“How Is This Good News?” 07.15.2018 Sermon

Mark 6:14-29 • July 15, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.

Whenever this gospel reading comes along in our worship – which is every 3 years in case you didn’t know – I hesitate a little to conclude the reading by saying “The Gospel of our Lord.” After all – the gospel is the good news of our Lord. The good news of God’s love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. How in any way are these 15 verses of the gospel of Mark good news?

John the Baptist – Jesus’ close relative and first proclaimer of the good news of the Messiah coming into the world – is in prison. Although many seem to think he’s already dead.

 

Herod’s wife used to be his brother’s wife. And she seems like someone who holds onto grudges by seeking revenge. Revenge at any cost.

 

Herod’s wife used to be his brother’s wife. And she seems like someone who holds onto grudges by seeking revenge. Revenge at any cost.

Herod’s daughter is dancing at her father’s party. Dancing in ways that are pleasing to her father and his guests. One can only imagine what kind of incestuous dancing this may have been.

Herod gets caught in a trap to murder John the Baptist by his wife and daughter, even though he is intrigued by John’s teaching and proclamation. Herod even protects John.

Jesus is never mentioned. In fact, this is the only story in the gospel of Mark in which Jesus doesn’t even make an appearance.

How is this gospel? How is this good news?

We are spending the bulk of our worship time this year in the gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the 4 gospels and definitely the fastest moving. It’s also the gospel that spends the greatest amount of time on the story of John the Baptist. A story of intrigue, greed, revenge, murder, and family dysfunction that extends far beyond anything that I have ever witnessed.

Why is this shocking story so important to Mark’s telling of who Jesus is?
One possible answer to that question might be found in the recent writing of Dr. Leroy Huizenga, a theology professor at the University of Mary.

His most recent book is called “Loosing the Lion.” It focuses entirely on the gospel of Mark. The first words of Professor Huizenga’s book solidify why I think today’s gospel reading is important for us to receive – even if it only appears once every 3 years. “Our age is numb.” Huizenga writes, “It’s numb to beauty, to goodness, to truth, because it’s numb to grace, and ultimately numb to God.”

He uses these opening words to remind us of the shocking ways in which the gospel of Mark tells us the beautiful story of the good news of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.
In other words, today’s gospel reading may not seem like good news on the surface. But if we dig just a little deeper – something that you and I are not always willing to do in our faith journey – we will discover something much more. Something that will bring forth gospel and restore new life in each one of us and the neighbors that God places on our path along the way.

A time long ago, but a time in human history and society quite similar to today, theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but tried and found difficult.” Or in my own words, being a follower of Jesus ain’t always easy. And if you think it is, I question whether or not it’s Jesus you’re actually following.

The Jesus we follow did not die in a quiet and peaceful way at the time and place of his choosing. The Jesus that we follow was crucified on a cross. One of the most painful and destructive forms of death to ever exist in the history of humankind.

It

is in the shadow of that cross we live and move and have our being as followers of Jesus. It is in the shadow of that same cross that makes the story of John the Baptist that much more significant for our own lives and our time.

John the Baptist’s proclaiming the coming of the Messiah results in his head showing up on a platter for Herod’s daughter. And 10’s of thousands of other followers of Jesus throughout the centuries have found a similar fate as John the Baptist because of their proclamation of Jesus as Lord.

I’ve prayed a lot about that recently. What have I done, or better yet, what am I doing today as a follower of Jesus, the might warrant my head on a platter – metaphorically or otherwise? Or, am I too chicken to actually live out my faith in words and deeds that may cause a little risk to my being and the relatively comfortable lifestyle I enjoy?

You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, you and I live in a broken world that continues to mirror the story of John’s beheading. We have all been part of a similar story at one time or another.

Persons in power deflecting fault.

Times when we have sought revenge at all costs on those who have been bold enough to speak truth to us.

Making vane promises that we know will cause harm to others if we ever have to, in fact, bring those promises into reality.

Lording power over another part of God’s creation because we think they are somehow less important to God than we are.

In the words of Pastor David Lose this past week, “Herod’s beheading of John seems rather brutal, something we look for on Game of Thrones but are surprised to see in a Gospel (conveniently forgetting, of course, the brutality of the cross!). Yet are Herod’s actions really all that far from the callous manipulations of power we see today?” Pastor Lose boldly asks. And then, offers this concluding thought. “This is our world and our story, and perhaps we forget that only because we have become so numbingly accustomed to seeing it play out daily in the headlines.” [www.inthemeantime.com]

It is my hope and prayer that we haven’t become numb – like Professor Huizenga and Pastor Lose suggest. Or have somehow forgotten that following Jesus may in fact not be as easy as we think it is. But if we have become numb to God or forgotten what following Jesus is all about, I hope and pray that the shocking good news that we are invited to receive from the gospel of Saint Mark today gives us pause to recommit ourselves to this work. And for that, I give God thanks and praise.

Like Herod, you and I are invited each and every day to really listen to the challenging voice of God in our day and age and to turn away from the lures and temptations that attempt to seduce us away from loyalty to God. And like John the Baptist…through us – through you and through me – God speaks words of peace, love, forgiveness, and mercy. Words of truth that challenge the world’s appetite toward violence, hatred, deceit, judgment, and ultimately death. [sundaysandseasons.com]

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m grateful for your commitment to this work. Commitment to this call that following Jesus invites us into. As we await God’s final redemption of the world, may we continue to be beacons of God’s love for all of God’s children. After all, that’s all John the Baptist was trying to do. That’s the gospel of our Lord. And that most definitely is good news indeed. Amen.

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About Pastor Craig Schweitzer

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in my life and in the world in which I live and serve. I am a husband, father, brother, son, friend, pastor, and maybe most significantly – a child of God! My beautiful spouse Wendy and I live in Bismarck, ND with our twin daughters, Ilia and Taegan and our crazy dogs Henri & Sadie. I’ve serve on the staff of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND since July 2001. I was first called to serve as Music & Worship Minister, in 2010 was called to serve as Pastor of Worship and Youth Education, and in January 2014 was called to serve as Senior Pastor. My professional background is a diverse collection of musical and educational experiences that ranges from live concert production and promotion to recording studios, and live performance to music education. Prior to joining Good Shepherd, I was an Instructor of Music at Bismarck State College and owned and operated a successful teaching studio called 6x6 Guitar Studio. I am a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in September 2010. Outside of Good Shepherd, I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, reading, listening or playing any and all music, a relaxing round of golf, or spending some quiet time with God. View all posts by Pastor Craig Schweitzer

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