Keeping Secrets

Keeping Secrets


Among many other roles, Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is the Old Colony Association Moderator; Bridge Interim Pastor at Lakeville UCC (Lakeville, MA) and North Congregational Church UCC (Middleboro, MA); an Interim Consultant in the Southeast Region; a member of Second Congregational Church UCC, Attleboro; and the Academic Council chair of PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc.

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20 and Exodus 1:15-21 (NRSVUE)

Matthew 16:13-20 

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Exodus 1:15-21, excerpted from Exodus 1:8-2:10 

15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20So God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

Reflection:  Keeping Secrets



I am firmly convinced that the singular command of Jesus that most Mainline Protestants obey with near perfection is his order “not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Keeping that secret has made it difficult for us to evangelize with our distinct message about the inclusivity of God’s realm and the just world for all that comes with the creation of that realm on earth, as the Messiah himself taught us to pray.

All joking aside, it seems very human of Jesus to want to protect himself and his disciples as much as possible, even knowing that his opponents were already circling around them. Asking his followers not to call him the Messiah at least prevented direct testimony of blasphemy—not that the charge wasn’t leveled anyway—and gave Jesus breathing space to continue his journey toward Jerusalem. The confrontations with power, religious and imperial, that occurred before his imperial execution, remind us that with this secret kept, corrupt power can seem untouchable. Only after the resurrection, when the secret could no longer remain unspoken, do we see the possibilities of God’s realm on earth and what a just world for all will mean. Until, of course, Christianity was captured by the state and made a tool of conquest…

The midwives of the Israelites had similarly good reasons to keep their work secret. Shiprah, Puah, and their sister midwives surely knew the mortal danger of defying Pharaoh, yet their call to protect the lives of the children they delivered weighed far stronger on their hearts than their fear for their lives. For their courage, we are told, God rewarded the whole people of Israel with many children and the midwives themselves with families. Even though the people were enslaved, this was a glimpse of that just world for all that later prophets would proclaim and for which Jesus the Messiah would teach us to pray and work.

Surely, the work of the midwives was an open secret among the people for whom they cared, much as it was an open secret among Jesus’ disciples that he was the Messiah. The keeping of those secrets within community for a time was necessary. Yet in both cases, when the secret was made known to the wider world, good things happened. So my question is this:

Why are we still keeping Jesus the Messiah a secret?


Holy God, you who knows all that it is possible to know, forgive us for keeping secrets too long. Teach us how to share what we know that is life-giving and hopeful so that all who seek may find you in community shaped by your love and the promise of a just world for all. In the Messiah’s name we pray, amen

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war, as well as the many landscapes that are currently embroiled in conflicts.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~27,300 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the year.
  • For the friends and family of the Rev. Ted Hoskins, Pastor Emeritus at Saugatuck Congregational Church in CT (who served there from 1971 until 1994) who passed August 5, 2023, one day after his 90th birthday. 
  • For those suffering from the extreme weather conditions, including the wildfires across Hawaii.
  • For vulnerable children.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

This Week in History:

August 23, 1856 (165 years ago):  During a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Eunice Foote's research paper on the possibility of global warming from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was presented. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Ruth E. Shaver

The Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is the Old Colony Association Moderator, Bridge Interim Pastor of Lakeville UCC (Lakeville, MA) and North Congregational Church UCC (Middleboro, MA) and a member of Second Congregational Church UCC, Attleboro, MA.  

August 21, 2023
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