Monday, 13 July 2015

'Don't Shoot The Messenger' - transcript of sermon St Peter's, Alstonefield July 12th 2015

Sermon – St Peter’s Alstonfield 12th July 2015

Ephesians 1.3-14 and Mark 6.14-29   

This story of John the Baptist could be entitled ‘don’t shoot the messenger.’

For that was what John was, a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. A herald of the soon and coming King – ‘behold the Lamb of God.’

And John delivered his message without fear or favour to kings and commoners, to soldiers and to servants, to scribe and slaves.

It was this uncompromising message highlighting the illegitimacy of Herod’s marriage to Herodias, his bother Philip’s wife, which had landed him in prison.

The story in our Gospel is one that has been told in a hundreds of different ways for thousands of years. Of someone in power who believes they can act with impunity, with a cocktail of sex and a weak man and a manipulative woman with a grudge.

It is the Jewish historian Josephus who gives us the name of Salome for Herodias’ daughter.    

The Biblical text leaves us to guess at what type of dance Herodias’ daughter performed.

The idea of it being an erotic belly dance, known as the ‘The Dance of the Seven Veils’ originates largely with an Oscar Wilde play and also incorporated in a musical piece by Strauss.

Whatever the dance was it pleased King Herod who then shouts his mouth off before putting his brain into gear. Herodias now has her perfect opportunity to be rid of that stinking prophet languishing in the dungeons.

I love the story of some children being told this story and then being asked what they might have done had they been Herod and made a stupid promise like that in front of everyone. One young girl replied, I would have said that I promised you up to half my kingdom, I am afraid that John the Baptist is part of the half I didn’t promise you. 

Unfortunately for John, King Herod didn’t have that wisdom, or perhaps he was to wine soaked to think straight.  You can easily fill in the gaps!

Making public promises is of course not a bad thing in and of itself. For example like marriage is a public declaration of a two people entering into a covenanted relationship.  And we all know the value of announcing we are going to do something, like give up drinking or chocolate, so that people can call us to account.

However there are other lessons we can learn from this sorry story. John the Baptist spoke out against injustice and he pointed people to Jesus. He was a herald for the coming King and the Kingdom that this King would usher in.

Just how good are we at speaking out against injustice, about immorality and how good are we at pointing people to Jesus?

How good are we at clearing the way for Jesus to enter into people hearts and lives.

Have we cluttered the place up, albeit unintentionally with the ways we are as the People of God?

Do our Worship Gatherings mystify, befuddle and bemuse those who are non-adherents?   

John the Baptist spoke out his message not in the Temple courtyards or even in the synagogue, but out and about in the highways and the byways.

Have we locked Jesus up in our buildings and said that is the only place you can approach Him at a time of our choosing and in a way we will dictate.

Do we demonstrate the scandalous grace of God that refuses to recognize status, money, colour or creed – but says to one and all, ‘come and see and taste that the Lord is good.’  

And when was the last time you offered that invitation to someone and pointed them to Jesus?

For isn’t that our core business - to speak out without fear or favour about injustice and immorality and to point people to Jesus.

Isn’t that what all these buildings are about, our worship, our committees and the whole life of the Church upon earth?

To seek make real the Kingdom of God come upon earth.

Sad to say that the Lord’s Prayer is often on our lips but not often enough in our hearts, or demonstrated through our hands and feet.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in my country…

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in my community…

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done among my friends…

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in my in my family…

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in my life!

Let us pray…

God our strength and our hope,
 grant us the courage of John the Baptist,
 constantly to speak the truth,
 boldly to rebuke vice
 and patiently to suffer for the truth's sake;

Assist us to clear pathways so that Jesus may enter hearts and lives and that  many will come to experience the scandalous grace of God.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord 
 who lives and reigns with you
 and the Holy Spirit
 one God now and for ever.


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