What is the best secret you have ever kept? Was it yours, or someone else’s? Secrets are generally kept for two purposes…either to protect someone or something, or to orchestrate a surprise. Everybody enjoys a good mystery, especially when they can guess the ending.
I think that we have lost our sense of mystery. Nothing surprises us anymore. Movies are so formulaic that we can predict the outcome in the first five minutes. (Only two minutes for a Hallmark movie.) Television is worse. Politics, national affairs, the economy, even pandemics all follow patterns and processes that are predictable to a degree. Think I’m wrong? Study the Spanish Flu of 1918. Even the recent pandemic was predicted.
The secret that Paul refers to in today’s reading is a mystery that shook up the world. It was held in secret by the prophets for a time, and then revealed in due course in order to surprise the world. This announcement gives us strength for our future and becomes the source of our hope. God’s might is delivered with this good news to all who will hear.
Romans 16:25-27 (Common English Bible)
25 May the glory be to God who can strengthen you with my good news and the message that I preach about Jesus Christ. He can strengthen you with the announcement of the secret that was kept quiet for a long time.
26 Now that secret is revealed through what the prophets wrote. It is made known to the Gentiles in order to lead to their faithful obedience based on the command of the eternal God.
27 May the glory be to God, who alone is wise! May the glory be to him through Jesus Christ forever! Amen.
It was always assumed that the Gentiles would never have any part in what the Jews held as their own. A messiah was promised to come and redeem Israel. But there was a secret component to that…he would also redeem the rest of the world. Surprise!
The mystery of Jesus is that he came to lead his people, not in war against their oppressors so that he could establish his own kingdom, but into peace. The surprise of Jesus is that he is God incarnate, God-made-flesh. He was born of a woman, walked among us, and was crucified for the sins of humanity. The secret of his crucifixion is that it had been planned all along in order to save us.
And the mystery of his resurrection caught the world totally off guard.
And here’s the not-so-secret of it all: if you accept Christ as your savior and put your whole trust in his grace, you, too, will share in the resurrection. We get our strength from God’s announcement of this secret plan of inclusion and are empowered to take it to the world. God is our strength and our shield and works through our witness to strengthen others in Jesus’ name. When we feel weak and unsure, we can plug into the mystery of the incarnation and renew our strength like eagles’ wings.
It’s time to let the secret out. Jesus was born in a manger so that he could die on a cross for the forgiveness of sins. May we all shed light on his glorious, absolute truth.
Surprise in Bloom by Michelle Robertson