Just because I’m in the mood to pick a fight this morning I’m going to start this morning’s message by talking about politics. There’s been a lot in the news lately about the different candidates running for President. I’m not going to tell you which candidate I like. Truth be told, it would be easier to tell y’all about the candidates I don’t like. But I’m not gonna do that either. Instead I am going to tell y’all about something I am tired of hearing and seeing. I am tired of political candidates being so eager to show me the side of themselves they think I want to see. I am tired of listening to candidates and thinking, “Gee Whiz! Those folks will say or do just about anything to get my vote. They will say and do just about anything to keep me from voting for someone else.” I swear sometimes I wish they’d just come clean about how they really feel and who they really are. I’d like to know if Donald Trump really likes to comb his hair over like that. I wonder if Hillary Clinton is one of those overbearing Mom’s whose desperate to become a grandmother. Do any of y’all ever think, “Gee. I wish they’d just come clean and tell us who they really are, and what really matters to them?” Sometimes I feel like I’m watching that seven headed dragon from Revelation 12 because when it comes to politicians we never know what face we are going to see, and we never know which head is the real person. Now let me ask y’all two questions. Do you think people ever feel that way about Christians? Yes. Do you think people ever feel that way about the people in this church? (pause for answers)
In this morning’s passage Paul has just finished talking about the need to take off the false self and to live into the true self. The false self is a mask we show to the world. We show the fake self so others can’t see when we are sad, or hurting, or angry. We show the fake self when we are cherishing a specific sin in our lives. Paul lists sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col 3:5). Paul also lists anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk (Col 3:8). (pause) Paul lists a lot of stuff to hide under just one mask. I wonder if that’s the reason the dragon from Revelation 12 has seven heads. That way there is room to spread the evil around. However, it makes me wonder how much evil we are trying to hide behind masks? Are we any better when it comes to trying to hide our sins, and even who we really are behind the different masks which seem so suitable to the people we are trying to fool? What would it look like if we were bona fide?
To be bona fide means to be straight forward, and honest – genuine and true. What would it look like to open the gates of our white washed tombs, and to air out the mess inside (Matt 23:27)? Did you know there are some germs and bacteria which die as soon as they are exposed to sunlight? Do you know why people get “Spring fever”? Spring fever is a direct response to the uptick in Vitamin D brought on by spring sunshine and warmth. How much better might we feel if we quit having to exert so much effort to hide our sins from others? What would it look like to allow the Son to come into the tomb of our hearts? How much more abundant might life be if we didn’t feel like we always have to wear the mask? Couldn’t life be more abundant if we lived our lives as our genuine selves – warts and all, no matter where we happen to be standing, or sitting, or eating? Could this be part of what Christ meant when Jesus said he came to give us life and that more abundant? (pause) I think it could.
Now, once the false self is gone, what will take it’s place? Too often we trade one mask for another. Paul would have us do something different. Paul would have us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other. The trouble is saying these things and doing these things can be totally different. Yeah. Sure I can be humble – so long as I know being humble makes me better than you. I can be patient too; just so long as I know it’s going to give me time to get even. Oh! I have to forgive too? Well okay. I’ll say I forgive, but I will never forget what they did. (pause) Let’s have a yes or no, church. Do you see how easy it is to trade one mask for another? Yes. Can you see how easy it is to hold on to the broken pieces of our sinful past? Yes. Some have been holding on to this stuff for years. Does the stuff of our past make our lives any better today? No. Was our life more abundant? No. Please, let’s have one or two words to describe the way these thoughts made you feel? (bad, miserable, sad etc.)
So then what would it look like to truly take off the mask – to be our genuine selves? What does it mean for a Christian to be truly bona fide? I think we have to start by being ourselves. By being ourselves I mean that person we see in mirror when we first get out of bed. You know the way we look when our hair is a mess and sticking out in odd directions. The person we see whose eyes are still half shut with the crust in the corners. It’s the start of allergy season so maybe we were mouth breathing all night and have dry, cracked lips. You may think that person in the mirror is ugly, but we all need to hear this important truth. The person we see in the mirror is a child of the one true King. That person in the mirror is a child of God, and God loves them – warts and all. God loves us when we don’t love ourselves. God can see all of that junk in our lives; the hair sticking out, the unwillingness to forgive, and the fear of being seen as we really are, – and God loves us anyway. God loves the person in the mirror. So I’m gonna give y’all a little break. I’m going to tell you the truth. (pause) If God loves that person in the mirror, then it’s okay for us to love that person in the mirror too. Amen? Amen! If God loves that person in the mirror, then it’s okay for you to love that person in the mirror too. Amen?! Amen!! Amen?!! Amen!!! God loves us right where we are. But; God wants more for us than STAYING where we are. God wants a deeper, fuller life for us than living behind a shallow mask. Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Abundant life has been offered to us. What are we doing to grasp it?
Y’all probably know I like comics and cartoons. I saw a great comic this week. It had two panels. In the first panel the preacher shouts, “Who wants change?!” Everybody’s hand is raised, and there is a smile on every face. In the second panel the preacher asks, “Who wants to change?!” Everybody’s hand is down and every face looks scared. (pause for a laugh or chuckle) Is that who we are? Are we a people who want change – who want new people in church; who want children in our church; who want to see our church live and thrive again? Are we the people who want change but are unwilling to be changed by God? Huh? Are we willing to be changed by God with the hope of seeing change in our church and in our community? Or are we so afraid of change we are willing to let our community suffer from poverty and addiction and injustice? Are we willing to let children with poor home situations continue going through life without the first clue God loves them? Are we so afraid of change in ourselves we are willing to let our community; our town; and our church go straight down the tubes?
If we can learn to love God and to love ourselves then shouldn’t we also love the people in the places where we live? Love, is the key. Love makes it possible to be compassionate, to be kind; to forgive. Love makes it possible for the peace of Christ to be in our hearts. If we are truly seeking change then we must foster the change we seek in our hearts. We must foster love. We must let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly means we cannot just memorize verses. To let Christ dwell richly in us is to allow the Word of God to change us, and to change the way we look at our neighbors, and people on the street. The good news is we are not expected to do this alone. We are to lean on one another. We are to get together with people from the church and trust one another. What would it look like for our church to be composed of smaller groups of people who come together to challenge one another and hold one another accountable? Let’s face it, we can’t do this alone. If we are really serious about seeing a substantial change in our church and in our community then we need to be serious about letting God make a substantial change in us. After all, that is what it means to be a bona fide Christian. It means being honest with where we are, and being willing to let God change us into who, and what God made us to be.
In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.