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Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Rev. Harry Currie

Dec 3, 2023

Isaiah 64:1-9, Mark 13:24-37

Listen do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Whoa, oh oh…


So sang the Beatles sixty years ago.


       John Lennon got the idea from a Disney song from the Movie: Snow white and the seven dwarfs, where Snow white says to the birds at the wishing well: Do you want to know a secret? Promise not to tell.

       And Snow White tells them that she is wishing for the one she loves to find her.


       In the Beatles song, the big secret is that the singer is in love with the person he is singing to…


       A secret is knowledge that one has or a few has, that others do not know. Usually, it is a secret when it is deliberately hidden.


       And to tell you the truth, in my experience a lot of secrets are just bad to keep, and they turn out badly.


       Sometimes a secret is a secret because the one who has a secret has done something bad, and doesn’t want anybody else to know about it.


       Sometimes it has devastating effects. If there is some advice I could give my granddaughters, or give married couples. Secrets usually hurt people or hurt yourself. One of the best things you can do is find someone to talk to about all your problems and don’t keep secrets.

       And if you are about to do something, that you want to keep secret, think again. Maybe you shouldn’t do it.


       It reminds me of a scene from a movie. The movie is City Slickers and in the movie three friends go to a Dude Ranch to do a cattle drive.

Ed, played by actor Bruno Kirby poses a hypothetical scenario to Billy Crystal's character Mitch.

The discussion revolves around experiencing a "one night stand" outside of marriage.

In particular, Ed asks if Mitch would cheat on his wife if there was absolutely no chance of being caught:


Mitch answers that he would not.

Ed says: Why not?

Mitch replies: Because my wife will find out.

ED says: Let's say a spaceship lands.

 A spaceship lands and the most beautiful woman you ever saw gets out. All she wants to do is have the greatest [one night stand] in the universe with you.

When it's over, she flies away for ever. No one will ever know. You're telling me you wouldn't do it?

Mitch says: No. Because just what you are describing actually happened to my cousin Ronald. And his wife did find out about it at the beauty parlor. They know everything there.

Ed Says: forget about it.

Mitch says: I'm saying it wouldn't make it all right if my wife Barbara didn't know. I'd know, and I wouldn't like myself. That's all.


Two little lessons. Secrets often get out. And even if they don’t get out, they have a tendency to hurt your soul anyway.


So, it leads us into our gospel lesson for today. Jesus seems to have a secret. It seems to be about his coming back. When is he coming? Why is he coming? How is he coming?


Given what we just heard about secrets, why does Jesus keep this secret? Why doesn’t he just tell us? Why does he tell us to read the signs? Why does nobody know? In fact, we read that the angels don’t know and Jesus himself doesn’t know.


Why the mystery? And it isn’t enough to say: “Well God can do what God wants”

…as if God is totally irrational and unpredictable.


       We assume there is a logical reason.


And the people of God have longed for God’s return, or the return of the Messiah, or the return of Christ for centuries.


Listen to the words of Isaiah when the southern kingdom of Judah was under threat…

Why don't you tear the sky open and come down? The mountains would see you and shake with fear. 


       For the nation of Israel, the prophets spoke about a Messiah, about one who would come and there would be a chicken in every pot, a chariot in every driveway. They believed the Messiah would usher in peace and prosperity. Everyone would have land. Everyone would have jobs.

They believed the Messiah would drive out the bad guys who were threatening them or enslaving them, and there was no shortage of them.

       Over the years there were the Egyptians. There were the Philistines. There were the Hittites. There were the Assyrians. There were the Medes and the Persians. There were the Babylonians. There were the Greeks. There were the Romans.

       They believed that the Messiah would dispense justice and make everything right.

       When the Messiah came it would be Camelot and everything would be perfect.


       And there are a number of scholars who believed that most first century Christians has a similar idea about Jesus.

       Jesus indicates that he will come. Jesus said he would return. And many scholars think that a major question of the faithful towards the end of the first century was this? “When is Jesus coming?” And “Why hasn’t Jesus come yet?”

       The problem is called the delay of the Parousia. Parousia is a Greek word and it appears in the bible translated as coming or appearance or advent.


       Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the church year, and we celebrate the coming of Jesus…but what coming…

       Because the coming of Jesus is confusing….


John’s gospel gives the idea that Jesus was the word and the word was with us from the very beginning.

       Then Matthew and Luke’s gospels have marvellous birth accounts which we celebrate as the coming of Jesus in the flesh.

       And then there is talk about another coming of Jesus, more mysterious as in chapter 13 of Mark.

       It has led to some Christians believing that Jesus might return triumphantly in the clouds any day now, believing that Jesus is coming back to deal with the bad guys and set up a new heaven and earth.

       And it is all kind of mysterious when and where and how that will be…

       However, I do know that if you write novels about the second coming you can make millions upon millions of dollars writing about something supposedly only God knows about.

       One of the problems I have with some of these writers who write fiction about the second coming of Christ is that when Christ comes back, he is just as violent if not more violent than any human despot has ever been.


       There is a kind of writing in the bible is called apocalyptic writing. Chapter 13 of Mark’s gospel is called the little apocalypse.

       Apocalyptic writing was done during times of extreme stress and persecution. It often was mysterious and. metaphorical and kind of like in code, except nobody actually knows the code. On the face of it is seems to refer to the future and has what you might call wild metaphors.

       Often the metaphors referred to the beasts that were threatening the Jews at that moment, even though it sounded like prophecy in the future.

       Half the Book of Daniel and a couple of chapters of Ezekiel and Zecharaiah, the book of Revelation, Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 23, and chapters from 1 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a couple of verses from Jude fit under the apocalyptic category of literature.

       The Book of Revelation talks about various beasts, and the false prophet which most scholars say are references to the Roman Empire which was persecuting Christians

       Although in other Christian circles they think of the Book of Revelation as a prophecy about the future yet to come.

       Apocalypse literally means “unveiling.” Something mysterious is being revealed.


       Well, what is the secret that Jesus is keeping secret and why is Jesus keeping a secret? Why does Jesus talk mysteriously.

       Especially when most therapists think that secrets block healthy communication and can be damaging.


Well, I will try to explain what I think is going on.


       And I will refer to Mark’s gospel in particular.


Mark 1:34 Jesus would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.


Mark 1:43 after a healing Jesus says: See that you say nothing to anyone.


Mark 5:43 after raising a little girl from death it reads: Jesus strictly ordered them that no one should know about this.


Mark 7:36 after healing a deaf man, Jesus orders those there to tell no one, but of course they did.


Mark 8:30 after Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ Jesus sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone about him.


And Mark 9:9 after the transfiguration Jesus tells Peter, James and John not to talk about it until after Jesus had risen from the dead, although the scripture says that Peter and James and John didn’t know what this rising from death means.


       We Christians today, know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah… God’s anointed one.. God’s son.

       But why does Jesus himself seem to keep all this secret and tell those who were healed not to talk, tell the demons not to talk, and tell his disciples not to talk?


       Why such a secret? Scholars call it “the Messianic Secret.”


       Mark’s gospel structurally is split in half. The first half of the gospel when Jesus appears the crowds keep asking “Who is this guy?”

       Who is this guy who speaks with authority? Who is this guy that the winds and waves obey him?


       And Peter gives us the answer halfway through the gospel. He is the Christ?


       But this Christ seems not to be like the promised Messiah who will beat up the bad Romans and throw the out and establish peace and prosperity forever.

       So, the second half of Mark’s gospel is about this question. What kind of Christ, is Jesus?


       And finally, the whole secret is revealed when Jesus dies on the cross and the Roman centurion proclaims that surely this is the Son of God.


       It is not that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are keeping communication from us, or trying to keep a dirty secret from us.


       The truth is that nobody can understand Jesus, or the Christ, or the Messiah until the cross and resurrection.


       Even though Jesus comes as a baby. Even though Jesus lived with us and loved us and taught us…

       …we do not understand the coming of Jesus until we see the cross and resurrection.



       The secret which is not a real secret anymore, is that the cross shows that the nature of God is to love us so much that God will give God’s own life to prove that love, to show us that love, to forgive us, accept us and promise not to do violence to us. God would rather have violence done to God’s own self, than to hurt us.


       Jesus is all mysterious about his coming, because we cannot understand what it means for God to come to us until we see the cross.

       And the resurrection is Jesus coming alive again; and not just up from the tomb, but Jesus coming alive in us.


       That is why Jesus says that this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

       For me, Jesus comes in great glory in the cross and in the resurrection. The sun is darkened at the cross and the powers in heaven are shaken.


       And while there are those who look for Jesus to come from the clouds in the future and act like the Jews thought the Messiah would act in the Old Testament, killing the bad guys and setting up a peaceable kingdom…

       I believe that Jesus continually comes to those who love, those who serve other, those who sacrifice, those who give and share, those who help people in need, those who practice peace, those who forgive and those who love their enemies.

       I believe Jesus continually comes in ordinary things like friendship and food, and story, in nature, in loving relationships, in compassionate acts, in music and other arts, and in people.


       Today we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion which is a celebration of his coming, a celebration of his real presence, a celebration of his grace and love to us.

       We believe that Jesus is present in the sacrament, and that as we share the sacrament with each other, we share Jesus with each other, that as we eat and drink, we feed our souls the love and grace of Jesus.


       Jesus is here. The secret is out. As Paul writes in Colossians: God's plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you.


       Where and when is the next coming of Jesus. The where is easy. Jesus comes in you.

       When will Jesus come alive in you?

I guess that depends on when you will love like Jesus. Amen.

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