Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
John the Baptist had the kind of ministry that young seminarians dream of. He threw all of himself into everything he did—he preached and taught and performed the ritual of baptism for the remission of sin. John had the kind of sheer charisma that caused crowds of people to love him. Even Herod, who probably disliked a good portion of what he was hearing, liked listening to John speak—even though whenever he heard John, Herod came away greatly perplexed. John spoke God’s own truth as he saw fit and everyone knew that he was a righteous and holy man.
Um, guys? Guys? I'm trying to talk about John the Baptist over here...
Unfortunately, one of the things John was saying that perplexed Herod had to do with his wife, Herodias. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Herodias divorced her husband in order to marry her husband’s half-brother. While this would simply be a piece of juicy gossip in today’s day and age, according to Jewish law, it was a pretty big no-no. The purity laws say that you shouldn’t have sex with your brother’s wife because it’s like having sex with your brother. And John was saying so. In public. Where everyone could hear.
Well, Herodias didn’t like that. She didn’t like that at all. In fact, she wanted John dead. But Herod was afraid to kill John, because John was—after all—a righteous and holy man. So Herod had him tossed in jail instead.
So, Herod and Herodias had a daughter—who was also named Herodias, just to make things confusing. On Herod’s birthday the daughter Herodias did a dance that Herod liked so much that he promised her anything she asked for. In public. Where everyone could hear.
Wow, look at the little guy go...
Herodias the daughter runs to Herodias the mother and asks her what she should ask for. And Herodias the mother says, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.” So Herodias the daughter goes back to her father, Herod, and says, “Give me the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Right now.” Herod doesn’t want to, but he did promise… And so it is done.
So you have to be careful, right? You have to watch what you say, hold back a little, or you could end up with your head on a platter. Ok, not literally, but we do live in a society where it certainly feels that way sometimes. I’m reminded of an animated series called The Boondocks. In an episode dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. they imagined what it would be like if he hadn’t died when he’d been shot in Memphis on April 4th, 1968, but rather was in a coma until the fall of 2001.
In this fictional US, Martin Luther King Jr. is a guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Mahr immediately following the September 11th attacks. Mahr challenges him on his stance of non-violence
in the face of the terrorist attacks, and he responds by saying that “…as a Christian we are taught that you should love thy enemy and if attacked you should turn the other cheek.”
And the crowd was stunned. Time magazine’s cover labeled him a traitor.
And the televised news referred to him as an Al-Qaeda lover who wants us to just roll over and let the terrorists win. Because he hates America. And is a Communist.
This is the world we live in. You have to be careful what you say or else you’re an Al-Qaeda-loving-America-hating-Communist.
Because everyone around you will take an attack on their opinion as an attack on them personally and they will come out swinging. And if they are on the internet, or worse, in the eye of the media, they can and will serve your head up on a platter.
What about David?
Well, what about David?
“David danced before the Lord with all his might…” --2 Samuel 6:14a
I guess that’s true, too. Even though it embarrassed his wife to no end, David threw every ounce of his being into the celebration when the Arc of the Covenant first arrived in Jerusalem. And maybe that’s what God wants. Maybe God wants us to do everything whole-heartedly, because even though we run the risk of being hurt in the process, that’s how God’s work gets done.
Maybe… maybe God wants us to throw every ounce of our being into everything we do because it’s the only way to be honestly and truly down into the depths of your soul happy. I don’t know about you, but even though it scares me, I think it might be worth the risk. Maybe I’ll end up with my head on a platter. But then again, maybe I’ll end up being the kind of happy that looks like dancing with all your might.