“Masks of God—A Lenten Challenge”

Did you ever have one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (like Alexander in the children’s book by Judith Viorst)—the kind of day that grows steadily worse with each passing minute?  I had one Monday.

It began with my computer getting hacked.  Then, I rolled into the gas station, my car on fumes, and realized I didn’t have my wallet. When I got home I discovered some overdue bills.  Then I took my dog for a walk and tripped on a stick (Ugh!)  I won’t bore you with the rest, but Monday couldn’t end fast enough for me.  And lent is only beginning.

These 40 days are not known to be easy.  They are marked by practices like fasting and repentance to help us remember Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Sometimes, we even brace ourselves for the humbling experiences of lent.

But, God showed me something this morning that you might find useful this Lenten season  He had been with me that whole terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but he was hidden behind a mask.

  • The clerk at the gas station was wearing a mask when she paid for my extra gas (I only had $2.18 in pennies, dimes, and quarters).
  • My tax accountant, Nick, was wearing a mask when he took extra time to help me with an unrelated question.
  • Mr. Witte was wearing a mask when he said “No problem, Pastor, I can help choose chapel songs.”
  • My wife was wearing a mask when she woke me with a kind word after my terrible day.

God was hidden in those people as they were doing their jobs or carrying out their vocations.  Martin Luther calls those masks of God.  On the surface we see an ordinary face—our mother, the doctor, our teacher, the waitress, the gas station attendant—but underneath, God is caring for us.

What if, as we journey with Jesus through lent, we reflect at the end of each day, “Where was God present to me today?  Who wore his face to me today?”  And what if we were conscious that God is also hidden in us through our vocation, whether we’re parent, teacher, mechanic, clerk, student or retiree?

That’s my Lenten challenge this year.  Gene Veith puts it this way: “During the Reformation Luther denied that those who sought to base salvation on good works—allegedly ‘serving God’ through their ceremonies, fasts…and mortifications of the flesh–were actually doing good works at all.  ‘Who are you helping?’ he would ask.  A work that is truly good has to be of actual benefit to one’s neighbor.” (Gene Edward Veith, The Lutheran Witness, August 2001).

I found God wears many different masks.  They look a lot like you and me.


For the Word of God is active and alive.

The Book of Hebrews, Chapter 4, Verse 12