Sunday, September 6, 2015

“The Worst Kept Secret” (Mark 7:24-37)

It has been said that if a person wants to keep a secret then he or she should tell no one . . . keep it to themselves.  Years ago, in a congregation that I served in Iowa, I learned that the fastest way to share information with the congregation was not with a calling tree, but instead share it with the DeVries twins.

The DeVries twins were two sisters who happened to marry two brothers who farmed side by side.  They were identical twins who perpetuated the “twin myth” by dressing a like each and every day . . . yet, the truth was that there was no psychic connection between the two.  It turns out that they called each other each morning to see what the other was going to wear.  It was with these two sister . . . these two twins . . . that I found the fastest communication tool in the congregation.  Faithful attendees of the Tuesday morning Bible study group, these two came more for the fellowship and gossip of the group than any real spiritual hunger that needed to be fed.

If I had information that I needed to get out to the congregation—or even the community, I would make a statement and then tell everyone that the information needed to stay within the group.  By noon the whole congregation and community knew exactly what it was that I wanted them to know!  Shoot, it was even faster than today’s social media!  By asking the group . . . by asking the twins . . . to keep it a secret, I was assured that it would be a fast delivery to everyone else.

In our scripture reading this morning we encounter a secretive Jesus.  He enters a house and does not want anyone to know it . . . but, someone told and soon there is a crowd of people gathered around him.  Later he heals a deaf man and tells everyone who witnessed it not to tell anyone . . . to keep it a secret; but, everyone found out.  One gets the feeling that the more Jesus wanted to keep things a secret, the more people who found out.

The question becomes: did he mean to do this or did he really want to keep things a secret?

The writer of the Gospel of Mark really doesn’t say.  Nowhere in our reading this morning does it make it sound as if Jesus was irritated with his secret being discovered.  Some biblical scholars think that Jesus did this on purpose . . . told everyone to keep his presence a secret . . . in hopes that they would spread the secret and that the crowds would come.  I kind of lean in that direction myself as I think that Jesus was a pretty smart and astute individual who knew that the only way to keep a secret is to not tell anyone.

I think Jesus wanted people to know.

What did Jesus want people to know?  He wanted them to know the “good news” . . . he wanted them to know that God was with them . . . God was with them and desired an intimate relationship with each and every one of them.  He wanted them to know this and he did it without speaking or preaching it to them . . . he did it through the actions that he took.

He began by removing the demon possessing the young girl . . . a girl who was not of the Jewish faith and tradition; no, she was a Greek . . . a pagan.  Sitting at the table to eat, a woman comes up to him, throws herself at his feet, and begs him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  All the eyes around the table stare at Jesus . . . what is he going to do?  Will he do what the pagan woman asks?  Will he go outside of the faith and tradition to deal with this pagan?

Well, not at first.  He attempts to ward her off by making a snappy statement.  But the woman is not to be deterred by snappy statements, and she makes her own witty response to Jesus’ statement.  She tells Jesus: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  Impressed, Jesus heals the girl.

The person requesting Jesus’ help is a pagan . . . a person of Greek descent . . . someone who is outside the faith and tradition.  The person is, and maybe even worse . . . a woman.  The person is uncouth . . . she breaks all the rules and mores of any culture by interrupting a meal by coming in uninvited.  Despite it all, Jesus still steps into a relationship with her . . . he still does as she asks.  There is no preaching . . . no teaching, only actions.

Yet, it is a powerful statement that Jesus makes . . . God desires an intimate relationship with all . . . even those considered to be outside the original circle.  That is the “good news”.

Next, Jesus goes off and heals a man of deafness.

Though we know better in our day and age, people with disabilities were viewed differently than they are today.  They may not be treated better today, but they are viewed differently.  In Jesus’ time those with disabilities were often seen as being “sinful” . . . the disability was caused by some sin that either the individual committed or someone in their family.  Thus they were pushed outside of the circle of welcome . . . they became “outsiders” and “untouchables” in a sense.

Yet, time after time, as demonstrated by this story, Jesus went outside of the “circle” to bring others in.  Not through words, but actions, Jesus brings others in on the “secret” of being in an intimate relationship with God. 

Then . . . he tells everyone to keep it a secret.  Which no one does.  When you stop and think about it . . . getting rid of a demon in a little girl . . . restoring a deaf man’s hearing . . . those are some pretty remarkable acts.  Almost too good to be true . . . yet, it opens up the people’s eyes to the presence of God.  This is what all miracles do . . . they open people up to the presence of God . . . they always point to God.  God is with us!  This is “good news”!  God is with us all . . . each and every one of us!  It is pretty difficult to keep such news to one’s self.  And, I think, Jesus never intended anyone to keep it to him or herself.

No, Jesus wanted everyone to know . . . so, he told everyone to keep it a secret.

Those of us gathered here this morning have been let in on the “secret”.  We know how wonderful it is to be in an intimate relationship with God . . . a God who loves us for who we have been created to be . . . who loves us for who we are . . . who welcomes us and accepts us with warts and all.  God loves us . . . God desires us . . . and, if we want, God is ours . . . always ours.  When you stop and think about it, it really isn’t much of a secret.  And, Jesus really does want us to go out into the world and to share this “good news”.

But, Jesus does not want us to spread the “secret” through words; no, he wants us to spread the “secret” through the way that we live our lives.  Through the actions that we take.  As I stated last Sunday, words are nice, but actions are remembered.  Jesus did not preach or teach in our reading this morning, yet the results were powerful as it drew people to him from all over the region.

Let us go forth into the world in which we live and share the “secret” of God’s love for all of us . . . not through the words that we speak, but through the actions that we take.  There will be time enough later to share the words.  Let us go forth and share the “worst kept secret” . . . God loves us and desires us.  That is a secret worth sharing.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Your title gave me quite a start. I thought you were going to say the "secret" of health, wealth and happiness is positive thinking.