July 11, 2021

“Our Guide for Living”

(From Mark 6: 14-29)

 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”  For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias] came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

     The Bible is full of many wonderful life lessons. Some lessons come from Jesus’ interactions with his Disciples and followers, and some we can glean from the words and actions of the many characters found in the stories of both the Old and New Testaments.   They reveal to us just why the Bible is the world’s bestselling and most widely distributed book.  It is estimated to have sold more than 5 billion—that’s billion with a “B”—copies!

     The Bible has been called the guidebook for living.  As Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun.”   Almost any aspect of human life that we can imagine, both life’s ups and life’s downs, can be found within the Bible’s rich contents.  We are not born with a manual to describe how best to navigate life with its complexity of relationships and earthly endeavors.  That is why the people and situations found within the stories of the Bible provide such powerful life lessons, especially for we people called Christians. 

     Some of the life lessons we learn from Bible stories come from strong and positive role models like our Lord and Savior, Jesus himself.  Jesus’ life and ministry provide us with the relevant tools we need for successful living, if we are ready and willing both to hear and then to apply them.  For example, In Chapter 16 of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Jesus asked his Disciples a very provocative and yet crucial life question. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Jesus asked.   As they approached Jerusalem, and his time with his Disciples drew nearer to its end, Jesus began to speak plainly to them important spiritual truths that they needed to understand.  He wanted to ensure that they fully grasped the reality that their actions in this life carried eternal consequences and ramifications far beyond the present time in which they were living.   He cared about how the Disciples were preparing their own souls for their eternal life, and also about how they were preparing themselves to carry on his ministry of compassion and healing when he was gone from them.  So, Jesus taught them, and us by our reading this scripture, the life lesson that the kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world.  Profit and gain according to this world’s standards does not necessarily translate into heavenly gain in God’s kingdom. Living in and for the eternal kingdom of God carries an earthly price. If one truly desires eternal life in the kingdom of God, they must first let go of their focus on the things of this world in order to embrace and follow the way of Jesus.

     There are other important life lessons we learn from Bible stories about very human people with very human faults.  Our Gospel Lesson for today provides a prime example of a powerful life lesson that is the result of one man’s ego, pride and desire to save his worldly public image.  King Herod, also known as Herod Antipas, ruled over the territory of Galilee during the time of John the Baptist and Jesus.  Herod came under verbal attack from John for marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias.  This, combined with the sphere of influence John’s ministry at the Jordan River had amassed, concerned Herod.  So, Herod had John thrown into prison.  Herodias also resented John for condemning her marriage to Herod Antipas.

     Upon the occasion of Herod’s birthday, a celebration banquet was held in his honor.  At this party, Herodias’ daughter, believed to be named Salome, danced to entertain the guests.  Herod had promised her a gift, up to the value of half of his kingdom, for her dance.  At her mother Herodias’ prodding, Salome asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Although greatly disturbed, because he feared this holy man, John, Herod reluctantly surrendered to the request and ordered John to be beheaded.  Herod saved his public face at the banquet, but sacrificed his own better judgment, his soul, as well as the life of John the Baptist to do so.  Proof that this action haunted Herod is found in his belief that Jesus was, in his own words, “John the Baptist raised from the dead.”  What a horrific price was paid to feed Herod’s ego and preserve his lavish worldly public image.

     Brothers and sisters in Christ, these life lessons we learn from Bible history speak volumes to us today.  More so than any generations that have come before us, we have ready access to so many of the world’s temptations and distractions.  If we are not careful, we can gain much from a worldly standpoint only, like Herod above, to lose our true selves—our souls as Jesus stated it—in the process.  How much is enough, and when does it all become too much?   Can our desire for the approval of others lead us astray of our Christian moral and spiritual values, or do we speak, in love, the greater truths to our generation?  Do we follow through in doing what is good, or wait to see what others do, or how our actions might be received?  Our guidebook for living in these times is not found in reading pop culture magazines, books, or in following the broad-stream of today’s social media.  Our guidebook for living is the $5-Billion selling book whose distribution has spanned across the world—the Holy Bible.  The Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church reads as follows: “We believe in the Word of God [Bible] contained in the Old and New Testaments as the sufficient rule both of faith and of practice.”  These words are faith-filled and true. So, let’s dust off our Bibles, read, study, reflect upon and internalize God’s Holy Word.  Then let us go forth to follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, of whose Holy and Universal Church we both are and will continue to be an integral part—even in Peninsula Ohio.  Amen.

Hymn-“Jesus Calls Us”

Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild restless sea; day by day his sweet voice sounded, saying, “Christian, follow me!”