off our Masks
A sermon on Ephesians 4:25-52 by Sylvia Sandeman, 9 August 2009
Those of you who look at the previous sermons that go with the Lectionary readings will know that the last time that Nathan preached on this Sunday, on this text, was in August 13th 2000. He called the sermon –“Putting your life where your mouth is”
That Sunday was the first anniversary of the churches change to the evening worship service and its new liturgical form. So this makes this Sunday the tenth anniversary of that change.
Nathan reflected at that time “One year down the track, I don’t hear many voices calling for us to go back. Our worship life seems to me to have matured and deepened. We have grown into the approach we adopted and it has increasingly become part of us. The patterns and prayers have begun to sink deep roots into us and take on a life of their own within the secret places of our hearts”
I suspect that if Nathan was to reflect on the last ten years he would write similar words today but hopefully he would also indicate that we are continuing to grow into this life.
Some of us have experienced a number of changes and movements over the years in the life of SY church. In recent times, we have seen the evolving of our music and singing under Jenny’s leadership and talents. Then thanks to Alison’s vision, the involvement of the children in the whole of the liturgy, is beginning to emerge and with Sam’s creativity we have seen a more inclusive expression of prayer in the prayers of the people. A few Sundays ago I watched Livie at some time in the service go and write something on a piece of paper and pin it on the back curtain. She may not have done it just as an adult would but she knew what she was doing I think. The coming of Margie, Simon and Michael to the community has brought the inclusion of people speaking in their heart language into the liturgy.
10 years ago this church took the bold step to have a liturgical worship style – which we know is very foreign in Baptist circles and amazingly thunder bolts did not fall on our heads. Now we are seeking to experiment in a new style of congregational life and leadership. Last Sunday Nathan focused our attention, through the Lectionary reading in Ephesians, on “Growing up”- taking more interest in and responsibility for our common life which was very appropriate for that day with the first meeting of the host group.
Recently Daniel turned 13 and he and the men of the church were together for a weekend – seeking to show Daniel what it means to
Grow into a man
Grow up into a man of God.
One of the things about growing up is that we begin to take more responsibility and to use the gifts that God has given us.
This week’s Lectionary reading moves on from last week with another instruction. We are called to
Give up all pretence
To come out from behind our masks
To get fair dinkum with one another
Not a simple thing but if we are to grow in Christ then this must be done.
Also as we are now identified as Gods people with the Holy Spirits mark upon us – we are called also to give up a number to things such as resentment, vindictiveness and mudslinging and to become known for our big heartiness, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. So that, what we say in our liturgy, becomes expressed in our congregational live and work a day worlds – or as Nathan called his sermon on this text, we “Put your life where your mouth is”
However, for me, when I first read this reading the words that stood out were “Come out from behind your mask” This brought to my mind a film I had seen many years ago – it was a Swedish film – I don’t know what its name was but it showed the gospel and parables in modern pictures and as it was silent it took a while to work out what was happening. The part that I really remember was the wandering vagabond, who was really portraying Jesus, in one of the scenes found a women sitting alone by a large Fountain in a city – he came to her, look at her and then put a large handkerchief into the fountain water and wiped the “caked on” makeup off her face to reveal the person beneath – I think it was based on the Samaritan women at the well. However this deeply affected me, and I remember crying as I drove home – longing that my mask could be removed.
But in a similar situation which occurred at a church camp when we did a Christian Myers Briggs – When I read the section that related to me, I could not believe it – there in print where all the things that I had behind my mask – and I remember saying to a friend “I have spent all my live keeping these things hidden and here they are in print for all to read.” So do I want my mask on or off??
We use masks to hide our venerable and broken selves.
To give us the courage to say and /or do things we do not think we could do – many actors will speak of how they play roles to hide their true selves. The mask we wear, we think, will make us more acceptable, more loveable, more whatever and often we feel that without it people will not like who we are.
But Paul says “Give up all pretence, come out from behind your mask and get fair dinkum”
So I wondered - what are the masks that I have brought to you at SY that God is asking me to trust you to see behind. I am not sure that I can yet give them a name but I think there are things I should let you know particularly in the light of the new congregational model.
As we gathered last Sunday as a host group there were a number of masks that were lifted – even if it was only for a moment.
As someone who has put myself in that group, there are some things that I think all the church should know about me.
How I came to SY in the first place
How I came to be in the host group
How I came to SY
Most of you know that I am a member at Rosanna Baptist Church and have been for 30 years. For many years I was involved with the Sunday School which was during church – so probably for 85% of the year at least I would not be in church. One day an Ad for an Ancient Worship Workshop was on the Rosanna Church Notice Board. It caught my attention and so I came. Later I found that this was the first one that had been held. My journal records of that event “For ages I have said ‘I don’t worship at Rosanna, I work’ It was a shouting against God. Today it seems as if God said ‘Be not weary in well doing – you could worship here. I am the same wherever you worship’ ” And so my journey with SY began. There is much I could tell but enough to say that this journey is and has changed me.
For 5 years I tried to leave Rosanna – but it just was not possible – so I gave that up – leaving it with God – that He would call me out in His time. So even though every year I covenant here, it is not a public one and in some ways I am truly a member of 2 churches.
This being so how did I come to be in the host group?
Good question. When Sam first spoke of the host group – I thought that I would be a “Bring a plate” person but as I reflected on this I found that I was retreating from where I felt I was – This was obviously not where I was currently or in fact where I wanted to be? - I could feel the withdrawal within – so then I did the Reflection Exercise again seriously recording all answers. At Wednesday group I said to Jan – “I think I am in the host group” - as soon as I did this I felt a surge of energy and life. But next day I thought “Who do you think you are? In the host group and you not even a member? They (that’s you lot) would think it was just not right.” However I decided that God may be calling me to this. He has already called me to take a year’s long service leave so why not to this. I also decided that I would put the case to the group – whoever they were, trusting them to discern the way ahead and if they felt that it was right or not right for me to walk with them - it would be up to them to say.
Perhaps these are not true masks – but I feel that most of you have searched your hearts in recent days, removed your mask for a moment because it has been necessary for us to hear you – to hear what you have hid from us and maybe even from yourself till you were called to search the hidden places of your heart. I believed some of you feared that you would be judged if you spoke how it was for you and perhaps have not. And some felt exposed and naked in doing so.
But the call is to be “Fair Dinkum” with each other, to be open and trust who we are to this community and I of all people know that such an act is never simple or easy.
Also the labels of “Host,” “Bring a Plate” and “Guest” are in fact just that – labels. They may assist us to move forward. But in the long run they will not define who we are at SY
The true value of our shared worship and community life, the true value, is the practical out workings in the whole of our lives that we may be big hearted, compassionate, accepting and forgiving, modelling our lives on Christ – living a life of love.