RCL Year B Proper 10
Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Saint Mark 6:14-29

When you think about it, the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. King Herod hears of Jesus and his disciples, the Gospel begins.[1] And then we hear the story of the death of Saint John the Baptist by way of the rumor that Jesus is Saint John risen from the dead.

The Gospel really concerns Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus and a major messenger of God. As God’s messenger, John has told Herod that it is not lawful for him to take his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own wife. For this message from God Herod throws John into prison, and Herodias bears a grudge against John. She satisfies that grudge by suggesting to her daughter that she ask for John’s head on a platter, since Herod has offered to give her anything she wants. Herod keeps his promise, and John is beheaded. And we see what happens to God’s messenger.

Something similar happens to Amos when he delivers God’s message about King Jeroboam. Amaziah misrepresents Amos’ message to Jeroboam and runs Amos out of town, commanding him to earn his daily bread in Judah not Israel. Prophesy there, why don’t you? If Amos and Saint John’s stories resemble the truth, being God’s messenger isn’t such a cushy and hotsy-totsy vocation after all.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t kill the messenger.” But that expression is current, because it tells the truth. People kill messengers often enough to give the expression full meaning.

I began by saying that the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. John and Jesus are God’s messengers, and people kill them both because of their identity as God’s messengers.

Which brings me to the heart of the Gospel today. You and I work both sides of the message street. We claim to be part of the Jesus Movement, as the Presiding Bishop likes to call it. And, at the same time, our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Part of what it means to be a foot-soldier in the Movement is a certain ambivalence about the Movement. We see nothing ambivalent in Amos, in John, or in Jesus. And yet we want to stay on both sides of the street. My prayer for you and for me is that we all grasp our calling a little more fervently and a little less ambivalently. For to do that is our journey, a journey leading to salvation. God help us along the way.

[1] Saint Mark 6:14