A friend of mine decided to leave his position at a church a while back. When he told me he was planning on doing that, I suggested he check out a ministry I was aware of that might fit his gifts and abilities perfectly. About a month later, I was talking to him and asked if he had made any contacts with that ministry. He had not, but mentioned he could look into it. The thing was, he had never heard of the ministry before. A short while ago, I talked with him again. He finally did connect with that ministry because someone else had mentioned it to him as well. The funny thing to me is, this is a ministry that operates right in our neighborhoods, around our community, and literally around the world - but very few of us have ever heard of it.
It made me wonder, were they trying to keep it a secret? There are a few times in the Bible where Jesus tries to keep his identity a secret. In the gospel of Mark, for instance, he drove out demons who recognized him as the Son of God. Chapter 3, verse 12 says, "But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him." Later, he brought a little girl back to life, but Jesus "gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this..."
The logical conclusion most draw from the life of Jesus is that he wanted to keep his ministry a secret for a time because he knew as soon as it came to light that he had the power of God, spoke for God, and made claims that he was God (um, because he actually was!), he would immediately be arrested as a blasphemer (one who falsely claims they are God or speaks wrongly about God) and killed. This, of course, eventually happened in due time because it was part of the plan all along. Human sinfulness always leads to death.
But I think there are other reasons as well. First, most people are drawn to mystery. Very few people read the end of a book first, or skip to see what happens at the end of a movie before they watch it. They want to be caught up in the story. And God's story makes it pretty clear that God desires people who are drawn into the action, captivated by the journey, and curious enough to trust and have faith. Shame on those who fail to heed spoiler alerts.
There is another reason though that Jesus kept his identity a secret to all but those who were closest to him. Jesus wanted to build into their lives and teach them the true reality of the divine. This isn't something that happens overnight. Even later, when the apostle Paul (you met him in the last post) has an encounter with the risen Jesus (spoiler alert: Jesus dies and God brings him back to life!), he spends 3 years with the disciples learning about who Jesus was before he starts sharing the news with others. In other words, Jesus takes care to shepherd his own flock before sending them out to graze.
I broke down the basics of House to House in the last post. Why haven't we seen more of it yet? Well, I'd love to say we are trying to pique curiosity, but the real reason, is that we might not be quite ready yet. While I truly believe the way for many of us to get out of our current pandemic funk is to invest and serve others (that is really how Jesus taught his followers about God - showing them how much God loved those they had labelled "others"), we might be too far down the rabbit hole to quickly jump out.
So I'll tell you what we are doing right now. We are House to House-ing all of you. The staff and consistory of CMC are working right now to call each and every household in the congregation to check in, see how you're all doing, and pray for you. If you see a strange number pop up in your caller ID, sure, it might be a political campaign, someone telling you your car is out of warranty coverage, or a credit card company. But it might also be one of us, trying to reach out and share a little love with you. So do us a favor. Pick up the phone or check your messages. Because we have a secret: we love you and care about you more than you know. And wouldn't it be great if that emerged as the greatest mystery in this whole city? Why do those people love each other so much? Because that's what Jesus did and still does. And it's our only way out of all of this.
Grace and peace,