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  • The Rev. Charles Smith

Take off that ridiculous mask


Take off that ridiculous mask you are wearing.


These words of wisdom spoken by Supreme Leader Snoke of the latest Star Wars Trilogy, don’t judge me I liked the new movies, are of course really just stolen from Psalm 139. We each wear these ridiculous masks hoping that people we see us as we want to be seen. Not only do the masks look ridiculous but they are tearing us down as a people and as individuals.


Kylo Ren AKA Ben Solo is a classic example of putting on a ridiculous mask and trying to be something he was never meant to be and paying a terrible price for playing that dangerous game. Ben Solo puts on a black cloak and a ridiculous mask and becomes Kylo Ren, Dark Lord of the Sith and would be successor to Darth Vader, who oddly enough went through his own mask phase and paid a terrible price. He becomes obsessed with becoming THE Dark Lord of the Sith and works so hard at playing that part that it eats away at him. The personae Kylo Ren begins to destroy the man Ben Solo and the destruction spreads like a cancer to those around him.


Kylo/Ben is fracturing from the inside because he is fighting against who he was created to be. You

see it in his cracking light saber blade, the rough unfinished nature of his Sith robes, the deep cracks in his face and helmet, and the existential struggle with each successive act he must take to become Kylo Ren.


By trying so hard to be a Dark Lord of the Sith he fights against who he was always meant to be.

It costs him the lives of his father and mother and uncle. It costs him the great love of his life. Ultimately with great agony and the loss of his own life he recovers who he was always meant to be.

But for the rest of that story you will have to watch the films.


Each of us has a ridiculous mask that we wear from time to time. There is a public and sometimes even private personae we cultivate so that people see the mask we wear and not us. We do this to fit in and get along or even get ahead. We do this so that we can somehow become the person that we or society wants us to be instead of the person God created us to be. Sure that has been working so well in the past might as well keep it up.


We wear the right sorts of clothes and say the right sorts of things so that the right sorts of people will know that we are one of them. We even shift our use of language and mannerisms depending upon

with whom we are (see how proper I sounded there that's right I got my proper edumacation—I belong).


The easiest place to see this is with kids and teenagers. Growing up everyone I knew HAD to have

$150 Air Jordans. I HAD to have the Air Jordans too despite my very meager basketball skills. Note Air Jordans were not enough to get me or the basketball team. But we are grown ups now and don’t fall victim to advertising and peer pressure like that. I am my own man after all. You’re your own person too right?


Adults we do the same sorts of things we just do it in a more sophisticated way. It is not expensive sneakers that serve as our masks, though part of me still wants Air Jordans, but in an elaborate costume we build up around ourselves.


You can see it in how everyone goes to Starbucks and gets the same “custom” drink that everyone else is getting while driving the same cars and wearing the same clothes. You can see it in how a Volvo Xc something is the ideal Episcopal vehicle- it is nice, comfortable, and proclaims you here made it financially without risking being labeled as ostentatious. After all it is the environmentally responsible and safety focused decision. You can see it in the specialized language and code words that people use rendering whole conversations unintelligible to us outsiders.


More importantly, you see these ridiculous masks in the ways we imprison ourselves into our own echo chambers warring against the enemy locked away in their echo chamber prison. We chase wealth, social status, and fitting in with the right political tribe being part of the right political tribe (I won't presume to know which political tribe is the right one but I'm guessing you have a specific one in mind).

The more we try to hide behind the ridiculous masks we create from who God made us each to be the worse things will get. Last Wednesday and the attack on the capital is not the disease itself but a symptom of the's disease. The feeling that we increasingly live in two different countries with nothing in common is a symptom of this disease.


We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world and yet we are the most medicated country in the history of the world with some of the highest rates of loneliness, depression, and suicide. Even all of this is not the disease itself but a symptom of the disease.


It is the ridiculous masks that we keep insisting upon using to hide behind and to shield us from becoming who God has created us to be that is the disease. The more we struggle against God's desire of friendship and sainthood for us the worse we things get. You can see it in the cracks in society that allow people to fall through them and be forgotten. You see it in wealth and medication that we try to use to somehow keep the ridiculous cracked masks together.


Behold you are frightfully and wonderfully made. Jesus knew and loved you, not the masked up pseudo-self you allow everyone else to see but the authentic you. Jesus knew and loved you before there was a you. He knew and loved you before he knit you together in your mother's womb.


Jesus knows you and all the wonderful things about you. Jesus knows you and and all of the terrible things about you that the masks are meant to cover up and hide. Jesus knows you and loves you just as you are. As the psalmist reminds us Jesus knows us and judges us and loves us just as we are. Jesus knows what is behind the ridiculous masks we wear and he still loves us chooses us and loves us.


Jesus came BECAUSE he knows what is behind the mask and who and what you can be and not in spite of who you are. Even Jesus’ work as judge of everyone is a feature of his love of what is behind the mask. Jesus is not like lady justice blindfolded fairly judging you based on your deeds. Jesus lifts up the blindfold and cheats on your behalf by putting his thumb down on the scale for you. This is what it means for God to know and love you.


So TAKE OFF THAT RIDICULOUS MASK!


You are not fooling anyone and it is killing you. It is killing all of us.

Be bold and be who you are in all its weird glory.

Take off that ridiculous Mask and begin to embrace the person you are actually meant to be. Take off that ridiculous mask and begin to embrace other people for who they are behind their masks.

Take off that ridiculous mask and just start following Jesus unashamed of who you are and what you have done.


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