My wife, Julane and I lived in Arizona for a full year of seminary internship in a wonderful congregation learning and growing under the supervision of a much-loved pastor friend and a helpful team of ministry mentors.
Our first child was born and baptized there and countless other great memories with forever-friends keep drawing us back for visits in the desert.
Over the years we’ve gravitated to a favorite house of worship called The Casa on the campus of the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale where the liturgical music is engaging, the message is uplifting and the community is always so welcoming.
Earlier this January we arrived wearing our N95s expecting to see typical COVID-19 signs with bold black lettering on the doors saying “Masks Required.” Instead, we were welcomed by bright colorful signs with images of a gathered congregation and the scriptural words “For LOVE of NEIGHBOR PLEASE WEAR A FACEMASK INSIDE.”
That sign stopped us in our tracks, brought a smile to our faces under our masks and caused us to wonder and ask, “Why haven’t we seen more signs like this one anywhere and everywhere?”
In these past two years, why haven’t we seen wearing our masks as a divine way of living out this Great Commandment in the holy scriptures of my faith tradition?
And why hasn’t this pandemic taught all the people of the Earth to ask repeatedly, “Who is my neighbor?” and then be drawn to parallel and similar sacred writings found in many other faith traditions?
What if we would have heeded the early encouragement that “we’ll get through this together” by adding “by loving our neighbor?”
It’s not too late! There’s still more loving our neighbors in the days to come by faithfully wearing our masks, taking PCR tests, observing safe social distancing and getting vaccine and booster shots … all motivated and blessed as sacred means for “loving our neighbor” during worship and all the time!
And in the days ahead, when greeting someone wearing a face mask, I plan to kindly say, “Thanks for loving your neighbor!”