In the ancient world, actors wore masks that clearly showed their emotions. The masks had big smiles or big frowns so that it was obvious to all what emotion the actor was feeling. Of course, that was just the emotion the actor was showing...we have no way of knowing what feeling the actor was really having behind the mask.
I spent some years in high school doing theater productions and I played parts from a jailer to a baseball player to a Mexican spy...but of course I am none of those things in real life, they were just parts I played.
Similarly, we often play a part in life. We pretend to be happy even though we are sad. We pretend to have it all together even though we are broken. We pretend to have a strong relationship with God even though we feel lost. We put on a mask and play a part.
Why? Why do we try to fool others? Why do we even try to fool ourselves and God? Maybe we think we will be judged or that others don't really care...but I want to be a part of a church where it’s safe to be real and vulnerable. I will work as the pastor to help foster that kind of atmosphere so that you can take off your mask and be the real you.
2 Corinthians 4:2 says "We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception."
Let's be real, let's not keep secrets (that tend to grow in the dark) but let's bring the truth of our hearts into the light of God (and the church) and love each other; no masks needed.
It was Christmas Eve and I was about 8 years old. My family had gone to church for the candlelight service and now we were home getting ready for bed before the big day of presents but we had a few things to do first. We put on our matching Christmas pajamas (a tradition my mom loved but I hated), poured a glass of milk and got some cookies for the big guy. The cookies went a special plate (the kind you might buy at Hallmark) that we used every year. My sister carried the milk and I carried the cookies to put them on the mantle for Santa; but I tripped and the cookies and the plate went flying. The plate broke into many pieces and so did my heart. I felt awful for breaking the special plate and was worried I had ruined my chances for gifts from Santa who I was sure would be disappointed in me. My parents wiped away my tears and sent me off to bed with assurances that Santa was an understanding guy.
The next morning I was surprised not only by gifts, but by the sigh of that plate carefully glued back together. Once fixed the plate was never quite the same with obvious cracks in it, but we used it anyway year after year and laughed about the memory.
A few years ago, once I had my own family, my parents gave me
that plate and we use it year after year too. I love that plate. I love it because I know that my father stayed up late on Christmas Eve and carefully put it back together piece by piece because he loved his son. Now I tell my sons the story and watch as they carefully carry it to our fireplace (they haven't dropped it yet). I like it more because it was broken.
God, our Heavenly Father, seems to like to fix broken things. He says in Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I am making all things new!"
God can take us, broken as we might be, and make us beautiful again...and actually by his fixing we are more beautiful than ever before! Hallelujah, God loves us and through his love he is ready with the glue!
Have you seen the movies "Finding Nemo" or the more recent "Finding Dory" movies? If you have, you likely remember the little song that Dory (a fish with short term memory loss) uses to remind herself not to give up when things get hard, she repeats over and over again "just keep swimming."
Sometimes life is hard. Over the past few weeks I have heard story after story about church members and friends who are going through hard stuff. Some have diseases that aren't getting better, at least not quickly. Some have lost loved ones. Some are going through financial trouble. Some are lonely or feel like they aren't good enough because of mistakes they've made...but no matter the reason, it is tempting to give up.
I encourage you to think of Dory and her words to "just keep swimming" or even better to reflect on the words of scripture that share a similar idea. Galatians 6:9 says "let us not become weary of doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." or Psalm 37:24 that says "though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand."
So don't give up, God's got you.
Pastor Scott McDermid
One of my favorite people in the Bible is a guy named Joseph (not the one with the fancy coat or the one who raised Jesus) but nobody calls him that. Joseph was his given name, but his nickname throughout history is Barbabas (which means "son of encouragement").
Encouragement means the act of giving someone hope, support or confidence. It literally means to "give courage." So if you are scared, worried, anxious or nervous, a word of encouragement would help you find your strength
Barbabas must have been so encouraging that they decided to go ahead and make it his name and that's exactly what we see in his life through the book of acts, like in this scripture. "He traveled through the area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people" Acts 20:2.
I want to be that kind of person, who makes the others around me better through my words and actions. I want to give people courage so that when I am done talking to them they have more hope, faith or confidence...and not in me or even in themselves; but in God.
Let's reflect on the words of Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Let's encourage one another so that we are stronger individually and together.
Pastor Scott McDermid