Summary: Lenten series based on Mark 14 and Jesus’ encounters: Jesus was so comfortable with Himself that He could encounter threatening people without being threatened; could correct hostile people without being destructive; and could receive the heart of a tortu
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!
Paul Laurence Dunbar spoke for generations who had been
made to play roles. They were expected to act like fools, to
grin and lie, to mumble “Yassuh”, to play the parts assigned
by racist America. They 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 begin to
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.
We are not real. We are not real, we are imitations, we are
phonies, we are mere shadows of what God intended us to
be. We take on roles, we play parts, we wear masks, we are
It starts when we are tiny children. Little girls slather on
makeup, trying to look like 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 Jordan or Shaquille
O’Neal, 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. Teenagers are
absolutely unreal. Hey, don’t get on my case! I heard it from
your parents! They said you guys were unreal! That your
study habits, typing on the computer while you are talking on
the phone while you are watching a video while you are
eating a snack – that’s unreal. That your room, clothes
hanging out of every drawer, posters festooning every wall,
CD’s scattered across the floor, but you seem to know where
everything is – they said that’s unreal. I heard it from your
folks. You are unreal.
We wear the mask, all of us. We play the roles that people
expect of us. I’m the pastor, and so I am supposed to smile
soothingly and serve up sweet slumbering sermons to satisfy
your shattered soul. If I do that long enough, I forget who I
really am. You are the parishioners, and you are supposed
to pray, pay, plant yourselves in the pews, and applaud what
the pastor says. And if you do that long enough, let me tell
you, you will forget who you really are. We wear the masks.
We are not real.
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 more alive than we did when we were alive, and
everybody will say, “Doesn’t she look ... real?” 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 begin to 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.
Jesus had real encounters with people. Jesus was so real
Himself, He made those others real. They may have started
out playing roles and wearing masks, but Jesus made them
For example, Jesus was so real that He could be with people
who were playing very negative roles, and not be threatened.
Jesus was so real that it didn’t matter if you were the lowest
of the low and 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 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 in their living room, nobody wants to
sit next to at church. Lepers were totally disgusting. 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,