No Longer Secret
by Michael Fitzpatrick
Reading from Ephesians, 3:1-13
1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
When I was a kid, I would escape after school into the fantasy world of imagining that I was a spy. Espionage, code breaking, secret investigations — I loved crafting narratives and peering over my schoolmates’ fences. This wasn’t primarily voyeuristic. There was simply nothing more thrilling than having knowledge that no one else had. It made me feel special, like I had a unique place in the world.
My silly childhood fantasy continues for many of us into adulthood. We love to have information about others, to have insight that others want and we don’t have to share. This could range from the insider knowledge of sports fans to insider knowledge of political parties. And it’s even better if that information is about “them”: neighbors we don’t prefer, annoying family members we can ignore, co-workers we enjoy knowing won’t get the boss’s favor, even Christians of a different practice or theology we can criticize or write off.
This is why the gospel, especially in St. Paul’s formulation of “this mystery that has now been revealed” in Ephesians 2 and 3, is so radical. It’s contrary to our basic human nature. In the gospel, Christ has broken down barriers through his gracious sacrifice, so that those who were on the outside (non-Jews) are now included in the promise once thought to only be for the Jews. And this radical inclusion is not something to be kept hidden, but revealed and shared to every tongue and people and nation.
The purpose of evangelism is, perhaps, to make spies unnecessary. No one needs to find out what has been freely proclaimed to all, especially when the proclamation is that all who seek to be part of Christ Jesus are fellow-heirs of the same promise and members of the same body. Amen!
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in Philosophy at Stanford University and a student leader for the Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry at Stanford. Michael attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, CA.