Face to face
Psalm 22: 24 (NRSVA)
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
Early in the first lockdown, we witnessed the viral spread online of screens filled with singing faces, sending their prayer across the internet that God would bless and keep us all, give peace and shine his face on us. They sang the Aaronic blessing. From origin in the UK, it spread across the world as people from different cultures with different languages added their versions, from Pacific islands to Brazil, sometimes India, sometimes Africa, everywhere, a prayer for national and global blessing. Particularly moving is the Makaton version where children, parents and caring people who use this kind of sign language to help communication have added their visual signed expression of the blessing. Thousands of faces framed on screen.
Yet how we hunger to see the tiny wrinkles round someone’s eyes, the texture of their skin against light, the flash of a smile, an irregular tooth maybe, a head tilted in laughter. We interpret each other’s faces intimately, beyond what screens can offer. Masks have hidden half our faces for half the time.
The psalmist affirms that the face of God has never been hidden from us and that throughout he has listened to our cry for help. The psalm acknowledges the deep pain of life in the initial starting cry of dereliction, uttered by Jesus as he searched for God the Father from the agonies of the cross. His cry identifies with the many who have wondered where God is in this pandemic, in all the pain that Covid has brought, for the many who have been uncertain that God has seen or heard. But the promise holds fast, as the Message puts it:
“He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening."
The Aaronic blessing is often sung at baptism:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
Pause and pray today. Remember how you have been blessed and kept in these times, shown grace, given peace.
May we know that God’s face is always lifted towards us and shines for love of us, unmasked.
Lent Legacy 2021 Action
Take part in an online communion service at some point during Lent.