Note: We have enabled comments on our Lenten Devotions and will be experimenting with creating community by allowing comments. To access comments, click on the link to “Read in Browser” at the bottom of this post.
Mark 6:14-29 (NRSV)
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
I’ve never liked shopping. It makes my feet hurt. Church shopping is more pleasant, but no less tiring. When I came to college, I tried the Presbyterian church first, but the minister read off an iPad and wore a Britney Spears headset microphone. Next, I tried the Methodists. They had pew cushions and beautiful music, but I didn’t feel comfortable with their responses to gay issues.
I’m still shopping two years later. Nonetheless, I worship throughout my week. I find church when I look up at a July-blue sky amid bitter January cold. I find church when my voice melts into a choral arrangement. I find church when a line of Shakespeare turns my world upside-down.
I chose this gospel passage because of its defiance. John the Baptist was killed in one of the most gruesome fashions possible. Even still, his disciples buried his body with dignity. We remember John as a fount of love and wisdom.
I think part of the reason I loathe shopping is because of its ties to physicality. I am more than a body, so why should I devote so much time and effort to my appearance? While I don’t know his fashion opinions, I know John the Baptist transcended the physical in his death. His mind was physically and spiritually removed from his body. I think the key to being a mindful Christian throughout the week is a liberation from the material. Indeed, making the world your church is a tremendous act of freedom.
Dear God, allow us to both appreciate and be free from the physical. Grant us the mindfulness to find church wherever we go. Amen.