I want you all to just gather yourselves for a minute.
Settle down comfortably in your pew, and then put on your seatbelt. Because today I’m going to do something I don’t often do.
Today’s sermon is a pulpit-thumper.
I am going to pound my fist and rant and rail about sin and depravity and moral rectitude.
Who’s that sneaking out the back already? I haven’t even started yet!
It’s funny because Episcopal priests are not traditionally fire and brimstone preachers, but the reality is we do have to take time to talk about sin, because it is a destructive force in our lives.
It is profoundly destructive to us, and as we see in our gospel lesson today, profoundly destructive to others.
I don’t think you need me to spend a lot of time outlining Herod’s sins and weaknesses, they are all too obviously on display.
In this one short episode, we get to know a man who is ruled by his love of power, his lust, his lack of respect for God’s law (having married his brother’s wife), his fear of what others think of him, and his rash and impulsive decision making.
But what interests me most about Herod in this story is his relationship with John the Baptist.
It can be interpreted in a number of ways, but where I want us to take it this morning is through the lens of John the Baptist as Herod’s conscience.
This is often the role of the prophet for an entire society, reminding us of uncomfortable truths and how far we have strayed from what God asks of us, but I want us to take it to a very personal and individual level with Herod and John.
The reason I want to do that is that we get a surprising amount of detail about their relationship.
And it is a relationship. Theirs is not an impersonal governmental encounter in which they never meet face to face, all actions coming through paperwork and rubber stamps.
John and Herod know each other. Continue reading