Sermon for July 11
May the words my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen
Story of John, the Baptist:
Born of Elizabeth in her old age and Zechariah, a priest in the Hill country of Judea
Next time we hear about him he is still in Judea, baptizing in the desert region, and preaching a baptism of repentance
He prophesizes that one is coming more powerful than he, whose sandals he is not worthy to stoop down and untie.
He says he baptizes with water, but the ne who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Then John meets him, the one who is to come. It’s his cousin Jesus from Nazareth. He has come to be baptized in the Jordon.
John keeps preaching as one crying in the wilderness. John rebuked, scolded Herod Antipas for divorcing his first wife to marry his own niece, Herodias, who was already his brother’s wife. This was strictly against Mosaic law. And because of this Herod had him arrested and put in jail at one of his castles.
Today’s reading is a flashback. These events occurred earlier, but Mark sandwiches the story between the time Jesus sends out the twelve and when they come back. Herod begins to hear of Jesus’ popularity, his teaching and preaching. The people are trying to figure out who Jesus is. Herod comes to his own conclusion that it’s John the Baptist whom he beheaded come back to haunt him. Herod could have killed John immediately after he was arrested, but there was something about him. “Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.”
But Herodias, Herod’s wife is furious. She can’t have such a scandalous story about adultery going around, so the source has to be eliminated. She wants John executed.
So Herod is caught in a dilemma. He was perplexed; he was confused. Politically, he knew John had to be eliminated, done away with, executed. He needed to do it for his own well-being. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to do it. So he kept him locked away in prison so John wouldn’t be bothering anybody.
But we know what happened. It was his birthday party. Herodias made sure he got drunk, got her daughter into the plot, Herod made a foolish agreement, and his head was delivered to him on a platter.
Do you know somebody like that? Somebody who tries to live two contradictory life styles?
I’ve known Lutheran ELCA pastors who have decided to join the NALC and keep their names on roster of the ELCA. I’ve often described such a situation as having each foot in a different bucket—makes it very difficult to walk.
Herod can’t decide what to do, so he tries to get by without doing anything. But Herodias forces his hand when he makes a stupid promise. He can rectify the situation, but will he? Will he do the right thing, or will he cave into her and/or his buddies at the party? He has his feet in two different buckets. Will he walk straight or fall over? We all know what he did when the pressure was on.
What do we do when the pressure is on? We can respond that it doesn’t affect me. But it does. We can’t walk with buckets on our feet. We’ll fall over because we can’t move. And we can’t just stand still. We have to move in one direction or another. We can’t keep Jesus locked up in jail bring him out when it’s convenient.
So we have to make decisions. We can’t be part time Christians. We have to live as God has called us to live. We have to live with the same kind of love and grace as demonstrated to us by Jesus. We have to show that love and grace as we live with our neighbor. We have to show the same kind of forgiveness as Jesus shows as he forgives us.
We are the chosen — we are God’s children. We are the ones who are unworthy to been down and untie his sandals. But he makes us worthy. He loves us and makes us part of his family where there are no buckets.