It Is No Secret

These are my thoughts for this Sunday, the First Sunday after Pentecost.


I am presently reading Brian McLaren’s new book, The Secret Message of Jesus, for the second time. I read it once when I first got it but I couldn’t figure out what the secret was. So I put it aside for a bit and came back to it. Now, in the second reading, I am figuring out what McLaren considers the secret message.

I suppose the title of the book is to encourage those fascinated by Dan Brown’s book, The DaVinci Code, and the subsequent movie. After all, if we make the message of the Gospel that only a select few can discover or be privy to, then perhaps we can get more people to see church in a more positive light.

The only problem that I had with what McLaren’s considers the secret message is that it is something that I have thought was the Gospel message for a long, long time. In one of the first sermons I ever wrote and gave, I characterized Jesus as a radical and a revolutionary. Now it happened that one of my cousins was attending the service that day. He was doing so because he was anxious to hear how I was doing in what amounted to the family business. In my extended family, there are thirteen or so ministers, mostly Lutheran. This is a history that goes back to the days of Martin Luther and the original Lutheran church.

Afterwards, Paul took me to lunch and chastened me for characterizing Jesus in such terms. But one year later, Paul also characterized Jesus as a radical and a revolutionary, bringing change to society while those who controlled society did not want any change. He only smiled when I reminded him of his admonishments to me the year before.

So, when I read McLaren’s book, expecting to read something new, I could not find it because I already knew what the secret is. But the problem is that not enough people know this secret today. Too many people are like Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to see Jesus late at night. (1)

When Nicodemus asks what he must do in order to enter God’s Kingdom, Jesus replies that “one must be born again.” To Nicodemus, this is impossible because there is no way that he can recreate the birth process. But to be born again is not a recreation of the birth process but rather an awakening of the mind. In the words of science philosophy, it is an understanding of a new paradigm.

In being born again, one sees the world in a different light. It is a shift from seeing the world in terms of one’s own existence to seeing the one in terms of the world. Jesus came to bring hope to those who society had cast out; Jesus came to bring a promise to those whom society had forgotten. This was a shift from the attitude of the world that focused on each person as an individual rather than as a community. The kingdom of God is not for individuals but for those who see others in the same community as themselves.

It is this part of the Gospel message that will have many of today’s modern Pharisees and Sadducees upset. They preach a gospel that focuses on the individual; they preach a gospel that casts out those who are different from themselves. These modern day Pharisees and Sadducees have cast themselves as interpreters of morality, casting judgment on others while ignoring the needs of the many. When we are more concerned about who should marry whom than we are about a budget that favors the rich through tax cuts and kills programs that help the poor and needy, then we have a society that has returned to the days before Christ.

When we have ministers whose wardrobes are an embarrassment of riches and put Joseph’s “coat of many colors” to shame, when we have ministers whose pronouncements encourage greed and selfishness over sacrifice and sharing, then we are not listening to the message that Jesus gave. And I think that many of those who are attending these churches, especially in today’s society, are going to have an awakening one day.

They are going to find out that they are the ones who are going to be on the outside looking in, much like the rich man who ignored Lazarus each day and was condemned to hell for his actions.

Paul puts it rather simply. If we live by the rules of the flesh, then we will die. But if we allow the Spirit to come into our lives, then we will live. (2)  This is the change that allows us to begin understanding the secret message of Jesus.

As long as we focus on ourselves, as long as we focus on the world that we are in, then we will live by the rules of the flesh and we will die by the flesh. In one translation of this passage from Romans, Paul speaks of our obligations. He does not specifically state to what or to whom we are obligated but the context of the message is clear. We are obligated to God and we satisfy that obligation by following the leading of the Spirit.

That means that if we choose to honor our obligation, our course of action in any given circumstance will be tied to our duty as Christians. It will narrow the path that we choose to walk; it will restrict our choices and limit our possibilities. But, in a world increasingly marked and motivated by fear, these obligations give us the security that we cannot find otherwise.

Jesus had a certain respect for the civil and political systems such as taxation (remember that he responded to the question of taxation by saying that one should give unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s; but give unto God that which was God’s). But the value system of the world around Him was not the value system that He aspired to or would have us aspire.

Jesus came to change the way we look at things. It was all about honoring, accepting, and working for things of the Spirit and bringing the Spirit into the world through our humane treatment of others, rather than idolizing the things of the world. His message was to love your enemies; His was a message that asked us to give up the trappings of power and glory. It is no wonder than many people did not understand or were unwillingly to try.

We are freed from having to lash out and take revenge, choosing to overcome evil with good. In a society increasingly marked by self-centered consumption, we are called to suffer with Christ in order to help others.

The Gospel message calls for us to reach out to those on the fringes of society; today’s society says to ignore those on the fringe. The Gospel message calls for non-violence and justice for all; in today’s society we are told that it is perfectly all right to go to war in Jesus’ name since those we will fight do not know God.

When we allow the Sprit to take control of our lives we experience a change that gives a new understanding and allows us to have a new beginning in this world.

We are a lot like Isaiah was, coming face to face with the Lord. In the presence of the Lord, we suddenly realize that all that we have done does amount to a whole lot. (3)  Like Isaiah, we will call out that we are unclean and lost. And then we stop and think.

For if we are given the opportunity to see God at a time when seeing God was tantamount to death, then maybe there is hope for us. If we allow God to clean our lives and send in the Holy Spirit, then we have a chance in this world. That is the moment that we face; shall we accept God and allow our lives to change for the better? Or shall we walk away from God, accepting the idea that this world around us is all there is? Shall we die on this earth or shall we allow God to give us a new life, allowing us to live in His Kingdom? It is no secret what God can do. There is an old (well, not really old since it was written in the 1950’s) Gospel song, “It Is No Secret”.

The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through.

Someone slipped and fell.

Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength, your courage to renew.

Do not be disheartened, for I have news for you.

It is no secret what God can do.

What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.

With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.

It is no secret what God can do.

There is no night for in His light you never walk alone.

Always feel at home, wherever you may go.

There is no power can conquer you while God is on your side.

Take Him at His promise, don’t run away and hide.

It is no secret what God can do.

What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.

With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.

It is no secret what God can do.

There are those in this world who still do not know the secret. They are blind to pain and anguish that is so much a part of this world because their hearts have been hardened by society. To those who seek the secret, we say “Let your heart be softened and allow Christ to come in; then you will know the secret that has eluded you all your life.”

John 3: 1 – 17

(2)  Romans 8: 12 – 17

(3)  Isaiah 6: 1 – 8

4 thoughts on “It Is No Secret

  1. Pingback: A New Beginning « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

  2. Pingback: Everything Must Change - A Review of Brian McLaren’s New Book « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

  3. Pingback: The Power of Light « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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