Monday, July 6, 2009

Faith in a Dangerous World Mark 6:14-29; Ephesians 1:1-14

Year B, Season of Pentecost Proper 10, Ordinary Time 14 Sunday Between July 10 and July 16 Inclusive 6th Sunday After Pentecost 2009.

The last couple of weeks have been full of celebrations for many in our church. 2 weeks ago the whole building resonated with the stories and excitement of Vacation Bible School. There have been weddings, baptisms, a wonderful 80th birthday and all the joy and excitement that go along with the fireworks and gatherings that happen around the 4th of July.

Right in the middle of the summer celebrations we find ourselves face to face with this one reading in Mark about John the Baptist's death. There's a temptation for us to dance around a reading like this one or maybe, for preachers (at least), to pick another reading. John's beheading is a real gut check for us. We want our faith and our life as easy and simple. We imagine that if we would just follow God and do everything right, as we are expected to do, we will get everything we need. And then comes this reading and Herod’s straight head-on challenge to us and our complacency as people of faith.
We live on a broken planet amidst all kinds of broken people. We live in a world that is full of uncertainty and risk. We look for safe-places to hide from the storms.

Some people like to try and hide behind wealth and prestige thinking that things can protect them from the brokenness of our world; but they can't. Others like to hide out in amusement and entertainment. Its easier to turn on the TV or pull the handle on a slot machine than to watch the painful realities of our world. We want desperately to be numb to the world; God needs us to be alert and aware.

John the Baptist wasn't afraid of speaking the truth. It was completely costly for him and he did anyways. Others would like to hide out from the dangers of the world in religion and devotion; but we learn from watching John the Baptist and Jesus that our relationship with God is not a way out of the storms and the dangers. Instead when we enter in in faith into the world we go into the storms trusting that God is with us.
When we walk in the wilderness we trust in faith that God is with us and that our eternal everything is in God's hands and God's control. Paul wrote,

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to
the good pleasure of his will, Ephesians 1:5 NRSV
John the Forerunner paid the total cost that could be asked of anyone for following God. John gave up everything and then he headed to the wilderness. People came from Jerusalem and all over Judea to see him. They wanted to hear him and be baptized by him. The king was intimidated by him. John pointed out Herod's sins and Herod hated it; but Herod, at the same moment, wanted to have John around. He enjoyed listening to John and knew that John spoke the truth even if it was painful to hear. He knew the full cost of living committed to his faith in Jesus Christ.
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:1-12
Herod totally forgot about justice and mercy. He totally forgot about following God. Instead he had a promise that he intended to keep. Forget justice or mercy if you are Herod. Herod's word was his only currency and he couldn't risk being shown to not keep his word. Right and wrong were gone and forgotten and John would die because of it.

Here were are on this beautiful summer weekend listening and reading this tough story. We just might want to run the other way and forget trying to even understand this reading; but John the Baptist is one of the heroes of our faith. He was bold, he was faithful. He was ready to offere everything and in his example we'll learn how God wants us to live in our broken world.

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