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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


16th July 2006

Fr David Shepherd

Trinity V

Sleaze, corruption, and infidelity Ė no Iím not speaking about HMG but about todayís Gospel about King Herod and the beheading of John the Baptist.

King Herod was little more than a quisling puppet of the Romans. He was insecure and feared for his throne. When John the Baptist condemned his marriage to his brother Philipís wife Herodias, Herodias took it very personally and wanted John out of the way. Fear held her back; fear of Johnís holiness and of his high standing amongst the people. Fear held her back until her daughter (usually known as Salome) dancing before Herod on his birthday gave her an opportunity. Together they asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod felt he couldnít back out so the order was duly given and the head bought in on a silver platter.

Herod remained haunted by all this, so much so that when he heard reports of Jesusí healing ministry he was convinced John had come back. Not so of course. Mark tells us the story to remind us of the cost of discipleship, and of the cost of prophetic ministry. Ultimately his concern is to portray the cost of Jesusí ministry Ė his death on the cross.

The life of faith costly, if we stand for God we will be opposed. Like Amos who wanted to remain as a tree surgeon and shepherd we prefer the comfortable and secure but God may have other ideas. Being a Christian in modern Britain is not easy. We face opposition and difficulty. We need to identify the forms it takes if we are to resist it. Some comes from without and some is self-inflicted.

  1. Indifference. In our affluent society where status and success are related to what we have and where the emphasis is on me and my needs many are indifferent to the claims and challenges of the gospel. They donít see the point and are not prepared to pay the cost.
  2. Invisibility. If you publicly stand for Christ people simply donít see you. They can look away, talking past you without actively opposing you. Or they can distance you with humour or fake piety. None of this is easy to deal with. It can be hard to break through.
  3. Multi faith relativism. There is a proper concern not to discriminate against people of other faiths but sometimes it can seem that all faiths are tolerated save Christianity that is pushed further to the margins of our society. The view that religion is a matter of personal opinion and that all religions are the same doesnít do justice to any tradition or faith.
  4. Internal squabbles. The current squabbles within the Anglican Communion donít do us any favours. The way they are reported doesnít help either. A mature Church can live with different views and may have to accept that they are sometimes irreconcilable.
  5. Childish religion. We donít help ourselves when we reduce our faith to the trivial, the sentimental, and the simplistic. There is a need for deeply thought through apologetics. If people reject or oppose the faith we must hope that what they are rejecting is the genuine article.

These are just a few of the ways in which we can face opposition and difficulties as modern Christians, reminding us of the cost of discipleship. If we feel discouraged, St. Paulís words to the Ephesians can encourage and cheer us.

He reminds us that God in Christ blesses us and that we are his beloved children who have entered into restored friendship with him through the cross. It is worth spending sometime with Paulís words so that we come to know the spiritual reality of what can otherwise sound like pious phrases. It is for such truth that we face opposition. As we grow in our knowledge of God we are enabled to stand against such opposition and commend our faith to others.

Amen

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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at webmaster@stmatthewsoxhey.org.uk Last updated 15/07/06 09:30 Author: David Shepherd