Pastor’s Friday Comments (05.07.21)

This past Sunday, in keeping with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, those of us who chose took our masks off for worship. And, as I’ve said to young ministers on other occasions, if you can’t find a metaphor for preaching in that, I can’t help you.

All of us wore “masks” of one kind or another long before they were recommended as a way of mitigating risk during the pandemic. It is rare for us to show our true selves to anyone. We seldom share our true feelings, except with those with whom we are closest. We keep our deepest, darkest secret thoughts buried inside, hoping no one will guess the “real” us. We maintain a facade of dignity and respectability, even though our natural inclinations are in the direction of selfishness and sinfulness. We all do it and, frankly, if we didn’t I’m not sure we could stand one another.

But – and you know where I’m going with this – God sees behind the mask. Nothing is hidden; nothing escapes God’s notice. That does not keep us from pretending that God doesn’t see our darker side, of course, but in our moments of honesty we know that all is revealed.

Which is why taking off our masks at church is such a great metaphor for what worship is all about. We are coming before God as we truly are. Coming to worship is entering a safe place where we can confess our sins and admit the soul-wearying work we have been doing of trying to keep up pretenses.

We’re safe at worship because, when we admit who we truly are, we are truly forgiven. In The Beginning order of worship each week, as is true with many liturgies, there is a time for confession of sin. It is intended to be more than just a time to say, “Lord, forgive me for whatever I have done.” It is a time for the Holy Spirit to reveal the many and varied ways that we have strayed away from the path that God has laid out for us. But once we have been given time to make those confessions, there is always an assurance of pardon, an explicit statement that reminds us that, no matter what we have done, no matter how many ways we have failed God, confessed sins are forgiven and forgotten. 

There are still plenty of places, especially indoors, where we need to keep on our literal protective masks to lower the risk of infection. And I suppose there will still be plenty of places where we keep our mask of respectability on in front of other people. But coming to worship – and any time we come before God – the masks come off. We are seen as we truly are, forgiven of whatever we are willing to confess, and restored to the relationship of love that God desires with all the children. Remember that on Sunday when I invite you to take off your mask.