Masks (and Hidden Treasure)

This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Jim Teague,
FPCE communications coordinator.

Dear friends,

I never gave masks much thought before these last few months.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I was always completely baffled as a child by the way that Batman and Robin (of 1960s TV fame) could stand there in front of Commissioner Gordon and Police Chief O’Hara and not have either seemingly intelligent public servant figure out who they really were. They didn’t even disguise their voices, for goodness sake.

When the COVID-19 crisis began, I felt odd wearing a mask in public. I kept wondering if I looked suspicious. I tried to smile at people with my eyes, hoping they wouldn’t see this extra (EXTRA) large man approaching them as some sort of a threat.

This week I was at the FPCE building on Wednesday recording the sermon being given by our guest preacher, Dan McNerney. While we were there, I wondered about all the different kinds of masks I’ve seen even in just the past few days.

Rev. Ray Hylton, our senior pastor, was there to greet Dan when he arrived. Ray was wearing a stylish print camouflage version which he received as a gift from a couple who pastor another church in the area.

Dan had a nice, simple white version. He got it last January in Thailand when the pandemic was racing through China. He said he hasn’t been out a great deal since the “Stay at Home” order was announced back in March. He explained that, as associate director of Frontier Fellowship, much of his work has been completed via Zoom calls to partners all over the world. The world of virtual meetings, he noted, doesn’t require masks, but it also doesn’t allow for some of the nuances of face-to-face, in-person get togethers.

I won’t give too many spoilers, but Dan’s message this week comes from Matthew 13, referencing the parables of the treasure hidden in the field, and the pearl of great value. In his own life, Dan says, he found the “treasure above all else” as a young adult. That treasure, of course, is Jesus, and he continues to be the greatest discovery Dan has ever made.

As Dan was preaching, this verse from 2 Corinthians 3:18 came to mind:

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Unveiled faces. What an image.

God sees us exactly and completely as we are. We see a mere reflection of Him in a mirror (and likely a blurry one, if you consider the mirrors in the time of the Apostle Paul). Even so, we are being changed more and more into his likeness. Praise God!

This past Monday evening, I took part in the protest march organized by Evanston-area churches to express their solidarity with those who are peacefully seeking an end to racism and injustice in our social and political systems.

Talk about a variety of masks! There were fancy ones, political ones, plain ones, and even one with rhinestones. As I often do, I spent my time taking photographs and getting video of the event. Some people looked back at me while others seemed to take no notice. It was difficult to read the faces of those who took part. Their voices were still heard, but all I could read were their eyes. Some seemed to be smiling, but I couldn’t tell for certain.

There were also a good number of police officers there at the march. They stopped traffic for us, kept us moving as we trudged along, and, it seemed to me, listened to the speakers and the shouts of the participants.

The police, for the most part, did not wear masks. I suspect (though don’t know for sure) that this was so they could communicate well with each other and (maybe more importantly) could be clearly understood by those of us who were marching. My encounters with them were pleasant and professional. At one point, one of them asked me to put my drone away. By the look on his face, I could tell he was serious and not ready to have a long discussion about it. Later, I asked him and one of his superiors if I could use it at a different point along the route.

Because I could see his face and that of his commanding officer, I was able to gauge whether I was pushing the limits of their patience. Both were willing to hear my questions and both politely explained why they still didn’t want me using my drone. Their expressions made it clear the topic was not up for further debate.

I had already been able to get some other footage earlier along the route, and it made sense for me to comply, even though my request was both reasonable and lawful.

Being able to read their expressions made all the difference.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul told the church, “For now we see in a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

The masks we wear these days aren’t meant to hide us from one another, even if they have that effect. Often the masks we wear (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual) don’t really hide as much as we think they do.

When I was in junior high school, I went out trick-or-treating on Halloween with a friend at the last minute. In reality, we were probably too old to be doing it, but the call of free candy overcame any other objections I might have had. I didn’t have a costume, but I had a motorcycle helmet and my dad’s puffy down winter coat and decided I could pass myself off as a space alien. Mark, my friend, wore a ski mask, goggles, and carried a water pistol that looked like it was from outer space, too. We got plenty of candy and almost nobody made a comment one way or another about how we looked.

I say almost because there was one elderly woman who gave the two of us a look, with our hidden faces and poor attempt at costumes, and shook her head.

“You two young men are a little old to be doing this, aren’t you?” she asked. We kind of shrugged our shoulders and nodded. She still gave us some candy, but it was pretty clear our masks weren’t hiding much from her.

The book of Exodus tells us man and woman cannot look upon God’s face without dying. Moses, God’s friend, was only able to get a look at him from behind, in passing, and, after doing so, the glory of God shown so strong from his face that the people of Israel asked Moses to wear a mask. (Exodus 34:29-35)

I wonder what that veil — that mask — was like? I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I look forward to the day when I see Jesus as clearly and fully known as he sees me.

We hope to see each of you online Sunday as Dan brings our message.

Be safe!

Jim Teague
FPCE Communications Coordinator