Who was that masked man (or woman)?

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“Who was that masked man?” I was not a big fan of the Lone Ranger television show as a kid. I remember watching some episodes with my older brother, who was. I also recall hearing at the end of some of them the question asked by someone the Lone Ranger had just helped, “Who was that masked man?”

This all came to mind the other day as I was out doing our weekly grocery shopping. Among the many shoppers, the vast majority of whom were wearing masks, a familiar, if partial face approached me. We each tentatively spoke the other’s name and to our mutual joy, got it right. This person is a member of one of the churches Betsy and I regularly minister at. With most of the State of New York on shutdown, we hadn’t seen each other in nearly two months.

We exchanged pleasantries and inquired as to loved ones health and well-being, then went of our respective shopping chores. I had another encounter like this a little later as I approached the checkout line. This one played out exactly like the first because our identities were somewhat hidden behind the masks we wore.

As I contemplated the changes this entire Covid-19 experience has brought about, I got to thinking about masks. I think it safe to say we have all worn them, even before the pandemic. With varying amounts of guardedness we don masks to hide true feelings, for many reasons. Some of these are for our own protection or possibly the protection of others. I am not using my blog to chide anyone about this.

But I will comment about the wearing of masks for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, with myself at the top of the list. To be clear, I totally support the wearing of PPE and following the recommendations for sanitizing surfaces and physical distancing in an effort to prevent the spread of this virus.

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The masks on my mind today are the hidden ones, or at the least the ones that hide our true identity. A devoted follower of the Lord Jesus is to be growing in His likeness day by day. No mask should hide this progress. Yet, speaking for myself, I must admit that I do put on various masks that obscure the living God within me.

One of the many of these is: the mask of indifference. Wearing this one prevents me from being able to empathize with the hurting world and worse yet, can keep me from trying to help.

Another ugly mask I slip on from time to time is one of self-satisfaction. This mask keeps me satisfied in my little world, not wanting anything or anyone to change the status quo I have worked so hard to establish. This mask can easily be turned inside out to be worn as a mask of judgment. Behind this covering I can easily judge folks as being unworthy of my time or stuff. An ugly mask indeed.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Much as the protective mask prevalent today hides much of our face, so these less obvious ones often hide our true heart and intentions. Wearing these less visible masks is in no way proper for the disciple of Christ.

This brings me back to the words Jesus shared with His original group of followers on the night He was betrayed:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

It is clear that in order to follow this command of the Lord (a command, not a suggestion), we must be rid of the hidden types of masks I mentioned above. How you and I demonstrate this love of others will vary with each of us. But one thing will be clear, our motivation will be to love others as the Lord has loved us.

Though the PPE mask I wear today will still partially obscure who I am to the folks I meet, God’s loving heart ought to shine through in all other ways. This makes my goal not to be acknowledged as the answer to the question, “Who was that masked man,” but rather that our all-loving God is revealed in my words and actions.

Blessings to you all and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

 

Watergate and Jesus Gate: Two Cover-ups that Did Not Work

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It has been said that if we don’t remember the lessons of the past, we are likely to make similar mistakes in the future. History has proved this time and time again with regard to the attempts of people in power attempting to cover-up actions they had taken, or at least had condoned. People my age grew up in a time when this truism was the hot button topic: The Watergate Cover-up.

For the many who are younger than me or perhaps those living in other parts of our world, here is my brief synopsis: In 1972, then President Richard M. Nixon was caught up in a scandal that would eventually lead to his resignation from this land’s highest office. He, or at the very least some in his administration that were very close to him, ordered a break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the Watergate Office building for the purpose of obtaining intel on his political opponents.

The actual perpetrators acted more like a slap-stick comedy team than actual burglars. Their ill-advised and planned break-in was quickly discovered, which started the ball rolling on the plan to cover up any Whitehouse involvement in it.

I’ll spare you the sordid details, suffice to say that the many and varied attempts to cover up or suppress truth ultimately failed. The depth of the president’s involvement was revealed, which led to his resignation in August of 1974. Though Nixon was later pardoned by his replacement Gerald Ford, over 60 of his staff were convicted and sentenced to prison time. The cover-up had failed completely.

Another government sponsored cover-up that did not work happened about 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Matthew’s gospel, written approximately 30 years after the events mentioned here, describes it this way:

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble. Matthew 28:11-14 NIV.

Hush money didn’t work then, much the same as it failed to hide the events at the Watergate building in 1972. The Roman guards received a “large sum” of money to keep quiet about what really happened as Jesus was resurrected, but the evidence was too overwhelming in support of the truth: He was risen from the dead!

Human history is pock-marked with countless attempts to conceal true events. I am not so naïve to believe that some of them haven’t been somewhat successful. But I count myself blessed to know the truth about that first Easter! No cover-up could prevent the news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His victory over death frees me and all who would believe in Him from its clutches. Why would anyone want to cover that up?

Thanks for reading and be safe,

Pastor Chuck