There has been a flurry of excitement in the air this week as some restrictions at Beacon Hill have relaxed. I’ve noticed the Library is being frequented by a number of residents. I chatted with Ruth Perry (Beacon Hill’s Resident Librarian) as she reorganized and put each book in its proper place. With each book finding its spot on the shelf, it felt like we were getting one page closer to normalcy. It was a reminder, that this story is not over yet. There is hope of a new chapter, in which quarantine and pandemic are not the themes of our daily lives.
But then there’s those darn masks; a constant reminder that things are not normal. They’re hot, hard to breathe in, and easy to forget to put on. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) remind us that there is an ongoing threat to our safety and security; an invisible enemy seeking to destroy. A mask reminds us that we are vulnerable; a reality that many of us hate to be reminded of.
Yet, aside from such dismal feelings, can the mask be a reminder of anything good? Can it remind us of a purpose greater than ourselves?
Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation, used masks as a metaphor for God’s work in the world. He said, “Our works are God’s masks, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things.” Luther believed God was ultimately the giver of every good thing and that these good things most often come through the hard work of people. God could give corn and fruit miraculously, but instead he calls people to plant and plough while praying, “Now help, O God; give us now corn and fruit, dear Lord; for ploughing and planting will not yield us anything. It is Thy gift.” God may not always be visible, but his masks are everywhere the eye can see. God’s masks are every person seeking to do justice, love mercy, and love their neighbor.
The mask you wear may be a reminder of your vulnerability. It may be uncomfortable to wear. But as you put on your mask, you can be reminded that you are part of a bigger story than yourself. You are God’s mask in the world. You are called to be just, to love sacrificially, and to promote good in your sphere of influence.
I feel a deep sense of sadness and anger about this past week’s news of the killing of George Floyd and the violence that erupted in our city and across the country. I wonder, “where is God in this?” However, as I reflect on Luther’s metaphor of God’s mask, my question changes to, “where am I in this?” What am I doing to promote justice and equity for all? How am I repenting of the ways I discriminate against others? How am I seeking to do good in this hurting world? I may not be able to change the world, but my next choice can be one that brings healing rather than harm.
Let your mask remind you of the good that’s being done and the good that still needs to be done in our world. When you are feeling too warm in it, know that there are countless people sweating profusely as they seek to promote racial equality and justice for all. When you find it difficult to breathe with your mask on, pray for those who can’t breathe because they are being treated unjustly. When you are reminded by someone to wear a mask, let it be a reminder that your mask is one way you are seeking to participate in the goodness of God in the world. Let the challenge of the mask be the catalyst for the good you want to see in the world.
And remember, this is not the final chapter.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson
 From Luther’s exposition of Psalm 147