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Summary: We all wear masks, which puts us in danger of losing our real selves. Jesus shows us how to be real as He deals with threatening people, hostile people, and those whose hearts are full of pain. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church

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When you wear a mask – not a Halloween costume mask, but a personality mask, a way-of-being mask – when you wear a mask, you not only hide from others, but you also hide from yourself. You lose your real self. And that is a huge loss. It is crucial to get real with yourself.

The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar puts this out there for us, and suggests an answer that we are going to explore today.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes –

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

Dunbar spoke, of course, for a people who had been made to play roles. They were expected to act the fool, to grin and to mumble “Yassuh”, to play the parts assigned. African-Americans wore the mask to stay out of trouble. But when you wear the mask too long, you not only hide from others, you also hide from yourself. You lose your real self. And your only recourse when you lose your real self is to cry out to a great Christ that He might make you real again.

Do you wear a mask? I do. On Sundays I am up here as the smiling preacher man. But on Mondays at home I am the “gotta-get-the-chores-done” man, for the mask I wear for my wife is, “I can do it all.” Guess what? Neither mask is real.

Wearing masks starts when we are tiny children. Little girls slather on makeup, trying to be grown-up glamorous women, when in truth there could be nothing more beautiful than a little girl, just as God made her. If you want proof, let me show you pictures of my granddaughters! Little boys put on athletic shoes that just about swallow them up to the knees, so that they can look like Michael or Shaquille, when in truth there is nothing more appealing than a nine-year-old lean, mean, running machine. But we start wearing masks early. We are not real.

It goes on during the teenage years. Would you agree that teenagers are absolutely unreal? Typing on the computer while they talk on the phone while they watch a video while they eat a snack – that’s unreal. Those rooms, clothes hanging out of every drawer, posters festooning every wall, CD’s scattered across the floor, but they seem to know where everything is – that’s unreal. But teenagers wear masks too; have you explored Facebook or Myspace yet?

We wear the mask, all of us. We play the roles that people expect of us. And when we die, then they plump up our faces, put makeup on our cheeks, manicure our nails, and dress our hair, so that we look better than we ever did when we were alive, and everybody will say, “Doesn’t she look ... real?”

Oh, we have forgotten what it is to be real. When you wear the mask too long, you not only hide from others, you also hide from yourself. You lose your real self. And your only recourse when you lose your real self, as Paul Laurence Dunbar suggested, is to cry out to a great Christ that He might make you real again.

Getting real with your self ... let’s study how Jesus got real with Himself.

I

First, notice that Jesus was so real that He could be with threatening people and yet not be threatened. Jesus was so real that it didn’t matter if you had been told to stay in your place and get out of my face, He was comfortable with you, and more than that, He made you feel real.

Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper. Simon the what? The leper. Total outcast. The one nobody wants at their parties, nobody wants to sit next to. Lepers were completely excluded. In fact, if you had this terrible disease, you were supposed to live outside of town, and if you went out on the road for a walk, you were supposed to trudge along moaning, “unclean, unclean”, so that no one would brush against you. If you were a leper, you wore a mask – literally; something to keep the rest of us from seeing your face. You were not real. We didn’t want you to be real. And I would guess that if you were a leper, hiding behind a veil and groaning, “unclean”, you soon forgot who you really were. You were nothing more than a leper, that’s all.

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