When I was little I had a children’s Bible full of graphic images and one of the most graphic – and horrific – was of last Sunday’s story from Mark, the beheading of John the Baptist. My brother and I used to dare each other to open to that page and look at it (as well as the picture of all the people drowning in the rising flood waters with Noah’s ark in the background.) It was grisly stuff!
It is clearly a story that, as commentator William Loader says, had been retold many times before it reached Mark and in that process had taken on a life of its own. What is interesting, however, is what is remembered about the life – and death – of John the Baptist in the early Christian community. Yes, he had been a peculiar figure – dressed in camel’s hair (Ahh! The greedy camel appears again!) and an early proponent of wild foraging (gathering cicadas and wild honey) but it was his unflinching stand against greed and the outworking of greed that was most remembered after his death.
The story paints not only a grisly picture of John’s death, but also how greed is manifested in our lives; how it lead to Herod’s affair with his sister-in-law and then his marriage to her, his concentrating wealth and power in his own hands, his seeking to impress those around him (and his own entrapment as a result) and his corruption of even the youngest in his household.
All of that might seem a long way from the decisions that we make each day. After all, as writer Debie Thomas says, none of us go around killing people! “But do I care too much about what other people think of me? Do I value my status, reputation, and popularity more than I do the truth? Am I so bent on conflict-avoidance that I harm others with my passivity? ….Whose vulnerability do I depend on and benefit from to keep my own comforts intact?”
These are questions the story of John the Baptist encourages us to ask.
This Sunday we are taking an abrupt turn of direction and reading one of the most well-known and best-loved pieces of scripture – Psalm 23.
Family Church is also on this Sunday and we are asking everyone to wear their woolliest jumpers (after all – it’s the season for it) as we’re learning what it means to be sheep and what it means to have Jesus as our shepherd. We’re also putting one of our youth leaders through a trial – to see what kind of a shepherd they’d be! If you want to check out a very cute sheep video – check this this video of Winter the jumping lamb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmtnB2laX3E
Grace and peace,