Year B Proper 10 Mark 6
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 form 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

John the Baptist, Sanctified Indifference, & the King of Pop
Mark 6:14-29

Who wants your head on a platter?

What truth is worth your head? What truth is worth your life?

There are two types of people in the world we despise. The first are people who can never be trusted to tell the truth. The second are people who can only be trusted to tell the truth.

We all know people who have trouble telling the truth. Is there anyone here who doesn't know someone for whom a lie is just a more convenient interpretation of reality? The great psychoanalyst Carl Jung once noted that there were only two kinds of people he could not "cure:" schizophrenics and compulsive liars. Both create alternative realities.

The second kind of person we cannot bear are those who DO tell the truth. We can't tolerate them because they see right through our daily disguises, our fake facades. They are not impressed by all our flamboyant "toys," or our flush bank accounts, or the degrees we hold, or the opinions of others. We don't like them because the truth they reveal can be uncomfortable, awkward, harsh and unyielding.

It's hard to know which of these two kinds of people offends our sensibilities more: the liar or the truth-sayer.

Can you remember the first time you got in trouble for telling the truth? I can. Can you, really? I'll tell you my story if you tell me yours. [This would make a great interactive time with your congregation.]

I was four or five years old. One of my aunts was visiting our house, and she asked my mother why my brothers and I didn't come over more to visit them and play? I chimed in, "I know the answer to that . . . Because my mother says your house is dirty."

[If you need to prime the pump of memories, you might want to use one of these:

  • When asked by some funny-smelling "old lady" (that is someone older than our mother!) if we didn't just love her strange green casserole . . .
  • When asked by your neighbor if you wouldn't like some more of their freshly baked but noxious brownies . . .

Chances are, if you expressed your true feelings on these offerings, you got in trouble . . . later.

Same thing when you fended off a Marlboro-laced hug and kiss from Great Uncle whom-ever with a disgusted "Yuck" or even worse, "You stink!"

Eventually we learn that while we should always tell the truth, we don't always have to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some call this the art of the "white lie," the polite under-played put-off. But whatever you call it, most of us gradually master the complex socialization process that enables us to keep what we're thinking to ourselves. Those who fail to learn this social side-step are likely to find employment opportunities limited, friends in short supply, and relationships with the opposite sex unexpectedly brief.

The truth be told? We usually don't want the truth to be told... presents Leonard Sweet