July 16th, 2020
“Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Step up where people can see you.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.”
Grace and peace friends,
There is a Jewish law called pikuach nefesh, translated “saving a life.” In this principle of the Jewish faith, it is believed that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule—even the command not to work on the Sabbath. These two principles of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) and mitzvah lo ta’aseh (command to do no action) are the stars of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees at the synagogue that Sabbath day over two thousand years ago. Jesus saw the man with the withered hand, and saw a person whose life was destroyed by an illness; an illness that could be healed in that moment, so that this man’s life could begin in a new way. “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” Jesus asked the people who spent their lives studying the Law. That was the situation Jesus was in, an argument over the Law while an innocent person suffered needlessly. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And when these experts in the Law choose the latter option, Jesus becomes indignant and begins to act. As I look at our country’s inability to act with compassion toward our neighbors by simply wearing a cloth mask, I too am deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts.
I will start off by saying that some people have had traumatic experiences in their lives, and cannot physically wear a facemask without triggering anxiety and fear caused by their trauma. So I understand the reasoning that some people are unable to wear a facemask. And there are resources and services available to those people where they can get their needs met without putting others at risk through grocery delivery to friends and family helping out. If you are in that boat and need help, let me know, I am happy to put on my own facemask and bring supplies to you. But for the overwhelming majority, the act of being slightly uncomfortable is too much to ask for them to do good and save a life. It is especially hard for me to watch people say things like, “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.” Because if someone is invoking the name of God or Christ to not wear a facemask, I would ask them to read the story above and ask them which is better, to do good or to do evil?
The reality is, the pandemic did not need to hurt the United States this much. States have been making their beds since March and are now lying in them. From reopening too quickly, to not mandating facemasks, to outright banning the mandating of facemasks; this is the consequence of ignoring the data that says facemasks prevent the spread of illness. Here is a link to 70 academic papers that show evidence that wearing a mask reduces the spread of germs. If you find yourself feeling that your rights are infringed upon, or that a facemask is a political statement, or that if a business requires a facemask you won’t shop there; I am humbly, compassionately, and sincerely asking you to wake up. Wearing a facemask is not an infringement on anyone’s rights. Wearing a facemask is not a political statement. Businesses requiring facemasks is meant to protect human lives. The same way wearing a seatbelt, banning smoking, or stopping people from driving drunk saves lives. Other countries have embraced facemasks, contact tracing, and following the guidelines set by health experts and are able to safely reopen businesses, schools, and churches. Let us be part of the movement that helps our country do that as well.
Not only is wearing a facemask good for the overall health of our nation, but it also answers the call Christ gives us in Mark; to do good, to save life, and to heal the sick. So please, from someone who has shopped with foggy glasses, stay home when you can, practice physical distancing, and wear a facemask.
Pastor David Hodd