Masks of God

According to this article bearing the same name as this post and written by Gene Edward Veith: "God works through you in your vocation, whatever it may be." Here is how it begins:
When I go into a restaurant, the waitress who brings me my meal, the cook in the back who prepared it, the delivery men, the wholesalers, the workers in the food-processing factories, the butchers, the farmers, the ranchers, and everyone else in the economic food chain are all being used by God to "give me this day my daily bread."

This is the doctrine of vocation. God works through people, in their ordinary stations of life to which He has called them, to care for His creation. In this way, He cares for everyone— Christian and non-Christian—whom He has given life.

Luther puts it even more strongly: Vocations are “masks of God.” On the surface, we see an ordinary human face—our mother, the doctor, the teacher, the waitress, our pastor—but, beneath the appearances, God is ministering to us through them. God is hidden in human vocations.

The other side of the coin is that God is hidden in us. When we live out our callings—as spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, citizens, and the rest—God is working through us. Even when we do not realize it, when we fulfill our callings, we too are masks of God.
I love the idea that we are the masks that God wears as He ministers in the world. Here is the way that Dr Veith wraps up his teaching:
If we are masks of God, even when we do not realize it, it is also true that God is masked in our neighbor. Particularly when our neighbor is in need—when he or she is sick, hungry, thirsty, naked, a prisoner, a stranger—Christ Himself is hidden. "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren," the Lord says, "ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).

In serving our neighbors, we end up serving Christ after all.
I so resonate with this. Regardless of who we are.. even if we do not have a "professional" title.. we can minister His love to those who are made in His image. We are the masks He wears and the gloves He puts on to minister His love to broken and hurting people.

On Judging Sinners ...

Been think of late about the whole tension that exists amongst religious folks and sincere people of faith. Consider the contrasts presented in this story from the ninth chapter of Matthew's gospel:
As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?"

But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. "But go and learn what this means: ' I desire compassion and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the
righteous, but sinners."
Here are a few of my thoughts about the contrasts in the passage:
  • Matthew: There is something wonderful in the simple way that Jesus called and Matthew followed.. I think that it reflects the heart of Jesus.. and Matthew's response is reflective of his heart as well.. imagine what it must have been like for an outcast of religious people to be called this way.. simply wonderful.
  • Pharisees: There is something dark and sinister about the way that these folks reject the call to sinners.. I think their judging attitude is reflective of people that have dark and hard hearts.. the religious elitism and arrogance is so repugnant.
  • Jesus: Once again our Lord amazes us as He confronts the issue head on rebuking the religious people and instructing them about how they should be responding to sinners.
I think it sad that religion prevented some sinners from answering Jesus call. I wonder what it is about religion that caused us to harden against God? It reminds me of what James says about real religion:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Notice that James mentions nothing about judging sinners or keeping the law.

Changing the World from the Inside Out

For many years I have loved to read and collect quotes from all sorts of people.. famous and not. A while back I read this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
For many of my earlier years I would have embraced that comment - my life was all about impacting the world.. making a difference.. being someone! Then one day I gradually came to that same realization that Solomon did in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
Lets take a look at his words point by point:
  • Each of us have our own roles to play in the world.. no one is insignificant;
  • Our work in itself is a thing of beauty;
  • We are bigger than what we do.. there is a sense of eternity in our heart;
  • God's ways are beyond our intellectual capacities;
  • Our response to God and life is to rejoice and do good;
  • The simple things like food and work are God's gifts to us.
So often we people of faith, like Gandhi, embrace an arrogant and self-important view of ourselves thinking that we are God's gifts to the world when in fact the simple things of life are His gifts to us. We often seem to live out tired cliches like:
"If it is to be, it is up to me."
The truth of the matter is that even God the Son could do nothing on His own. Consider this:
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
I think that lasting change can only come from the an inner heart level.. only when we are changed from the inside out. In a sense Gandhi was right.. we have to "be" changed on the inside by the Holy Spirit.. but we do not have to embrace a philosophy says that somehow being is all about outward acts and appearances.