My wife is a deacon in our church. The other evening, arriving home from a little errand, I stepped into our living room and received the friendly greetings from deacons meeting-in- progress, all four of them, each in physical distance, seated on separate couches or chairs, each from behind the mask. Greetings, small talk and smiles as per normal, but alongside a new normal. No mention of the masks even, as I made my way through.
It is the new normal which gives me pause. Masks by now are the expected protocol for anybody who appears in indoor public places, including homes if other than cohorts present. In this case they were brothers and sisters in Christ - cohorts in the spiritual family. I even remember reading a book on that very topic, The Spiritual and the Biological Family by Paul Lederach (1973). However in terms of the germs or viruses we share on daily basis they must remain separate from one another. There they were talking and planning. I enjoyed the sound, soft voices, occasional animated comments, chuckles, etc. emanating from our living room. It is the sound of a church seeking to be supportive and caring in this corona day. I was comforted knowing that the masks seem not to deviate from task at hand.
I am reminded of similar circumstance in the Bible, Acts chapter 6 to be exact. In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven ... from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Interesting story, this one. The church, only recently begun (read Acts 2) was already encountering some challenges. There had been and there were many ongoing inquiries about this new life which was possible because of Jesus Christ. And among the queries there were misunderstandings and even quarrels. Imagine that! That would not happen today, would it? 😕 The apostles, those disciples-become-teachers/preachers who had experienced this faith miracle were now very busy! They were busy preaching and teaching. There was a need for some who also had this faith, not necessarily preachers, but also full of the Spirit and wisdom, to deal with social and societal implications of the new gospel changing lives everywhere.
Corona time, mask time, is fast becoming the challenge of challenges. And it descends upon a world ill equipped. Individualism is the sin now crippling political systems worldwide, as well as religious systems/organizations. My one comfort these days is knowing that the church - the Church of Jesus Christ - still has a mandate to work with, to count on, to trust the discernment and the service of those who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom (:3). We need those persons. It behooves every preacher or teacher or lecturer no matter how self-assured to listen carefully for guidance coming from those who are not the spokespersons but the doers. We need those who will think deeply, pray deeply, and yield to the depths of spirit as they interpret these times. Thank you Lord for the masked deacons in my living room.