Sunday, July 15, 2012

two households

 Two households, not alike in dignity,
 In far Tiberias, where we lay our scene,
 From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
 Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
(Romeo and Juliet, Ii, 1-4, alt.)

A birthday party. A banquet. A feast. Everybody there you want to impress: sophisticated, urbane, and powerful. Prominent citizens of Galilee, military heroes, court officials: they’re all there. And the evening is going well…

It’s a bit of a bacchanalia, it seems; at least a symposium (Greco-Roman drinking party). An evening of worldly entertainment. And wine. And women! The queen’s daughter herself comes in dancing. (Who sent her in?)

But the light of the party turns dark…

“Give me the head on a platter of John the Baptist.”

And, so: he does.

And so doing he eliminates a dangerous enemy, a fascinating threat.

Only to face in Jesus the equivalent of John come back alive. For his message is not dead. And the repentance, and forgiveness, and righteousness, and the kingdom, that he proclaimed, seems more sure than ever to come.

Word has spread. Jesus – John’s cousin – and his disciples are going about the towns, preaching repentance, healing the sick – casting out demons!

Turn from your sins, O people of God. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(Herod remembers. John said: Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; (Matthew 3:10/Luke 3:9) Perhaps he was right!)

The signs are there. And it is not Herod’s kingdom that will come in.

Ten years later in exile in Gaul, how will Herod be doing? Will it have been worth it? The wife – the daughter – the head??

In opposition to the kingdom and family of Herod is another family, another king.

Not another king like Caesar; the king of heaven. Not just any family; the family of God.

And so the opposite forces gather.

Two kingdoms. Two families. Not alike.

This is not the first betrayal of a prophet, of a messenger bearing the word of God. Amos went to the disobedient king Jeroboam of Israel, as Elijah would have done; he gave his message and was chastised for it.

Go earn your bread in Judah, go away from this king, he was told.

But he replied. I am no professional, no bearer of the words that kings want to hear; I was an arborist and a shepherd.

The Lord chose me, showed me a vision, and sent me.

This message I have given – this vision – will come to pass.

Not popular words. Not shaped to be popular.

And so Amos delivered the message, as John would, as Jesus would, as his disciples do. The judgment is coming.

The true king is on his way. He is sending out his messengers. Though the powers of the world may oppose them, as they did before – as they opposed Amos, Elijah, John, Jesus, and all the holy martyrs – God promises his people that the Word of the Lord effects what it promises.

And that’s what they are afraid of… that is what the kings like Herod and Jeroboam fear: that the word of the Lord will come true.

The kingdom of the times is powerful, even attractive.

But we belong to another family, another kingdom.

Our brothers and sisters, all over the world, are those whom God has chosen, blessed, destined, redeemed, enlightened, inspired, made heirs, sealed as his own.

The letter to the Ephesians tells us: We are the people of God’s own choosing, not ours; of his calling, his blessing, his redeeming, his inspiring; of his legacy.

There is much to rejoice in – in Christ. We are blessed.

This is the day the Lord has made – has made us his own.

You are in his family, his kingdom; you are his people forever. Have a blessed day.

Almighty God,
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who bear the good news
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(A collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Common Worship, Church of England.

BProper10, Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29,

No comments: