Who shall stand in the Lord’s holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their hands to what is false. Psalm 24:3-4
open our eyes to see your hand at work
in the splendour of creation
and in the beauty of human life.
Help us to cherish the gifts that surround us,
to share our blessings with our sisters and
brothers, and to experience the joy of life in
your presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
- Psalm 24
- Ephesians 1:1-14
- Mark 6:14-29
- 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
- Psalm 89:21-38
- Ephesians 2:11-22
- Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 7 – Mark 6:14-29
The death of John the Baptiser: Herod had sent men who arrested John, bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
This is, outside the account of Jesus’ own death, the most horrific stories in the Gospels.
Between Jesus’ sending off the Twelve on their first missionary journey and their return, Mark inserts the story of John the Baptiser’s death. At first, this narrative seems out of place, but the account of John’s death serves as an important benchmark for understanding the meaning of discipleship and the resurrection.
The works that Jesus and the Twelve are performing have reached the ears of King Herod himself. Rumours have been circulating that the Baptiser has been raised from the dead. Mark recounts the details of John’s martyrdom and burial to make it clear a new chapter of human history begins in Jesus, God has set in motion a re-creation of humanity in his Son, the long-awaited but little understood reign of God has begun. John is the precursor of the Christ event, not the event himself.
In Mark’s Gospel, John’s death foreshadows the death of Jesus (just as John’s appearance at the beginning of the Gospel sets the stage for Jesus’ coming on the scene). As John pays the ultimate price for “speaking truth to power,” Jesus will give his life for the Gospel he has preached. A similar convergence of fear, cowardice, hatred and manipulation that leads to John’s beheading will end in Jesus’ crucifixion.
Not lost in Mark’s narrative is the reality that discipleship/prophecy exacts a heavy price. But God promises he will raise up the life of his martyred prophet/disciple in the fullness of his reign.
Ridicule, isolation, rejection, even death, can be required of everyone – even us – for taking seriously God’s call to be his prophets and the work of discipleship.
We often react to the Baptisers in our midst as Herod does: We know in our deepest being they speak wisdom and justice and we desperately want to embrace it in our lives — but when their words become too demanding and too challenging, when they require of us a conversion that is well beyond our comfort zone, when their call subjects us to ridicule or isolation, then we find some way to justify doing away with them. Authentic faith, belief that means anything, requires the would-be disciple of Jesus to live the Word we have heard and seen, regardless of the cost.
In our own time and place, there are prophets living among us who give their lives for their witness to God’s reconciliation, peace, and justice; they are prophets who speak not in powerful oratory but in the quiet simplicity of their selfless generosity and service to others.
Like Herodias, we hold grudges; we keep score; we remember who slights us and we wait for the right moment to get back at them. The grudges we keep seldom have the tragic consequences of Herodias, who manipulates her own daughter’s charms and her husband’s boastful/arrogant behaviour to destroy John the Baptist — but we’ve let our anger divide our families, we’ve refused to surrender our need for vengeance for the sake of reconciliation, we’ve held on to our resentments until we got our satisfaction. But God’s grace enables us to put aside our disappointments and let go of our anger (however justified) in order to make reconciliation possible, to speak God’s Word of justice, to be the means of peace in our homes and communities.
God’s reign continues to be established in our own Jerusalems and Nazareths because of the prophetic proclamation of the Baptisers and Apostles and all who have taken on, with integrity and conviction, the role of prophet of the God of life and love in our own time and place.
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You can read the Pew Sheet herePentecost-7-B
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