theatre is often represented by the twin masks of tragedy and comedy symbolising sadness and joy, good times and bad, hero and villain.
Masked balls have epitomised social circles down the centuries and perhaps you have spent hours with children and grandchildren producing masks for a variety of events. Masks are still common-place in society today: ‘How are you?’ is a typical question which allows the typical response: ‘Fine, thank you and you?’ and this reply can sometimes mask the real truth of a person’s situation: do others really want to know my accurate answer to this question? Do I really want to share with someone else how I am?
Photo by Vera Davidova via Unsplash
During 2019 the Government asked us to be aware of people washing cars, serving in launderettes or in the hospitality industry who might be a trafficked person, another way of wearing a social mask.
Others in society wear a mask to hide domestic abuse or mental health issues, even in Church we can miss the clues which are meant to be hidden behind a mask to give insight to the real-life condition of a person.
In the Middle Ages, monks did not use masks rather they used their hoods: sometimes to protect them from the weather, occasionally to snooze but regularly to demonstrate that they were having quality time with God. When the hood came over and down, often the monk would be in prayer.
Hoodies in recent times have often come to represent young males whose characters and motives are suspect.
In the Bible masks are sometimes part of stories.
There is the mask of lies and deception worn by the brothers of Joseph as they hold before their father, Jacob, the blood-stained coat of Joseph and tell him the sad news (Genesis chapter 37).
There is the mask of duplicity as Pharaoh allowed the Hebrews to go free then changed his mind.
Judas certainly wore masks: he was treasurer to the disciples but dipped into the accounts when he wanted (John chapter 12) His expectations of Jesus did not align themselves with the lifestyle and ministry of Jesus hence the betrayal (Matthew chapter 26).
Jesus regularly exposed the masks of the religious leaders in his conversations with them. Their mask of credibility is ripped away in stories such as The Good Samaritan (Luke chapter 10) and the healing of the blind man (John chapter 9) Jesus did not hesitate to condemn the religious leaders for not being genuine (John chapter 8) Peter wore a mask of conformity when he refused to eat with his Gentile friend which he usually did until fellow believers arrived from Jerusalem. This caused a Paul to berate Peter for the insult and injury caused to the gentile believers (Galations chapter 2)
Photo by Llanydd Lloyd via Unsplash
The seven sons of Sceva were attacked for pretending to be genuine believers (Acts chapter 19) and Elymas, the wise man, proved to be anything but wise when confronted by Paul (Acts chapter 13).
Other characters in the Bible refused to wear a mask in order to cover their reality: Daniel refused to wear the mask of convenience in order to avoid the furnace (Daniel chapter 3) and the lions (Daniel chapter 6).
Whereas characters such as Zacchaeus could never have worn a mask because his reputation went before him ((Luke chapter 19).
There are some sad examples of characters wearing a mask which then forfeited them the opportunity to enter the Kingdom of God: the rich, young ruler wore the mask of deception to himself therefore he rejected the invitation to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus (Luke chapter 18).
The wearing of a mask sometimes covers the opportunity to be genuine which is a key feature of a relationship with Jesus.
In the teachings, especially those in the Beatitudes, Jesus clearly defines the genuine believer (Luke chapter 6) These qualities are then reinforced by the words of Jesus about love and the quality of love (John chapter 15).
Paul then extends the understanding of a believer who is genuine because of the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans chapter 8).
James in his letter then adds the practical dimension to being a genuine believer: be doers of the Word and not just hearers also care for the widows and the orphans (James chapter 1 verses 22 to 27).
Perhaps you are able to think of other characters in the Bible who wear a mask If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who achieved for us an everlasting relationship with God because of His death and resurrection, then there is no reason for wearing any type of mask for any reason when living our lives before God and others in our lives.
God expects us to be the real-deal because He can see behind our masks as He looks to our thoughts, our motives and our hearts. Challenge: is it time to take off your mask to really love God and others in your life?
You may find the following hymn useful:
Take time to be holy (Mission Praise 625).
You may find these prayers helpful:
From the corners of the world and the loneliness of our hearts, from the confusion of life, gather us, O God.
From deception and sadness and the false image we sometimes project, from our self inflicted pain and hurt, deliver us, O God.
Take away any mask that prevents us from being genuine and free our hearts that we may serve and love you. In the name of Jesus, we pray.
God our healer, take away the sorrow, shame and brokenness that we might be filled with your joy.
Take away the cracks and chips in our personalities that we might become the people you created us to be.
Take away the fissures and fractures in our relationship with others and you, that we might bring peace and love, a new dynamic to those relationships.
Take away the shards and fragments of disappointments and delusion which hold us back from enjoying life to the full.
O God, give to us open hearts and hands that we may love you and serve you in this your world.
God bless you