Sunday’s gospel reading is a troubling one. (Mark 6.14-29) Sandwiched between Jesus sending the disciples and reeling them back in, Mark spins a dark tale.
As you may recall, early in their ministries, Jesus and John the Baptizer vied equally for the public’s attention, each man drawing disciples and crowds. There was a great deal of confusion about which preacher/teacher/healer was the promised Messiah. Because we know the end of the story, we always put our money on Jesus, but in the moment it was not so clear.
John the Baptizer had also attracted the attention of King Herod, a regional ruler who thought more of himself than he ought. King Herod deposited John the Baptizer in a prison cell because John had publicly accused Herod of both murder and adultery. (Charges which were true.) By rights, Herod could have squashed John like a bug, but the selfish king found John simultaneously frightening and intriguing. Herod also had a thirst for liquor, debauchery and titillation, which led to a bad end for John. Please join us for worship on Sunday to hear how this horrible story ends. And don’t try this at home.
I am always struck by the contemporary nature of antiquity. We imagine sometimes that no period in history has known greater division, greater corruption, and greater danger than ours. But we would be wrong.
In fact, the Old Testament reading for Sunday confirms that fact. (Amos 7.7-15) Seven centuries before Mark wrote, the prophet Amos was called to speak truth to power in a wildly prosperous time in Israel’s history. The king to whom Amos prophesied—Jeroboam—bears strong resemblance to Horrid Herod. Wealthy. Powerful. Corrupt. Parallels to our current political and international circumstances are too easy to draw.
But most of us do not swim in that murky swamp. Most of us seek to live honest, hard-working, generous lives. Most of us seek to balance love of God with love of neighbor. Most of our elected and civic leaders strive to do the same. We continue to lift our voices and prayers in hope that the world may see and hear another way.
Trying to keep my head on my shoulders (and off a platter),
Pastor JoAnn Post