The Rev. Linda Taupier – July 11, 2021
This is one of the very few Gospel readings in which Jesus is not the central character. It’s also one that a preacher would rather not tackle.
We heard the account of a party given by Herod. The only mention of Jesus was at the very beginning when Herod began hearing about Jesus and people were saying it might be John the Baptist raised from the dead. Herod knew it couldn’t be John. After all, he’d been tricked into having him beheaded. Herod had tried to protect John; he liked listening to him even though he did not take time to understand the message John was giving. He was perplexed, puzzled. When we are puzzled by something we can listen and ask questions in order to gain understand or we don’t take the time necessary to broaden our understanding.
There are many horrific stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, just read through Judges. We aren’t used to hearing these stories in our Sunday lectionary.
John was in the palace dungeon for telling Herod the truth about his marriage to Herodias which was against Jewish law. John could have called Herod out for many things but John wasn’t a political person. The marriage of Herod to his sister-in-law who was also his cousin was what John called him out for. Herod was Jewish and sinned against the Torah, God’s law. John lived his personal integrity and this integrity cost him his life. This was why John was put in prison. Herod was hated and feared. He’d murdered his way to the throne; his sins blatant. This is a clear story of the brokenness in the power structure in Jesus’s time. After all of Herod’s wrong-doings he’s throwing a party and John, who told the truth was imprisoned and beheaded. John’s head was served to Herod on a platter and later in this service we will be invited to the table to remember the Body of Christ, on a plate, given for us. John’s blood was poured out because Herod wouldn’t allow himself to look bad by breaking ‘a promise to Salome. Jesus’s blood was spilled to redeem us.
Both John, a faithful servant and Jesus lost their lives because leaders, Herod and Pilate would not be made to look less than in the eyes of those watching them. They cared only for their own power. As we listen to this Gospel we can clearly understand that followers of God’s laws, those working to bring God’s kingdom on earth are in no way living privileged lives. There is a cost in speaking truth to power. When we speak to injustices we are living out our Baptismal covenant. When we see injustice what good is it if we don’t speak out? Our faith is about living our lives in relationship to everyone else. We look at things around us with Jesus’s eyes for justice. What does justice look like to us? Is it justice to make it more difficult for people to vote? Is it justice when some live on the streets? Is it justice when some can’t pay rent and eat or buy prescriptions? Is it justice when people are judged by skin color, nationality or sexual orientation? As Christians we are called to align ourselves with those who can’t speak for themselves. It’s difficult to speak up so we can remember we are blessed and chosen by the words of Paul to the Ephesians:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing … just as he chose us in Christ … to be holy and blameless before him in love”? All of you, to whom again today God “has made known the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure … set forth in Christ”, do you not feel the Spirit’s urging to perceive, to hear, to understand, to receive him as your Savior, not only in your head but in your heart? In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
While there are people like Herod and Pilate all around us we know that isn’t what God intends. When we come to know in our hearts that we belong to God we can do wonderful, amazing things. We will be able to tell others about our faith and we can impact others. Imagine if everyone here, at home or reading this later spoke to just one other person, about why they believe in the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us over and over that the Kingdom of God is here. We can bring the kingdom closer one person at a time. As it says in our Collect for today “receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them;”
No one person needs to do it all. We all just need to do our part. Amen