15th July, 2018
Where is the hope of Jesus in today’s gospel?
Where is the good news of Jesus that we are called to celebrate in today’s gospel?
In Today’s Gospel, the writers of Mark, offer a vivid narrative of the beheading of John the Baptist, by King Herod and his wife, Herodias. It’s gruesome and many people have shared with me that for them, it’s the most depressing narrative in the synoptic Gospels.
We encounter Herod and Herodias, and her daughter Salome and Herod’s court full of the powerful elite watching this drama play out while John the Baptist is killed in their presence. It ends with Salome carrying John’s severed and bloodied head to her mother, Herodias.
So where is the hope of Jesus in today’s gospel? Because for me there is no good news to be found, if it’s all about beheading a saint!
And at first it appears that today’s gospel, is all about a King who can not find his own voice; who does not know who he is; and is controlled by others.
Herod in his anguished mind, is in the awful position, of either letting St John go completely free, or giving into a dark oath and killing John. This oath is not truly an oath to Herodias’s daughter, but rather it’s an oath to Herodias herself, and to all the leaders of Galilee; the people of power and influence that Herod serves. A dark-oath demonstrating, he is trustworthy to do their dirty work.
We see ancient roman power structures around King Herod at his birthday feast taking control of Herod. King Herod did not fear God, rather he feared how breaking his oath would look bad to his powerful courtiers and allies. So where is the good news in today’s Gospel?
I don’t personally want to preach a sermon about Herod’s house of horrors and how not to be horrible. The entire point of the Gospel is to live in hope! – and not fear. So where is the good news? Sure enough it’s right there in the first few words of the narrative. “King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’s name had become known!”
“It” being Christ’s gospel act of empowering others, his healing acts and his mercy. The good news is that Christ’s name is known by Herod. And Mark’s gospel tells us when king Herod hears about Jesus then the good news spreads and I’ll explain that in a minute.
One of the principle and foundational aims of Christians throughout the world from ancient times till today is to spread the good news of Christ. And here Mark is sharing with us that even in Herod’s house of horrors, the light of Christ gets in.
Because when Herod knows Jesus’s name, it stands to reason that Herod’s servants will know Jesus’s name, his workers, his officers, his court, his envoys, his cooks, his slaves, the help, and everyone who is in Herod’s world of power, will hear of Jesus’s name.
That’s why Herod acts so stunned in today’s gospel because his own dictatorial power system is now infused and weakened by a God whose good news spreads into a palace where people hear of Jesus going around galilee healing the sick and bringing together a new community of followers under God. A community of early disciples who would grow and flourish under all kinds of tyranny within the Roman Empire. A community of early Christians who have passed the light of Christ forward for thousands of years until it’s reached us here today at St Andrew’s.
However, it’s not all that simple. Even though the foundations of Christ’s love and grace are good news throughout the world, we still have wars, we still have aggressive corporate takeovers, outsourcing of workforces, mass displacements, and humanitarian abuses everywhere we look. Every time we turn on the news.
But we Christians are a positive people.
And despite the horrifying parts of the world we live in we walk forward in our relationship with God and with ourselves and we believe in a hope that’s guided by God’s love.
Where is the good news? When we walk into this church every week. That’s the good news. Because the moment we do, we go on to acknowledge that Jesus’s name is heard by us; that Jesus is Lord! Not fear.
That Christ is in us and we are in Christ. That’s the good news! Where is the good news? We locate it within ourselves and in each other. Trusting in God, and at times arguing with God, but always turning to God and engaging with God, so much that the structures of power that surround us in the modern world simply begin to integrate in a more balanced way with our own personal hope and faith, as we proclaim Christ is Lord.
In king Herod’s palace of death in today’s gospel the love of God may appear thwarted at times. But this is an illusion. History shows that people never pray to Herod or to any despot for long. Because true despots are powerless over our inner lives. Rather, we are a people who have insisted on proclaiming for millennia that only Christ is Lord.
In the modern world, Jesus’s name is known to us. And that is indeed, good news.
Reverend Julian Morris
Sermon 15 July 2018 (6:18)
Download the MP3
Date: July 29, 2018
By: Reverend Julian Morris