Devotional Message: The 8th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10B (7/15/2018)

Lessons

Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
St. Mark 6:14-29

Semicontinuous Series

2nd Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24

Prayer of the Day

O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. 

St. Mark 6:14-29 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: "Of Kings and Prophets"

When Jesus is advised by some Pharisees to leave town, because King Herod wants to kill him, he says, “…it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [St. Luke 13:33-34]

St. John, the Baptizer, had he lived long enough, would well have understood. John is described by each of the Evangelists as a prophet. Living in the wilderness. Clothed in camel’s hair garments with a leather belt. More importantly: calling his listeners to righteous living, and exhorting them to reach out to God for forgiveness and renewal when they fall short of it. John is widely received by the people around the Jordan River where his preaching and baptizing creates quite a stir. But not so by King Herod.

Herod, as history reminds us, seduced Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, and took her for his own. John spoke out publicly about this situation: Herod, the King of the Jews, behaving in ways that are unbecoming for a man of his position. Herod has John imprisoned, and Herodias is incensed enough that she wants him killed. But Herod protects him. On some level, Herod realizes that John is a “righteous and holy man.” He loves listening to him, even though he doesn’t always completely understand what he is saying.

Eventually, however, St. John meets the fate that so many of God’s prophets meet. Powerful people rarely respond well when challenged, and since a primary aspect of a prophet’s job description is to hold the King accountable, the story of a prophet rarely turns out well.

Of course, this story is a foreshadowing of things to come. Jesus too will run afoul of religious and social authorities. Jesus too will face the ire of those who feel threatened by him. Jesus too will die at the hands of executioners. And so halfway through St. Mark’s Gospel, we receive a hint of where this story is heading. But it is also a reminder for us — whether we are people of great power or of little power — that God’s work seeks to shape us, to refine us, and to re-create us. The question is twofold. On the one hand: will we embrace the power of God’s word, and allow it to transform us, or will we oppose the power of God’s word, and find ourselves in the company of so many others who “kill the prophets and stone those whom God sends?” On the other hand: when people of power or influence in our world are acting in in unjust and unGodly ways, will we have the courage, like St. John, to speak out against them?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why is Herod (and Herodias) so angry with John?
  2. What other Biblical stories about kings and prophets come to mind?
  3. What do the followers of Jesus learn from how John’s ministry ends?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I felt challenged by the word of God?
  2. When have I felt called by the word of God to challenge someone else?
  3. In my faith community, how can we nurture open, honest and faithful conversations about the need to place God first in our lives?