A tale of two dances …
Scripture for this Sunday: 2 Samuel 6.1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1.3-14; Mark 6.14-29
In Mark’s gospel, the story of the demise of John the Baptist is cleverly woven into the fabric of the increasing recognition of the power and reputation of Jesus.
At one level, it reads like a morality tale: we should be careful when making promises and make sure that we will be able to meet them, and not leave someone innocent to bear the consequences of our actions. Herod comes across as a rather pathetic figure, allowing himself to be led into doing a dreadful thing to save face.
But there is more than this. Mark’s gospel leads us to see that the ministry of Jesus is foreshadowed by John; but his demise is foreshadowed, too. John’s incarceration resulted from his unswerving commitment to tell the harsh truth, in prophetic style; similarly, Jesus keeps telling a truth that leads to his detention. Herod becomes Pilate. The sword becomes the cross. And similarly, those for whom Mark’s gospel was written, early followers of Jesus, would find their own way to be difficult and sometimes deadly.
Following Jesus is never easy, because his way confronts conventional power and generates fear in those who mistrust any authority other than their own. There is no promise of security; the only promise worth serving is the most important one given to our forebears in faith by the God who promises: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
That promise should guide the dances of our lives, leading us to choose between the Spirit-driven dance – like that of David’s joy and exuberance – that may lead us to look odd in the eyes of the world, and the earthly driven dance – like the lascivious dance to which Herod succumbs – that makes us look good in the eyes of the world, but is spiritually bereft. Which dance is most faithful to the covenant of the ages?
To praise and glorify God, to live in truthful adherence to God’s purpose, will not necessarily be easy or popular.