Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.--Acts 2:42-47
When I contemplate the above passage, one of the assigned readings for this Fourth Sunday of Easter, I am aware of the growing irritation and anger that is in the country right now as governors announce they are lifting restrictions on businesses and allowing them to reopen. People have been anxious and afraid of COVID-19, and rightly so: it has killed close to 60,000 people since the end of February. At the same time, the social-distancing has meant that we don't get to spend time with each other...including in our churches...and for many that leads to a lot of heartache. We humans are social animals, and as we see in this reading from Acts, Christianity is a social religion.
But the way the anger has spilled over is not good, in my opinion. Gangs, and that's what I call them, of people have been storming state capitol buildings with automatic rifles slung across their bodies to protest the government orders to stay at home. They are being egged on by those who have seen their stock portfolios tanking during this pandemic (see, businesses forced to close cannot make money for the CEOs). These hooligans are attacking the health care workers and first responders and now even the grocery store workers who are wearing masks. In one video that was circulating on Twitter, a woman is screaming at another woman wearing a Mask that by covering her chin, mouth and nose,"you're frightening people!"
"....with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people..."
When I see masked workers, I see something completely different. They do not frighten me. In fact, they make me feel safer. When I see a store demanding that I, as a shopper, also wear a mask to cover my chin, mouth and nose, I am not offended. I am happy to take on that inconvenience because it tells me this business owner cares not only about the safety of their employees but also the safety of the other customers. The key to the passage from this Sunday's lesson from the Acts of the Apostles is that the apostles' hearts were glad and generous because they held all things in common....most especially the common good and the healing of all people. The whole reason we have had these stay-at-home orders, this social distancing, the wearing of masks is to starve COVID-19 of its ability to pass from one person to another and overwhelm our hospitals. This is about protecting the common wealth of all people against a deadly virus. The temple that we are being asked to spend time with is the temple of our own body, in our own home, and breaking bread with our own family. For those who are alone, this is a time of difficulty. And yet the phone (mobile and landline) still exists for everyone, even when there is no internet to allow for Skype, or Zoom, or Google hangouts, or FaceTime.
Wearing a mask, for me, is probably the most outward and visible sign of God's love that I can show another person. It is my signal to others that I care enough about the interconnectedness of humanity that I don't want to put you or anyone at risk of illness. In turn, I see your mask as extending that same love toward me.
"And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
Please: if we want to save the human race, please: wear a mask in public. Wash your hands. Stop screaming at our emergency and essential workers.