22 November 2017



2012
> Have You Not heard? Commissioning and Baptism
> Papatoetoe district 150 years opening service

2010
> Pentecost - The Genesis Experiment
> Freedom and human trafficking
> The Corinthian Puzzle - Resurrection Body
> [Waitangi Weekend]. Hope for a Future
> Being a Healing Community
> Turbans and Prophets in Manurewa
> Light to the Nations -O Surely Not the Samaritans!
> Jesus the real human - not Avatar

2009
> Prophet at Copenhagen Needed
> CLIMATE CHANGE - Revisiting the Creation stories
> Love Lived
> Questions of God
> Tsunami.and Job, God in disaster
> Reconciling Cultures
> John the Baptist - A reminder of reality
> Do not follow the advice of the wicked

2008
> If only You would sort it God!
> Invited and rejected - Texts of terror
> Saying Yes! but its really No!
> Thanksgiving
> Claiming God is on our side - Dangerous and Unwise
> Let your Love be genuine
> Bible and Qu'ran Ishmael and Isaac
> Fruitpickers wanted
> Faith Changing Culture
> Easter greeting - Peace be with you
> Freed For Seeing
> Temptations of Leadership - Dedication of leaders
> Let There be no Divisions Among You

2007
> How many husbands in Heaven?
> The Dishonest Manager
> The Prayer which Changes the World
> What are we getting them into? Succession planning
> Faith there is a future
> Forgiven - the one who loves much
> THE SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE, SIGNS AND WONDERS
> Temptation
> Free flowing wine, Free flowing grace

2006
> The Birth Stories of Jesus - whom do we serve
> Sexuality Working out our Faith
> What is Wisdom?
> Stilling the Voices of the Storm
> THE GROWING SEED
> Pentcost - Facing the Darkness
> Moving on from Betrayal
> Friends my Mother Warned me About
> Ethiopian Eunchs Are In - Good News For theChurch
> St Patrick and Mission today, Potatoes and Rice
> Family is a Cultural word

2005
> Christmas Day Reflection - Power of Hope
> Subverting the System - The Talents Revisited
> Living God! Joshua Leadership with Wet Feet
> Futurechurch conference and the Presence of God
> The Golden Calf is not the Name of a Pub
> Who?
> Induction Sermon - Pukekohe Who Is Your Neighbour
> What is Fair and What is Just?
> Confrontation at Hunters Corner
> Food in the Wilderness
> Bombers in London, Weeds among the Wheat
> The Gospel is already Sowen for us to Find
> Human sacrifice. God's Demand or Our Desire
> Marriage - From Contract to Promise
> Who is he?
> Seeing the Light
> The Man at the Well
> East of Eden- Our Story
> Dingwall 75th - Charity or Justice
> Doing Justice - An Induction Sermon
> Light in the world
> Tsunami - World in Turmoil

2004
> Promises Kept
> Christ The King - We don't have Kings anymore!
> What is Our Mission : Connecting with Other Faiths
> The Word of God is not Chained
> Descent into Hell
> What does the Lord Require - Assembly report
> 150th service Rev Sharon Ensor's sermon
> The neighbour who comes from God..
> Driving out Demons - Fears Of Mental Illness
> Flowing Waters 2 Spirit of Peace
> Flowing Waters 1 - Reflections in Japan
> Putting it On The Line
> Go Fishing- Youth Leaders Dedication
> Waitangi Day Celebration
> God's Love is Wider than We Want
> The Best Wine
> Dancing Stars - Science and Theology

2003
> First Sunday of Christmas
> Church culture to Mission Culture
> Be Wise
> Trinity - Beyond Miracles
> Sir Ed Hilary- Ascension Sunday
> Culture challenged by Love
> On the Road to Gaza
> Whose Voice? - Mother's Day
> Rows of White Crosses. [Anzac]
> Easter Day - Go , Jesus is Waiting for You.


Sermons
Sermon - 12 July 2009
Bible Verses: 2 Samuel 6:1-5,12-19 & Mark 6:14-29
(click the verses above to read the passages online)

John the Baptist - A reminder of reality

We so easily forget the danger of being followers of Christ. Of the choices we may be forced to make and the dilemmas we may be placed in. We cannot say we have the peace of Christ without also knowing that does not mean the path will be painless or simple.

The story of John the Baptist is not often part of the readings, we avoid it preferring to skip onto the five loaves and two fish. But we won't get it if we leave out the bad bits.

This story of john the Baptist follows a few weeks where we have had readings about severed heads. First David and the head of Goliath, then the Philistines parading the heads of Saul and his leaders after their victory over Israel. Now Mark tells the story of another head.

Once again the one who has power gets the head to display. Its the head of that strange forerunner of Jesus, Who preached in the desert places about the coming messiah. Large crowds streamed out in the wilderness to hear a prophet and repent of their ways. John baptised Jesus and about six months later we are told John's head is lying on a platter at King Herod the Tetrach's anniversary banquet.

It's not a good look for Jesus' work when the guy that gave the references is beheaded!
Jesus had been sending out his disciples do great things. Jesus' actions, we are told, stir Herod into remembering, to worrying. Others ask who is Jesus, and suggest Elijah or a new prophet but Herod knew, it is John the Baptist returned, whose death plucked at Herod's conscience.

Herod, a puppet King of the Roman emperor, had married King Aretas' daughter - King of Petra -as a strategic move. He then became entranced by his brother Philip's wife , Herodias.
His divorce of King Aretas' daughter provoked a war with that nation. The sex scandal of the new marriage was the talk of Jerusalem but John the Baptist provokes Herodias' wrath by openly saying what people are thinking - he criticises the relationship. Nothing is new is it. John the activist must be silenced. There is no freedom of subversive speech, even for a prophet, in a tetrachy under Rome. John is flung into the dungeon of Herod.

Herod meets with him and comes to respect John as a man of God - and I guess that is the scariest factor about weak puppet leadership. For regardless of this, this awful episode happens.

Herod is at his anniversary dinner, surrounded by his top officials. The army chiefs, the advisors, this is a State occasion not a private party, all those he had to maintain his power over and use were there. In response to his stepdaughter's [and neice's] dance, he offers her any request and on her mother's guidance she asks for the head of John the Baptist.

The dance had been a dance of death. Herod looks at his guests, they have the power to make him or break him, and he can't lose face.
Herod serves the empire, his own needs and his wife's pressure and gives the order.
Its too late - when a powerful man gives an order - its done. The head arrives, the banquet finishes on this note of death.

This Herod is the one who will later, according to Mark, condemn Jesus and send him to Pilate with the rider that they want him killed.
So who is winning here? John the good man is dead. Herod has won it seems.
We get the message - Jesus is not immune from the forces of politics.

John's disciples come to tell him about what they have done. We can only guess why, but maybe to grieve and to say what next?
This whole story could come out of any repressive regime today where any dare speak truth.

Its not by accident that Mark places another banquet next.

Jesus, we are told tries to go away to a deserted place, maybe to absorb the news about John. What will Jesus do? The immediacy of the danger to Jesus if he continues is clear.

But Jesus is followed by the crowds. He looks and sees that they are like sheep without a shepherd, maybe the suggestion is that when prophets like John get killed there are no shepherds left. Jesus has compassion on them and feeds them with the five loaves and two fish.
Another banquet, but one which ends in life.

We prefer the story of that feast without Herod's feast being it setting. We do tend to avoid that which takes us out of comfortable ways.

Nadia Bolz-Weber tells her story and comments on this passage this way. She tells of when she was questioned about the little Lutheran church she was planting "Do you think the church you planted will get really big?" "Um," she said, "well...no "There's just not a huge market for the message 'Jesus bids you come and die'," she explained that . "People don't exactly line up around the block for that. But 'Jesus wants to make you rich!' seems to be doing really well right now."

She continues, "It's easy enough to understand the attraction. On one level we all want to be victorious, successful and wealthy. So if someone is willing to tell us that Jesus happens to also want that for us, well, sign us up! That's good news

Except that it isn't. It's not good news, just tempting news. Jesus knew that.. He knew how tempted people would be to hop on the Superman-miracle-worker-healer--star bandwagon.
This is why, in Mark, Jesus keeps instructing people not to not tell anyone about the healings and miracles—because there is no way to know what this God/man is about based only on miracles. We only see who he is when we look upon the cross. The problem is that we'll choose the miracles every time..

Maybe this is why the Gospel writer puts the John the Baptist story here, totally out of time and place.
The disciples are riding high on the power of Jesus' healings, teachings and miracles, and it is in this state that Jesus sends them out. Just before this story , Jesus tells them to do their work in poverty and to expect rejection. Just in case we don't get it yet—in case we think that this thing is about our own glory — we are reminded about of John the Baptist.
If we think that this whole following-Jesus thing is about glory and not the cross, we are faced with the stark contrast between Herod's glory, wealth and power and John's suffering, poverty and weakness..
It isn't about cash and prizes. It's about a suffering God who offers us life and salvation, a God who bids us come and die.
Is there a line queuing around the block yet?

Throughout the ages we find people who knew that it would take more than a decapitation to stop the truth of God, more than a crucifixion to stop the Son of God, and more than persecution to stop the mission of God. "

The good news is about God's dance of life, which comes out of, not avoids, but comes out of death. It’s the feast that feeds thousands from very little, the message which tells you and me that our little bit, our lives, can and will be blessed that others might know life that is lasting.

After all the important guests at Herod’s party would never have known what we know -- that after Herod was sealed in his grave, you and I would be thinking about John the Baptist and rejoicing that the good news is still on the prowl right here.

Ref With thanks to blogger Nadia Bolz-Weber Blogging towards Sunday for her insightful passage which I have freely borrowed.

Rev. Margaret Anne Low

 

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