Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

Everyone is wearing masks these days! The truth is, most of us have been wearing masks for a very long time. Masks hide emotions, masks hide facial expressions, masks hide the truth, masks keep us from being found out. Some religious people hide behind a mask of self-righteousness. Everything appears to be fine in their lives; their faith is strong, their courage never falters, their marriages are solid. It is not true of course, religious people have the same problems, fears, and frailties as the rest of humanity. It gets lonely hiding behind that mask, hoping that no one finds out the truth.

Wearing a mask in the midst of a pandemic is prudent; the mask provides some comfort or a sense of security. But in non-pandemic seasons a mask tends to hide or distort reality. The mask enslaves its owner, offering tenuous protection from the wagging tongues that would disapprove of the hidden truth. What forces people to cover their faces and isolate their lives behind a mask? The fear of being judged, scorned, or rejected. The church has historically done a great job of excommunicating or excluding those who do not fit its narrowly defined understanding of righteousness. If one wanted to be a part of a church community, they needed to conform their behavior or hide the truth behind a mask.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Do we believe that? Could we handle the truth? Set free; what would it take for us to be set free and to offer freedom to those who are hiding out hoping not to be found out? God never asks us to judge or exclude or protect the church, or protect Jesus, from the company of sinners. On the contrary, we are warned repeatedly not to judge “lest we be judged.”

Let’s take off the masks. It is not our job to understand, approve, or rationalize the behavior; we are just called to love. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. How can we really love our neighbor if we don’t know our neighbor? How can we know our neighbor if we force them to hide their true selves and their life stories behind a mask?

Let’s take off the masks. It might sound like this:
I am gay. That’s OK. I love you!
I am divorced. No judgement here. I love you!
I was sexually abused. I am sorry. I love you!
I am a vegan. That’s OK. I love you!
I am a San Francisco 49er fan. That’s OK. I love you!
I am filled with anxiety. You are not alone. I love you!
I have an eating disorder. I am sorry, can I help? I love you!
I am voting for Trump. That’s OK. I love you!
I am voting for Biden. That’s OK. I love you!
I am voting for Lindus for dogcatcher. I love you anyway!
I believe the world is flat. Please stay away from the edge. I love you!
I am recovering from addiction. I want to help. I love you!
I am struggling with addiction. I can be your friend. I love you!
I am not sure that I believe in God. Doubt is not a sign of weakness at our church. I love you!
I am ashamed of my past. Jesus is the master of new beginnings. I love you!

Is it safe to take off the masks that keep us closeted, afraid and lonely? I hope so and I would like to think so. It is a goal worth striving for. The truth will set us free. God never called us to judge the journey or opinions of our neighbor, just to love them. You don’t have to like them or understand them, just love them.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim