Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sermon for 15 July 2012, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10)

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Mark 6:1`4-29
Resurrection Hope
Proper 10B, 15 July 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sometimes when we hear bad news, we’re stunned. Maybe it isn’t because the news itself is so shocking, but because we may have missed other pieces of bad news along the way. We need hope at such times.
Herod has heard about this Jesus. Why? Jesus’ disciples that had been sent out two-by-two as apostles were preaching repentance, healed many, and cast out many demons. Jesus’ name has become well-known. What does Herod say? This is “John, whom I beheaded, [who] has been raised.” What? John the Baptist is dead? How did this happen? Both John Mark and Matthew tell the backstory.
This King Herod is not the same King Herod who murdered the little boys in and around Bethlehem in an attempt to get rid of Jesus, the true King of the Jews. Herod, more specifically titled as Tetrarch in Matthew and Luke, was theologically clueless. He is offended by John’s preaching of repentance. And so is his current wife, Herodias. Herodias sinned by divorcing her husband. The pair sinned by marrying, for it was not lawful for Herod to marry his brother’s wife. And that’s just the beginning of the trouble.
This Herod is guilty about beheading John. He knew that John the Baptist had done miracles. And Herod’s theological cluelessness continues in thinking that Jesus is John resurrected or—I hate to use the word—reincarnated. There is, of course, no reincarnation allowed for in the Bible. We are given to life and die once and then face judgment according to the writer to the Hebrews. And for those who die in Christ Jesus there is the Resurrection to life eternal. Jesus, at the Lord’s right hand will wake the nations underground. This is our resurrection hope.
Now we get to hear the backstory of how and when John was beheaded: For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
Yes, Herodias had a grudge against John the Baptist. And Herod, clueless, but with a perplexed conscience, still heard him gladly. Herodias was on the road to hardening her heart to the Lord’s word from the Lord’s prophet calling her to repentance and faith. Herod, even as a hypocrite, was at least willing to hear heaven’s preacher. There is always reason for hope when people hear God’s Word.
TLSB: John was a prophet who sought neither riches nor political power. Prophets often rebuked kings for their sins (e.g., 2Sm 12:1–14). Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Herod imprisoned John at (Machaerus,) a fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. There, the prophet was relatively safe from the hatred of Herodias. John preached the Law but also that the Gospel of the kingdom of God was at hand.
Hope is near.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
It is not a good thing when people, especially men, boast, promise, or impulsively act before thinking. Did he really like his niece’s “dancing” enough to promise her “up to half of [his] kingdom”? Yes. Boys are gross and girls are complicated. TLSB: Herod did not have authority to dispense with half of his kingdom, but used the phrase as an extravagant expression.
Yet Herodias is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes, even manipulating her daughter and “husband” to get revenge on John for publicly embarrassing her. And, (TLSB) Herod ironically attempts to save his honor by taking John’s life. His honor? Yes. His appearance before his guests was more important than how he looked in the Lord’s eyes. Herod has remorse, like that of Judas, but not repentance (Ambrose). TLSB: [The] Grisly display of John’s severed head—at a meal, no less—illustrates the extreme corruption of Herod and his high society friends.
TLSB: Herod tries to salvage his reputation by allowing John’s disciples to bury John’s body. John’s burial prefigures the interment of Jesus (15:42–47).
TLSB: Coming just after the story about Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth, the tragic story of John gives an unmistakable foreshadowing of what awaits Jesus: rejection and even violent hostility. But rejection and violence cannot overcome the risen Lord. His victory over death and the grave shows how wonderfully He can turn such antagonism into life and salvation.
The bad news of John turns to Good News in Jesus.
Fear not when you face antagonism, ridicule, or even persecution for your faith in Christ, your confession of Christ, or for a life lived in purity according to the Word of Christ. Death cannot keep down a faithful believer baptized into Christ. Christ will raise those who have received His Body and Blood in the discernment of faith.
As Jesus says in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Our hymn today confesses our Resurrection hope for all who fall asleep in Christ:
My Lord, What a Morning LSB 968
1          You’ll hear the trumpet sound,
To wake the nations underground,
Looking to my God’s right hand,
When the stars begin to fall. Refrain

ref        My Lord, what a morning!

Public domain
We confess: On the Last Day He will raise up [John and you] and all the dead and will give eternal life to [you] and to all believers in Christ. This is  our Resurrection Hope and is most certainly true.[1] Amen.

In the Name of Jesus . Amen.

[1] Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (P. T. McCain, Ed.) (330). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.