Lectionary Reflection: Mark 6: 14-29: Don’t Lose Your Head.

            Who hasn’t lost their head? 

            How many middle managers have made promises to their boss that they cannot possibly keep?  And isn’t it always some poor schmuck down the line who is made the fall guy?

            How many parents have had to deal with the words, “But you promised?”  sometimes those words come from the kids.  Sometimes they come from the exasperated parents.

            How many people have backed themselves into a corner where they do the wrong thing, knowing it is the wrong thing, in order to save face, or in order to show some perceived strength, or in order not to admit they were wrong or made a mistake?

            Forget reality.  For too many of us appearance matters way too much.  But was it different back then?  No.

            Herod lost his head.  He made a stupid promise and then he had to make a bad decision in order to (presumably) keep his word, or keep up appearances, or not show weakness, or whatever.  He couldn’t say, “John has not done anything worthy of the death penalty.  Even we are bound by the law.  His head is not mine to give.”  It is hard to be a quick thinker when you have lost your head. 

            Can we relate?

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            How many people, when confronted with an opportunity, find their brain cells stop functioning altogether and cannot possibly make a decision?  We ask our family.  We ask our neighbors.  We ask people at work, people in the church, strangers on the street, our mailperson.  “What should I do?”

            The daughter, the girl, the dancer completely lost her head.  She asked her mom and blindly, like a parrot, brought the demand to the King.  She could have had anything, and for herself, but clearly lost her head.  Her brain stopped functioning.

            How about this one.  Can we relate?

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            Why do we give other people so much power over us?  No doubt, words are powerful things.  They are much worse than sticks or stones.  Spank a child and the point is made, even if the lesson is not exactly learned.  Verbalize displeasure with the child and risk sending the child to thirty years of therapy.

            We should all learn the child’s lesson, that “Word can never hurt me.”  

            Yet words do hurt.  When someone says something wrong about us, or mean or mean spirited, or flat out lies, or even just something unkind, even and sometimes especially when the words are true, oh the gall!  The ire rises up inside.  How much time and energy is used to set the record straight?  And how the mind rushes to thoughts of revenge, to getting even.  Anger, resentment, the cold shoulder, the ugly stares.  And it can go on for years.

            Why do we give other people so much power over us?  Someone says something and it just eats us up inside, and from that day on our thoughts and behavior are entirely under the control of someone else.  But the truth is how we respond to words is entirely up to us.  We are not required to cede control of our lives and ulcers to some stupid person and their stupid words.  Yet we do.

            Can you relate?

            Herodias was determined to get revenge.  No doubt it ate her up inside.  No matter the truth.  Indeed, nothing else mattered.  She lost her head over the matter.  She was no longer in control of her life. She was like us, but in a position to do something about it when the opportunity arose.

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            What?  You thought this story was about John the Baptist?  His head was incidental – background noise, and losing it did not hurt him one bit.  Indeed, he was sent to glory in place of being in prison. 

            No, like so much of the Bible, this story is about us.  Mark tells it exactly so.  He got the right angle on it to give warning to all of us who are tempted from time to time and for one reason or another to lose our heads.

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