Lord, you have said
that to truly love you
then I must also
love my neighbor,
which can be difficult
when we disagree
or lifestyles clash.
Yet in overcoming
it is possible to see
the miracle that You
love someone like me.
Teach us to love, Lord,
as you have loved us
that this world might be
a better neighborhood
in which to live and share.
Matthew 22:36-39 Common English Bible
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Chances are that if you’ve seen me in the past 3 months or so,
you’ve seen me wearing this mask. It is very breathable and fairly comfortable (as masks go anyway). I’d rather not wear one, but if my wearing might help protect you and others, then I’ll deal with it. I am generally a flashy person and typically don’t try to call attention to myself, however I looked at this mask with a different pair of eyes. I wondered if could I use this mask as an opportunity to be engaged in discipleship.
The opportunities for incredible conversation have been abundant. I have had folks (masked and unmasked) who have appreciated the message. I have had folks ask-‘where can I get one of those’ (I have 4 left for the first ones to email me). It gives me a chance to witness about Centenary and our ministries in such New Bern, RCS, Oaks Road Academy, GriefShare and Habitat for Humanity as well as some of our regional and international work.
Last week, I was shopping at Harris-Teeter. I was in the produce section and found myself and someone else going for a small spot too little to accommodate both of our carts. The woman also looked up at the same time and I just backed up my cart to make way for her and said ‘Excuse me’. Her pleasant smile changed as I saw her reading my mask (I watched her lips mouth the words). She then audibly scoffed with a ‘huh’ at me, turned about face and walked the other away. I was disheartened. It would be unusual for me to do anything to implicitly be offensive or hurtful to someone so when it happens to me, it kind of hurts my feelings.
I walked through the store to the checkout with my few things to meet Becky at the register. She commented on how much she likes my mask. I said thanks. She said more people need to hear that and live by those words. I agreed. At the time, I’ll be honest, I was glad to hear those words of affirmation, but the line was long and we didn’t get into a conversation deeper than that.
Fast forward 3 days later to Thanksgiving morning. It’s 9:30 and Jen exclaims - ‘We don’t have any flour!’ I take off to Teeter. Guess who is working the register on Thanksgiving morning?!?! It’s Becky…and that Thanksgiving morning I was grateful to hear her say ‘I still love that mask’. I told her a bit about myself and she said ‘Oh-I just love Centenary…I get your daily encouragements’. We talked for a couple of minutes and it was such a bright spot to begin my Thanksgiving. It was a moment for which I was truly grateful.
For Jesus, and for those who follow His way, to love ones neighbor is to live in humility, practicing acts of justice for and with those in need.
Closing Scripture for prayerful reflection:
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 Common English Bible
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.
Pastor Michael Williams