Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God Our Father and from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for this morning comes from the Gospel reading, as well as the Old Testament.
Every Sunday on the front of your bulletin, at the top, is the Collect of the Day. The Collect of the Day is kinda the main prayer, or summary prayer, of what’s going on in the rest of the service. It collects the information in one summarily said prayer. Sometimes it’s pretty generic in its application with the text and the hymns, but this morning it’s spot on!
Oh Lord you granted your prophets (meaning Amos and the last Old Testament Prophet, John the Baptist) strength to resist the temptations of the devil and courage to proclaim repentance. Give us pure hearts and minds (meaning those that are confident of God’s forgiveness) to follow your Son faithfully even into suffering and death.
That summary, says everything about those two texts. You and I live in a world, where the concept of truth and its authority and its exclusivity has been cast out. What has replaced it has been, what’s right for you is you, and what’s right for me is for me, as long as it doesn’t hurt you or me, it’s got to be correct and true. It doesn’t matter. Now this concept finds different expressions, for example in the Gospel reading, Herodias, the wife of Herod, expresses this concept of truth in a very bold-faced lie. She wants John dead, there is no quibbling with, there is no will have a little bit of that or a little bit of this, it is a bold-faced lie, and those kind of people are really honest. You got to give them that, they are honest, they are all out there as to what they believe to be true and what they believe to be false. If fact, they are really the antithesis of what God is calling you and me to be, honest in our truth. It’s Herod, Herod is the scary one, because Herod also has lies, but their not a bold-faced blunt lie, their a pious lie. Now the difference is, one is markedly obvious, the other is a little bit of truth, and a little bit of lie, mixed into a cocktail that’s really poisonous and leads to damnation. But, it’s all piously said, or all piously endorsed. Having a form of religiosity and yet denying its power, as Paul said. This pious lie is what infected the German people during Hitler’s regimen. The pious lie is what infected the Christian Church and Mainline Denominations in American in the 1920s and 30s. Where there was this weakening of what God’s Word said. You see, Satan cannot storm the bulwark of God’s truth head-on. He will always be defeated. So what Satan has to do, is sneak underneath the gate, as the snake he is and come about it at the back door. When the Church and Christianity in this country began to say, “You know what, God did not create the world in six days, those are metaphors, in fact, their just merely examples.” The erosion of truth began to occur within the scriptures. “Jonah wasn’t really swallowed by a Great Fish, he rather was just a metaphor or picture of God’s Power of Deliverance” And so miracles begin to be downplayed. “There really wasn’t a parting of the Red Sea, that was just a story,” that began in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, it didn’t just begin here, it was all over the world that it began. In fact, if anything America embraced what was already happening in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. We what happen in the country of Germany. Unless we think that it is not happening to us in this country, think again? With the passing of the Universal Healthcare System or otherwise known as Obamacare, it has put the church in a very compromising position, for it is mandating that the church and our insurance will give and allow abortions to occur. Regardless of what you think about Obamacare, it does do that to the church. And that is a compromise. A lot like Herod. And the chasm between your and my biblical view of the truth and the world’s pious lie and complete disregard for truth, the chasm is growing at an exponential rate. We were tolerated in the 50s and 60s, long before many of us were born, but we are no longer tolerated now. Herod played the game, and that’s why that kind of pious truth is so devastating.
Another man, form the 1930s and 40s, grew up and was Pastor in a church in Germany, by the name of Herman Sasse wrote about this degradation of truth and what happens to a society, when society calls truth a lie, and calls a lie, truth. He writes, “When man denies that he and others are dying, spiritually, the terrible dissolving of his culture begins. And instead, what is held up as truth, is also the glorious assent of the culture, is the very opposite.” So, the world says, were becoming more enlightened. To see the world through these eyes, were more enlightened. To see Genesis not describing six literal days is more enlightened. To see Jonah as merely a story is to be more enlightened. To see Baptism as nothing but water is to be more enlightened. And to see this as merely bread and wine, is to be more enlightened. That’s the chasm that is growing, brothers and sisters, and its degree, by degree, by degree. And where we once could kind of keep it out of the realm, we are seeing how quickly it can change by our fellow citizens, and by our Congressman and Representatives. Herod loved to listen to John, look at the text! He loved to listen to John and his way of dealing with Herodias and her absolute bold-faced lie against John, was to imprison John the Baptist. That way, he could keep him protected from others like Herodias, who did not want to hear truth, who did not want to hear about sin, especially their sin. Herodias, sadly was like Herod’s step or half-niece, that’s how bizarre their relationship was. John called it what it was because Herod represented the authority of King of Israel. Now the Romans, and many of the Jews, may have looked at that as a figurehead, but he still represented something. The Office of King, represented something, and he completely denied it. No different than Jeroboam in the Old Testament reading, didn’t want to hear about what Amos was preaching. Rather sent one of his own Priests to get Amos out of the Kingdom. Get him out of here, the land can’t bear what he is saying. He’s talking to serous, he’s calling truth, truth. We don’t want to deal with that, cause there’s too many. . . well, there’s too much suffering involved. John the Baptist, while declaring truth to be truth was killed. That really was kind of a picture wasn’t it, of Jesus Christ Truth Incarnate, who bore witness to the truth to set you free. He was also crucified because he spoke the truth, because he was and is truth. The world will have none of that. It listens to this kind of logic, the same logic that Satan used in the garden. Did God really say? Did he really say that? And, you will not surely die. Go to hell? Be damned? That surely won’t happen. Those two lies are at the base of all the other lies, and they erode truth. Did God really say, that when the Pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins,” that you really are forgiven, by believing in those words? Did God really say, that by eating and drinking the bread and the wine, which is my flesh and blood, you’re joined to me and me to you and are forgiven, if you believe those words? Did God really say that?
So, Herod its said listened to John, and was perplexed by John’s preaching. But, notice there’s an adverb used. He gladly heard John. About the same adverb as the meaning of the Third Commandment, to gladly Hear and Learn it. Herod heard it, but guilt over his own situation kept it out of his ears, for to embrace what John was preaching about forgiveness and mercy, would mean that he would also have to embrace his sin as sin. This is where it all comes down to. It is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. That builds a wall and does not allow for dialogue. It’s not a matter of I’m right and your wrong, and I’m going to prove that to you. It serves no beneficial purpose, and that’s too easy to do. We already knew that enough in our differences with one another. It’s about proclaiming it, because Grace cannot have its sweetness unless sin is as bad as sin really is. Heaven is merely a platitude, if hell is not a reality. Jesus as a sacrifice, isn’t a sacrifice for sin, isn’t something for which he needed to be sacrificed, if it is only a little problem within us all, and not really a damnable thing. And the resurrection, who needs it, if the death that we are damned with, and our death is not real. And if Jesus is not our redeemer, then he is nothing more than a new Delhi Lama, a new enlightened teacher. This is what a pious lie does, it takes truth, mixes it with lie, to a cocktail of poison, that the church and Christians say Yea and Amen too. That’s dangerous. A bold-faced lie like Herodias is one thing, but what Herod was setting us was this horrible poison. I will validate John’s ministry, but I will not conceded to his truth. That kind of life is guilt-riden and never free. In fact, if you look at Herod’s actions, everyone of his actions was in response to guilt. He had sin and he knew sin, but he could not break with it. That’s a pious lie, to think that we can live this and say this is true. Two truths cannot co-exist, like two gods, either you will love the one and hate the other, or you will honor the one and despise the other, either way. But, what this all comes down to, is your confidence. This is nothing, unless there is truth to God’s Word about this. What’s being proclaimed and read has no comfort for you, unless what is in it is true. Jesus is merely an example, unless he’s a sacrifice, one of the two. The resurrection of which we are going to die in, as we close our eyes, is not some glorious, better afterlife, unless there is a real hell. This is about your gift as a Baptized child of God. You were raised up like Amos was raised up; Amos was merely a Shepherd and a Gardener. Yes indeed you are, but I’m going to raise you up to be a proclaimer of truth. Amos had to be excited about such an endeavor; I get to be one of God’s prophets. And Amos was dealt with distain and disgust, wasn’t he. Wow, this being a prophet thing, this bearing witness to the truth, wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You know that, you’ve experienced that. You felt the retribution of loved ones who have said some horrible things of hatred toward you because of truth. Or you are no longer part of their conversation, one of the two. Sometimes silence is worse, than harsh words. But, that’s what you and I have been raised up to be, lights in this world of darkness, bearers in bearing witness of this truth that God has given to you. Within the group of people that you are communicating with regularly, I am not in the circles that you run in, you are. And each of you are in different circles of people than the other. Yet, we are called to bear witness to the truth for their comfort, not to be who’s right and who’s wrong. Herod was a slave to his guilt, and so are you and me, and others in this world. You are blessed, because you are getting it released here again, Why is it released, unless what is said here is really true? And if you know that truth, and if you have rejoiced in that truth of forgiveness, that’s what they need too. That’s what they need too! John preached that to Herod, all Herod did was La La La La La. . . Not listening. This is the great give of truth that we’ve been given to bear witness too, and God does not leave us without comfort and support. Here is the place where were refreshed. Here you can say, I like around me, I have different people around me, but they do believe in these truths and hold them to be near and dear to their heart as I do. I am in the right place, and I will show that in my Yea and Amen at that rail when we eat and drink together, saying that were together on this truth. This is why this is that gentle, quiet harbor, the still waters that Jesus brings us to, to be strengthened. And then he sends us out, as he sends Amos out. But, not without having us come home again, to be feed again, to be nourished again, to be bound up again, and to be strengthened again in the conviction that truth is truth. And it’s what you and I will die in. What a great gift, is that it? Yes, that is it indeed. For it is about our salvation, it’s about the children’s salvation, and our grandchildren’s salvation. In the name of the one who called us to be, his children, Jesus. Amen.
The Peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.