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Atlantis ‹the domain of the Stingray›
One good turn gets most of the blankets.
‹anonymous›
Atlantis: the domain of the Stingray
15Jul
2012
Sun
14:25
author: Stingray
category: Sermons
comments: 0
trackbacks: 0

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 6:14-29

Pentecost 7B 2012 Wordle
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

So, Jesus sends His twelve out in pairs. They go from town to town, staying in one person’s house or another, some towns rejecting their message, others receiving it. And, once again, let me be clear, the message is not theirs—these twelve are simply messengers, sent to proclaim the Word of God—they were sent to preach that people should repent.

Herod heard of this. He knew that they were sent; he recognized that the preachers were disciples, not the main man. However, he got the identity of the main man wrong, having presumed these preachers to be disciples of John the Baptizer. And he was afraid, because of what he had done.

John was sent to prepare the way for the Lord, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.” (Mark 1:2-3) He baptized the contrite in the Jordan with a baptism of repentance. Along the way, word reached John that Herod had illegitimately and immorally married his brother’s wife, Herodias, who also happened to be the niece of both men. John told them that they should repent; to Herod, in particular, he said, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.”

Now, of course this enraged Herod and Herodias, probably even Herodias’ daughter and Philip, Herod’s brother. Think about it...

  • Which of you, when your spouse tells you that you have sinned against them, will, without hesitation and anger, repent and apologize to them?
  • Which of you, when your teachers told you to be quiet because you’re speaking out of turn, did so graciously and remorsefully?
  • Which of you, when your parents chastised you for misbehaving, did not want to retaliate?
  • Which of you, if you have ever been pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation, did not angrily accept your summons?
  • Which of you, when your pastor calls your sin a sin which damns and kills, would not furrow your brows, deny your sin, and seek to justify yourself?

That’s Old Adam at work, and he always is. Old Adam constantly seeks to convince you that you’re pretty alright, you’re okay, and that when others say you’re wrong, they’re wrong and you’re right. Old Adam is all about the work of self-gratification, self-preservation, and self-justification. When he cannot convincingly work around an issue, he seeks to sweep the issue under the rug, put it away somewhere where no one can see and hear it—out of sight, out of mind.

So it was that Herod seized John and threw him into prison; John could not be heard or seen from Herod’s prison—to the general public, he was out of sight, out of mind. The interesting thing here is that you can see the Law of God still at work on Herod’s heart. He knew John to be right, even when he wanted him to be wrong: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” ...Gladly, we are told, and, I would imagine, with a bit of nervousness or trepidation. That’s why Old Adam acts like he does—that’s why our gut reactions are as or similar to what was just said when our mistakes, faults, and sins are pointed out to us—he knows he’s wrong, but reacts in order to self-gratify, self-preserve, and self-justify. Herod did, Herodias did, Herodias’ daughter did, Philip did, and you and I always do.

And so, John’s message, the message of the twelve when Jesus sent them out, Jesus’ message, and the message we hear from the mouths of our pastors is to repent. Thankfully, in those of us given faith—faith to trust in God solely for true gratification, real preservation, and actual justification—the work of repentance is borne in us by the Holy Spirit, the giver of faith and the forgiveness won for us on the cross of Christ.

In others, sadly, Old Adam wins out. Oh, make no mistake, we still battle our own Old Adams, and sometimes he wins—we call that sin. He is always at war with the new life we have been given by grace through faith, and will continually be until that last day when we hear from the very mouth of Son of God, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) But in others, Old Adam has won—there is no more battle, no more war with Old Adam, only with the Word of God (a war, by the way, we constantly pray the Word would win). This is the way it was was Herod, who had John imprisoned.

It was when that annual celebration came along when Herod celebrated another year of life, that he threw a great banquet, inviting the nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. Herodias’ daughter entered the hall and danced in such a fashion as to please Herod and his men. “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you. Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom,” Herod told her. Conspiring with her mother, she asks for the head of John the Baptizer. The Law of God was at work on Herod—He was caught in a catch-22: does he keep the oath he made in front of his guests, or does he preserve the life of a man he recognizes as just and holy, sent by God?

John was beheaded. He lost his life for preaching the Word of God—this forerunner of Christ, who preached Him as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29), gives his life even as that Lamb of God would give His life as a ransom for many. He preached that people should repent, that Herod, Herodias, and Philip should repent, and his reward in this life was to lose his life.

It’s no wonder, then, when Herod heard of Jesus and His disciples preaching that people should repent, he feared that John had risen from the dead, found his head, and continued with the work he was doing before he was beheaded. The message of repentance continued in and around the country of the Galileans, and it was the same message that St. john was martyred for, a fact that even Mark told us way back in his first chapter: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15) It was John’s message from the beginning of his ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

John is not the only one the Church is gifted with who was martyred for preaching that people should repent. The Church calendar is littered with “red days”—days commemorating the death of God’s saints who by faith preached that people should repent—saints like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Jude, Thomas, and Stephen, whom the Scriptures name. And there are saints like Valentine, Polycarp, Justin, Lawrence, Cyprian, and Ignatius whom we know of by tradition and extra-Biblical writings. These are men for whom we thank God as great examples of faith to look up to, for whom we pray to God that we may emulate their faith, especially in times of despair, trouble, and, if God should will it, persecution—in order that we would rather stick to the message of repentance and give up our temporal lives than to renounce God, embrace the world, the devil, and our sinful flesh, and give up eternal life which is ours for the sake of Christ, because He deemed us worthy to hear the message to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! That was John’s message, the message of those martyrs mentioned, and many more, the message of the disciples, and the message of Christ. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. It would be put on display for all to see, as Jesus the Christ was nailed to a cross outside of Jerusalem, which cross was planted on a hill called Skull. “[A]s Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) There, the Lamb of God shed His blood as “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) From the cross flows forgiveness and life and salvation—the gift of repentance.

These are gifts that were confirmed in the resurrection of our Lord. Herod wrongly supposed John was raised from the dead, and while that will certainly happen on the last day, it happens because the Son of God was raised from His own tomb on the third day. Repentance is possible because Christ, the Son of God was born, circumcised, baptized, crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead for the world. By His death, He destroyed death, and by His rising to life, He has brought life and immortality to light—yes, the gift of repentance.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! That is also, now, the message of faithful men sent by God for your hearing. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. This is a fact you receive every time you hear faithful preachers tell you to repent, for the sweet sound of the Gospel is always there as water was poured over you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, as the words Holy Absolution are pronounced to you, and as that very Gospel is placed in your mouth—body and blood—the very same body and blood given and shed for you as the Lamb of God is sacrificed as “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” You have been given faith in Him—baptized into His death, you believe in Him—you have eternal life. (cf. John 3:14-17, Romans 6:3-6) From the cross flows to you through Holy Baptism, the words of Holy Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper forgiveness and life and salvation—the gift of repentance.

Yes, even for you are these gifts confirmed in the resurrection of our Lord. For just as Christ was raised from the dead on the third day, you who have been baptized into His death, have likewise been baptized into His resurrection, and will, like John the Baptizer, rise on the last day. Death is the captive enemy, it has been destroyed by the one whom it could not contain; therefore, it does not bind you—though you may die, yet shall you live. (cf. John 11:25) For you death has been destroyed by Christ’s death, and life and immortality have been brought to light for you and given to you—yes, the gift of repentance.

Therefore, dear listeners, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! For all of your Herod moments, confess your sin for the sin that it is. Confess that you have been angry at your spouse who tells you that you have sinned against them. Confess that you grumbled against your teacher who told you that you spoke out of turn. Confess that you retaliated or wished to retaliate against your parents for their chastisement. Confess that you smugly received the summons from the police officer and that you transgressed the law in the first place to receive the summons. Confess your sin, whatever it may be, as the sin which damns and kills. “[A]nd the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Repent, because you have that peace—because you are forgiven for all of your sins!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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