Week of Proper 12: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

Risks of Prophesy

AUGUST 4, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The priests and prophets said to the officials and to all the people,

This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

Jeremiah said to the officials and to all the people,

It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this House and this city all the words you heard.  Therefore mend your ways and your acts, and heed the LORD your God, that the LORD may renounce the punishment He has decreed for you.  As for me, I am in your hands:  do to me what seems good and right to you.  But know that if you put me to death, you and this city and its inhabitants will be guilty of shedding the blood of an innocent man.  For in truth the LORD has sent me to you, to speak all these words to you.

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and prophets,

This man does not deserve the death penalty, for he spoke to us in the name of the LORD our God.

However, Ahikam son of Shapan protected Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people for execution.

Psalm 140:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Deliver me, O LORD, from evildoers;

protect me from the violent,

2  Who devise evil in their hearts

and stir up strife all day long.

3  They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent;

adder’s poison is under their lips.

4  Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;

protect me from the violent,

who are determined to trip me up.

5  The proud have hidden a snare for me

and stretched out a net of cords;

they have set traps for me along the path.

Matthew 14:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

About this time Herod, governor of the province, heard the reports about Jesus and said to his men,

This must be John the Baptist:  he has risen from the dead.  That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.

For previously Herod had arrested John and had him bound and put in prison, all on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.  For John had said to him,

It is not right for you to have this woman.

Herod wanted to kill him for this, but he was afraid of the people, since they all thought John was a prophet.  But during Herod’s birthday celebrations Herodias’ daughter delighted him by dancing before his guests, so much that he swore to give her anything she liked to ask.  And she, prompted by her mother, said,

I want you to give me, here and now, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist!

Herod was appalled at this, but because he had sworn in front of his guests, he gave orders that she should be given what she had asked.  So he sent men and had John beheaded in the prison.  Then his head was carried in on a dish and presented to the young girl who handed it to her mother.  Later, John’s disciples came, took his body and buried it.  Then they went and told the news to Jesus.  When he heard it he went away by boat to a deserted place, quite alone.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 12:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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Jeremiah was just one prophet proclaiming the word of YHWH.  Another one was Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim, who, like Jeremiah, faced the possibility of execution.  Uriah had fled to Egypt, but officials of King Jehoiakim had brought him back, killed him, and thrown his body into “the burial place of the common people” (26:23).  Yet Jeremiah lived, thanks to protection from Ahikam, son of King Josiah’s scribe, Shaphan.

Saint John the Baptist had condemned Herod Antipas, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, for entering into an incestuous marriage.  Antipas, a man of bad character, allowed the execution of John rather than lose face.  Contrast this behavior with Old Testament depictions of God as one who prefers mercy to an inexorable pronouncement of judgment.

Saint John the Baptist lacked a human protector, but one such person saved Jeremiah’s life.  May we, if opportunity presents itself, save the prophets among us, or at least refuse to be silent when we can speak up for them.

KRT

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