That’s what we exploring at our next evening worship experiment this Sunday, March 4 at 5:00pm. Hope you’ll join us!
First, a short video to get us thinking:
What do you think of that?
Do you sometimes (always?!?) hide your true self?
What masks do you wear?
How does being in church affect those masks?
It seems to me we tend to hide our truest selves in church. That shouldn’t be so, church should be the one place we are most free and able to be real. Church should be a place where it’s ok not to be ok. What barriers keep that from being the case? What do we fear that keeps that from happening? How do we break down those barriers to honesty?
Consider some scripture: Gospel of John: Chapter 21. Yes, I know this is kind of a lot to read. But it is such a fascinating, weird, funny, challenging story. And I see a whole lot of unmasking going on. This is from the version called The Voice.
1There was one other time when Jesus appeared to the disciples—this time by the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (the Twin), Nathanael (the Galilean from Cana), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.
Simon Peter (to disciples): 3I am going fishing.
Disciples: Then we will come with you.
They went out in the boat and caught nothing through the night. 4As day was breaking, Jesus was standing on the beach; but they did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus: 5My sons, you haven’t caught any fish, have you?
Jesus: 6Throw your net on the starboard side of the boat, and your net will find the fish.
They did what He said, and suddenly they could not lift their net because of the massive weight of the fish that filled it. 7The disciple loved by Jesus turned to Peter and said:
Beloved Disciple: It is the Lord.
Immediately, when Simon Peter heard these words, he threw on his shirt (which he would take off while he was working) and dove into the sea. 8The rest of the disciples followed him, bringing in the boat and dragging in their net full of fish. They were close to the shore, fishing only about 100 yards out. 9When they arrived on shore, they saw a charcoal fire laid with fish on the grill. He had bread too.
Jesus (to disciples): 10Bring some of the fish you just caught.
11Simon Peter went back to the boat to unload the fish from the net. He pulled 153 large fish from the net. Despite the number of the fish, the net held without a tear.
Jesus: 12Come, and join Me for breakfast.
Not one of the disciples dared to ask, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus took the bread and gave it to each of them, and then He did the same with the fish. 14This was the third time the disciples had seen Jesus since His death and resurrection. 15They finished eating breakfast.
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these other things?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.
Jesus: Take care of My lambs.
16Jesus asked him a second time . . .
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Simon Peter: Yes, Lord. You must surely know that I love You.
Jesus: Shepherd My sheep.
17(for the third time) Simon, son of John, do you love Me?
Peter was hurt because He asked him the same question a third time, “Do you love Me?”
Simon Peter: Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.
Jesus: Look after My sheep. 18I tell you the truth: when you were younger, you would pick up and go wherever you pleased; but when you grow old, someone else will help you and take you places you do not want to go.
19Jesus said all this as an indicator of the nature of Peter’s death, which would glorify God. After this conversation, Jesus said,
Jesus: Follow Me!
The story begins with the disciples oddly unmasked. They’ve apparently seen Resurrected Jesus twice now, yet as this story begins they are still dejected, despondent, depressed. Maybe they still don’t believe Jesus is really alive. Maybe they just miss Jesus so much that they don’t know what to do.
Whatever the reason, in this state they return to what they know: fishing.
But out on the lake, these professional fishermen can’t catch a thing. Maybe their hearts aren’t in it, maybe they’re just going through the motions as they wade through their emotions.
Then Jesus appears acting in ways we’ve come to expect from him. The disciples have witnessed Jesus like this before: telling them where to fish and being right. Hosting a meal. Breaking bread and sharing it. Being mysterious. (“No one dared to ask, ‘who are you?’ b/c they knew it was Jesus” ??? What is that?! So strange.) You know, just Jesus being Jesus.
Then comes the big reveal. The climactic unmasking of Peter. Jesus strips away all pretense that everybody is ok by asking three times if
Peter Simon loves him.
What might it mean that Jesus calls him Simon here rather than Peter? After all, Jesus is the one who gave him the name ‘Peter.’ Why would Jesus deliberately not use ‘Peter’ here?
Perhaps because Jesus knew Simon needed to remove his Peter mask – the mask that allowed him to pretend – to himself and the other disciples – that he was still the leader. The mask that allowed him to pretend he’d never betrayed Jesus. Once Simon was able to remove that mask, once he was able to face Jesus and affirm him three times, then he could truly become Peter again. (I was going to write “look Jesus in the eyes”, but I suspect he wasn’t really able to do that. Maybe by the third time. But even then, only with tears clouding his vision.)
Now, what about us? What masks do you wear?
How might we be the church in such a way that would allow us to remove those masks?
How might we be the church in such a way that would go beyond ‘allowing’ and actually encourage us to remove those masks?
How might we be the church in such a way that would move beyond both ‘allowing’ and ‘encouraging’ and actually make removing our masks the only logical, reasonable, faithful way to be together?
Perhaps put differently (and paraphrasing Peter Rollins), how might we be the church in such a way that “acknowledges our brokenness, frailty, and heresy,” rather than seeing our brokenness, frailty and heresy as something to reject, mourn over, or attempt to overcome?