The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10B (July 12, 2015)

Lessons:Amos 7:7-15 Psalm 85:8-13 Ephesians 1:3-14 St. Mark 6:14-29 Semicontinuous Series: 2nd Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Psalm 24

Prayer of the Day: O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

St. Mark 6:14-29 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Truth Telling… and Grace

The new Pastor was greeting worshippers after worship on his first Sunday as they left the building. One after another thanked him for joining their community of faith, and for his thoughtful sermon. Then came Robert. He told the Pastor that it was one of the worst sermons he had ever heard, and that he really missed their old Pastor. The new Pastor was still reeling from these words when the next person extended her hand (having heard what Robert said), and tried to comfort him. “Oh, don’t listen to a word Robert says. He doesn’t really think that. He just repeats what everybody else says…”

Truth tellers can be hard people to be around.

Many of us have developed social sensibilities that guide our interactions with one another. We don’t just blurt out our criticisms, unless there is a legitimate reason to think that it will initiate a process which could help the person grow. And when we criticize, we do so in a thoughtful way, affirming other strengths (perhaps to gain credibility), and making it clear that our suggestions for improvement are just one aspect of a larger picture.

John the Baptizer seems to be more truth teller than socially sensible. St. Matthew and St. Luke report that his message begins with these words: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7 & Luke 3:7) Here in St. Mark’s Gospel we learn that John does not confine his ministry to the individual piety of those who come out to hear him. When political figures misbehave, John calls them out publicly. Herod, who had seduced his brother’s wife away and married her, is known for his bloodthirsty ways. John has every reason to steer clear of him, but he chooses instead to challenge him. In fact, in the Greek New Testament St. Mark uses the imperfect verb form, “had been telling.” John’s challenge to Herod is not an offhanded remark, or a brief sermon illustration. It seems that he is telling the truth to Herod over and over again, at great risk to his own wellbeing.

John is committed to truth telling, because he understands this is the only way for his listeners to experience grace. At the heart of the Christian faith is the reality that none of us is worthy of the grace God showers upon us. We all stand together at the foot of the cross, and are graced with the gifts of forgiveness, renewal and eternity.

In First John we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1st John 1:8-9] We do well to be grateful for John, the Baptizer, and the other truth tellers in our lives, as they help us to be open and honest about our need for what God most wants to share with us: the gift of forgiveness, and the promise of a new beginning.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Herod and John have such a troubled relationship?
  2. Why was Herod interested in John (in verse 20)?
  3. What did John hope his truth telling might accomplish for Herod?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has been a truth teller in my life?
  2. When have I become aware of a need for forgiveness that I had?
  3. How has God’s forgiveness shaped me, and molded me?