A man and his pastor were walking through the parking lot toward the church one Sunday. It was a cold and blustery day and snow had carpeted the asphalt in front of the building. Both were wearing thick winter coats and boots and gloves. The pastor was also wearing a mask to protect against the spread of Covid, but the man was not.
As they approached the door, the man said, “Pastor, why are you wearing that mask? You look like a fool. Don’t you have faith in God? You should take it off and trust that God will protect you.”
The pastor studied the man for a moment and then said, “I notice that you’re wearing your heavy winter coat and warm gloves and good snow boots, John.”
John paused, wondering at this change in subject, and finally said, “Of course I am. It’s my turn to shovel the walks and it’s cold outside. So what?”
The pastor said, “So, why don’t you take off all those clothes and trust that God will keep you warm while you shovel? Don’t you have faith that God will protect you from the cold?”
John’s mouth moved up and down silently for several seconds as he caught the pastor’s meaning. “Yeah, well, that’s different,” he finally mumbled looking away.
“You’re right, John, it is different,” the pastor replied with a smile easily seen behind the mask. “You’ve decided to use the brain God gave you to keep yourself warm. I’ve decided to use the brain and the love God gave me to protect you from a virus that could hurt or kill you. And if being a fool for Christ means loving you by wearing a mask, that’s what I’m going to do.”
In his first letter to the Corinthians (chps 1-3), Paul declares himself a fool for Christ’s sake and that Jesus’ followers in Corinth should be become fools in order to become wise in God’s way of the gospel. “If you think you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you can become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God,” he writes. What did Paul mean by this?
Well, he certainly didn’t mean shoveling snow without warm clothes on. Nor did he mean choosing not to wear a mask to prove our faith or because it makes us look silly. No, faith in God does not mean we’re supposed to dump reason beside the road altogether just because we’re anxious.
Instead, God’s foolishness is a message of love in a world of hate; a message of meekness that empowers others rather than powers over others; a message to support one another instead of competing with each other; a message to come together in a community of peace instead of falling into division and fighting over something doctors, nurses, and tricker-treaters wear regularly. God’s foolishness is a proclamation of hope in a time of despair and a flaring of light in the midst of deep darkness. Finally, God’s gospel foolishness says “no” to the world’s judgment, meanness, apathy and selfishness and says a resounding “YES” to forgiveness, kindness, compassion and generosity.
In the end, God gave us brains as well as hearts, bodies and spirits, and we are called to use our whole selves in the best possible way to protect the lives God gave us as well as protect and care for the lives of our neighbors. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” remember?
You don’t have to shovel snow in the cold naked to prove your faith to God or others. And neither do you have to go maskless to show your trust in God. Instead, in today’s world, wearing a mask to protect others from the Covid-19 virus is a sure sign of faith in God and in the love God gives us in Christ. And it is this very faith that calls us to share God’s love with all whom we meet, even if the world thinks it looks foolish.
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod