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Mk 6:14-29 · Eph 1:3-14 · 2Sa 6:1-5, 12b-19 · Ps 24
This Week's Sermons

How Life's Pressures Affect Good Judgment
Mark 6:14-29

In the opera Faust, there is a fight to the finish between Satan and the young man Valentine. During the course of the fight, Satan breaks Valentine's sword and he stands poised to slay him. But the young boy takes the two pieces of his sword and fashions them into a cross. Confronted with this symbol of faith, Satan becomes immobilized and Valentine is saved.

It is an interesting concept: A dramatic demonstration of faith. Unfortunately such resolution of faith does not always save you. In fact, it might be your deathbed. It was John's. Take a look at the story with me. John has been arrested by King Herod. And why? Because John kept reminding Herod that even the king is not above the law. He said, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."

So this was the king's egregious sin. He had stolen his brother's wife, Herodias. Now, it would be understandable if this were where the story ended. The king didn't like a desert preacher calling him a sinner so he had him beheaded. Simple enough. But life is not always simple. There is usually more to a story than meets the eye. And in this case we learn that Herod actually liked to listen to John, thought he was a holy man, and protected him. Perhaps, in Herod's mind, putting him under lock and key was a way of removing him from harms way.

So if the king was offended by John's outbursts, it was not enough to warrant death. The king feared the prophet and dared not harm him. But life has a funny way of pressuring us to do things we would not normally do. This is a story about a man who caved due to social pressures. Let me ask you: How do life's pressures affect your judgment? What can we learn from this deplorable moment in the life of this king, this moment when the king caved? We learn that...
  1. Puzzling problems require conscientious decisions
  2. Promises made in haste create great waste
  3. Pressures in life can affect good judgment
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Leonard Sweet's Sermon

The Cost of Being a Prophet
Mark 6:14-29

John the Baptist is one of the heroes of the Christian faith. More of the churches that bear the name Saint John do so in honor of John the Baptist than John the Evangelist. Perhaps it is because he is so closely linked with the birth of Jesus as Mary and Elizabeth share their pregnancies. John is the one who baptizes Jesus and it is after the death of John that Jesus begins to enter into his public ministry in earnest. Yet, few people wear WWJBD (What would John the Baptist do?) bracelets. We aren't too sure that we would want to be quite so odd as John with his strange diet and his strange clothing. Going out into the wilderness to preach does not excite too many clergy who would rather find themselves in a growing, prosperous congregation, but we really don't want to follow the example of John the Baptist when it comes to the way in which he died.

Fortunately for those of us who are not looking forward to being beheaded, it is not a common practice in this country. Almost any form of religious expression, no matter how bizarre, is tolerated in the United States. You can be about as weird as you care to be and folks may think you are looney but they won't bother trying to divert you from your craziness. But then John the Baptist wasn't beheaded for his diet or his choice of clothing. He was beheaded because he took on the ranks of power. He dared to speak out against the king and although Herod tolerated his rants, the royal household did not. It was deadly for John the Baptist to take on the powers that be and although it might not lead to beheading it is still dangerous today and in this country.

The first danger we face when we begin to speak out on public issues from the vantage point of our faith is the voice of those who will tell us that we should keep our religion private and out of politics. But Christianity is as much about how we live together as people as it is about our relationship with God...

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