12 July 2009/Proper 10B – Amos 7:7-15/Ephesians 1:3-14/Mark 6:14-29
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
Live for the Praise of His Glory
So as to know once and for all that Jesus is NOT John the Baptizer, Mark gives us a detailed account of how John loses his head. It is a story drenched with all the political and religious intrigue, scandal and backstabbing violence as any that commands our attention in today’s political and pop culture scene.
John had simply done what needed to be done: he spoke Truth to Power. As always, Power does not like be reminded of what it is doing that is wrong. He reminds Herod it is not lawful for Herod to have his own brother’s wife. And yet, we are told that this particular Herod, for reasons unexplained, somehow enjoyed listening to John. He liked having him around. Herodias, his current wife, formerly his brother’s wife, however, is tired of listening to John and employs her own daughter to bring John down.
All in the name of keeping a scandal quiet, although it rarely works to kill the messenger. The word is out, and reputations are already discredited.
Amos is the prototype John. After seeing a vision of God with a plumb line in his hand, Amos is sent to deliver a series of messages to king Jeroboam, messages that are not at all encouraging. The message is that not only will the King die, but all the people will have to pay the price of his unfaithfulness. This unfaithfulness includes over-reliance upon military might, grave injustices in social dealings, abhorrent immorality, and shallow meaningless piety. Sound familiar?
You have to love the comical depiction of the King’s own advisor/protector and priest as he attempts to head off disaster by running Amos out of town. Amaziah suggests that more money could be made by issuing prophecies elsewhere. The temptation is always to go where the money is; to follow the money.
Amos says, “Nothing doing. I’m not in it for the money! I am no prophet nor am I a prophet’s son. I am a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. The Lord took me away from my flock and told me to bring this message to you and your boss.”
Speaking truth to power: Amos and John the Baptizer, two of an endless series of such prophets in the Bible – forerunners of Jesus of Nazareth.
Amos and John are the plumb line. God says, just put this plumb line next to the wall I have built – the wall being a metaphor for Israel, for God’s people, and as far as we are concerned, the Church. Does it look plumb to you? Are the walls still as I built them? Or, are they out of line?
It is interesting that between these two lessons lies the letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians might be said to be the plumb line. It talks about our sole purpose: that we might live for the praise of God’s glory.
That’s it. The rest is all about God’s doing, not ours.
And what God does is substantial.
God blesses us with every spiritual blessing. Not some, not many, but every spiritual blessing.
God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before “In the beginning…”
God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will!
God freely bestows his glorious grace making us his beloved!
God forgives us our trespasses.
God makes known to us the mystery of his will set forth in Christ.
God has a plan to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In Christ we have also received an inheritance, as we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.
God does all this so that “we might live for the praise of his glory.”
With cases like Herod, Herodias, Jeroboam and Amaziah, like all the well publicized cases of our own time, it is easy to see that they are out of plumb.
Hang the plumb line in the midst of our own parish community, and what would we see? Are we in line with the God who has done all this for us without our asking? Do we live for the praise of his glory? If so, Alleluia! If not, what need we do as a community of God’s people to live for the praise of his glory?
We say everything we say and everything we do will proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. We say we will seek Christ in all persons. We say we will strive for justice and peace for all people. Our catechism (BCP 855) says according to the gifts given to us we will continue Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. Not in the parish, not in the church, but in the world. Does our engagement with the world show that we are a people who live for the praise of God’s glory?
Perhaps it is time to look at the plumb line, repent and follow Jesus.