The text for this sermon is Matthew 10:26-27.
Telling secrets. In college, I used to watch Days of Our Lives. I am not proud of this. I am just putting it out there. We’re telling secrets today. My girlfriend Paige, her mom and my mom had watched this soap for years, so I had some familiarity with the characters, Hortons, Bradys, Beau, Hope, Marlena, Roman, Stephano. In defense, this was 1983 and Duck Dynasty wasn’t even a thought in a TV executive’s head.
Behind the tension in nearly all of the stories in Days of our Lives was secrets. Caroline had had an affair with the villain Victor Kiriakas and their son was a handsome boy named Beau Brady. Brady not Kiriakas because Caroline never told either the father or child the truth. We all found out about this when Beau was a grown man, but of course Beau didn’t know. The whole time he is thinking he has good Brady blood, when really evil Kiriakas blood is pulsing through his veins. Caroline his mother is trying desperately not to let him find out her secret because he will be angry at her. While I am yelling at the screen, just tell him already! You are only making it worse. The longer you keep this from him the more angry he will be when he finds out. Pick the scab and be done with it. I learned at 19 by watching Days of our Lives that secrets are evil, corrosive to relationships. The only way to destroy the power of a secret is by taking them out of the darkness and bringing them into the light.
Because Jesus likely never went to college, I am guessing he never watched Days of our Lives, but he was able to still learn the same lesson. “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; what you hear whispered proclaim from the rooftops.” This is part of a larger teaching of Jesus in Matthew about what is expected of being a disciple. Jesus tells disciples to be weary of secrets. The secret Jesus had in mind was not paternity issues like those revealed on the Days of Our Lives, but keeping secret your faith that Jesus is the Messiah. A disciple in the days of Jesus might want to do this because they would likely be kicked out of their family if they said such a thing out loud. It would have been a really big deal, thus better to keep it on the down low.
While it is a questionable use of scripture to relate this very specific passage in Matthew to a comment by Jesus on all secrets, I am convinced that secrets in general keep us from being disciples of Christ because they destroy trust in our relationships. How can we be Christ to someone, present ourselves as disciples of Jesus, if we can’t be trusted to be honest and truthful. The secrets we hold keep us from being honest with the people we love.
Even the minor secrets we keep have the power to damage relationships, especially those already troubled. For years, congregational pastors asked our Southern Ohio Synod to reveal the salaries of key staff people as we did in our congregations. They refused. Why? It made us wonder what was going on. What are they hiding? This secret chipped away at the trust between our Synod and congregation, that frankly already was on a rocky road because of questionable financial practices. When they finally did release the salaries, it couldn’t reverse the damage already done.
Often, we say we need to keep a secret because it would hurt someone we love too much to know the truth. Marriage counselors regularly tell spouses who have had a “minor” affair, not to reveal this. It would needlessly hurt the spouse when it was just too much to drink one night on the road and shrug things happen. I have trouble with this. I understand that it would hurt the other person to hear this truth. However, behind the lame reason for the affair, are the real problems in the marriage that led to the one night stand in the first place. A marriage might not be able to survive this secret coming to light, but at what price is survival? If the problems persist, the unfaithfulness is likely to continue, too. While the secret is kept hidden what is already broken is not being repaired. Even if someone us working hard to repair what is broken, it is a certainty that all of the repair will be lost when their secret comes to light down the road. While we might say we are protecting someone we love, more often it is just our attempt to avoid the consequences of our actions.
We keep our secrets because of shame. We worry what people will think of us if they hear our truth. These are the reasons for my secrets. I am not sure if there is anything about me that no one knows, but there are things that just a few people know. While I have no secrets about harm I have done to a member of Messiah or the congregation overall, I still will keep my secrets to myself. For I fear, if you hear them you will no longer see me as I want you to see me. On some real level, I don’t trust you to love me after hearing my secrets.
This is at the bottom of all of our secrets, isn’t it? Trust. We each work so hard to try to build a facade of who we want others to believe us to be, while desperately trying to hide who we really are. Our secrets reveal us and that is scary because we don’t trust that our friends or family or church will love us when they hear them. We don’t trust that the people who have promised to love us will keep their promises. We don’t trust God to keep God’s promises to love us no matter what.
Our secrets are like weights around us. They burden us. They fester and mildew in the damp darkness. It takes energy to conceal them, to lie, or imply to friends and family truths that we know to be falsehoods. They nibble at us. If we could let them go this burden could be lifted. Exposing them to the light might hurt at first, actions have consequences but freedom from their power over us would follow.
Begin today, by trusting God to hear your secrets and still love you. Believe that. But don’t just tell your secret to God in a silent prayer. Lift it up aloud, this is important. Pray it out loud for a time, until you get used to hearing the words echo that bring you such great shame. This will deflate some of the power from your secret and help you build up courage.
The next step is to trust a Christ filled person to hear it. Though you might not be ready to tell the world or significant people in your life, it is good to tell someone. To say the secret aloud, even to an uninvolved third party like me, deflates even more the power from the secret. Every bit of light cast into this darkness is good. To see a reaction of love not rejection will give you courage to continue on your journey to truthfulness. Even seeing a reaction of horror and disbelief, might force you to wrestle with the gravity, implications and consequences of your actions. Whatever happens when you tell someone, it will be a step towards healing. Of course the final step then is to tell the secret to the one who needs to hear it, the person you are keeping it from.
If we wore our secrets on our chest for all to read, we would be quicker to forgive each other, realizing that we all share the same brokenness. If we could trust each other enough to hear our secrets and to love us afterwards, how much stronger a witness of Christ’s love could we be? If we accepted the consequences of our secrets but were not cast out of the church for them, what a radical looking community the church would become. If we could trust each other to love us no matter what, then maybe we could start believing what we say we believe, that God loves us no matter what. If we believed that, there would be no need for any of us ever to have secrets. Amen
The text for this sermon is Matthew 10:26-27.