You’ll never know how much I really love you.
You’ll never know how much I really care.
Do you want to know a secret?,
Do you promise not to tell?, whoa oh, oh.
Let me whisper in your ear,
Say the words you long to hear,
I’m in love with you. (Lennon and McCartney)
“God has made known to us the secret of his decision –for he has set his favor first upon Christ that he should administer the days of fulfillment –all things are to be comprehended under one head, the Messiah, those in heaven and upon earth –under him!” (Ephesians 1:9-10, translation by Marcus Barth in his Ephesians Commentary, Anchor Bible series, p. 76)
I’m a Beatles fan. It is hard to believe it has been fifty years since they first appeared on British television in April, 1963. One of their early songs was “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” which is adolescent love at its sweetest. Could there possibly be a connection between this song and the scripture quoted above? There’s a common word, “secret” and a common theme – a love proclaimed after being kept secret for a long time. But in the Ephesians text there is no whispering of the secret, only a glorious revealing of what has been hidden: that God loves you and has loved you from before the beginning of time and loves you without prejudice and will always love you. It is Christ’s job to administer this new reality, these days of fulfillment, when people are brought together as one (“under one head”) and barriers are broken down and a common humanity recognized.
Why is the good news about Jesus a secret anyway? Has it been a mystery to us downtrodden mortals how God could possibly love us with a passion far greater than the first bloom of adolescent love? Popular songs praise the wonder of a first love, holding up impossible ideals for young lovers. The reality is that our deeper yearnings for love can only be met in God. The good news is that Jesus has brought that transforming love into our present reality.
The days of fulfillment are usually seen as something coming in the future, but that misses the point. Marcus Barth talks about “the presence of the future”, a marvelously pregnant phrase. Love that is unbounded and free and no respecter of human barriers is here and now because of Jesus Christ. He has unleashed the power of such love in the world. It is the job of Christians to bear witness to this reality and let its light penetrate the darkness that tries to overcome it. In recent days following the Boston Marathon bombings signs have been everywhere “We are one Boston” to proclaim our essential unity in the face of forces that would tear us apart. The way people have responded to this terrible event has been the triumph of love. On Thursday evening last I attended an interfaith service here in Attleboro, where representatives of several religions came together to express this unity and to offer prayer and support for the families affected. There have been many such services in the Boston area.
I recently finished a long term of service for a denominational committee charged in part with the task of integrating ethnic minority clergy into our ranks (the American Baptist Churches). The ABC/USA is the most ethnically diverse of all denominations, so I felt it was a privilege to do this work. I felt that we were part of God’s unveiling of the secret, bringing everyone and everything under one head, one Messiah. Listening to the stories of these clergy from many traditions and parts of the world was inspiring and enriching. Administration is always challenging, and when we get bogged down in the details it is refreshing to see with the perspective of the great administrator, Christ himself.