Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 7th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.
The world and those who live in it belong to God.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, who is strong and mighty!
So lift up your heads and your hearts!
Let us worship God in beauty and holiness.
Hymn 212 – Morning has broken
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Gracious God, source of life and love in all creation,
in a world marked by bitterness, you are compassion.
In a culture marked by confusion, you are light shining in the darkness.
Your stillness is peace when we are frantic.
Your strength is comfort when we are fearful.
Your wisdom is guidance when we are lost.
For all that you are and all that you give, O God,
we offer you all honour, praise and worship, now and always.
in a world marked by self-indulgence, you are generosity for those in need.
In a world marked by injustice, you are a conscience speaking to us.
In a world marked by vengeance, you are mercy and reconciliation.
Forgive our selfishness;
our lack of concern for the vulnerable;
and our desire to settle scores rather than work things out.
Renew us with your mercy and strengthen our resolve to live generously, in action and in attitude.
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and set free by God’s generous grace.
Readings – 2 Samuel 6: 12–19
Mark 6: 14-29
Hymn 65 – Jubilate
Heavenly Father we thank you for the opportunity of being together in our Cheviot Churches. Thank you for your words which still inspire us today as they did our forefathers. As we look forward to the week to come, we pray for an awareness of your love and support in all we do. Amen
Do you like to dance? It has been a while since we were able to, but perhaps – just perhaps – restrictions may be eased, and dancing will be given the go ahead. Some may like disco, but what I enjoy are ceilidhs and barndances, where there is a sense of coming together as a community and just having fun. All cultures have dancing, though I remember as a student meeting someone from Stornaway who disapproved entirely of dance and thought it the most sinful thing. Perhaps she had been reading the bible passages for today. In the Gospels we read of a dance that led to the death of John the Baptist, while in the Old Testament David dancing before the ark of the covenant brought the condemnation of his wife and soured relations between them.
The Ark of the Covenant signified the presence of God and moved with the people. It was so holy that even to touch it meant death. David had made Jerusalem his capital and wanted to establish the ark there. So a political move, and as the ark was brought to the city, he danced in front of it, leaving little to the imagination. Now his wife was the daughter of Saul, and she had a good sense of decorum – the things you could and couldn’t do in polite society. And you didn’t dance like that. But David said that he was dancing to the glory of God, and in recent years liturgical dance has become popular. However, I think David was also trying to win over the crowd. He was courting popularity. He maybe lost his wife but he won over the people. He was a populist king.
That could not have been said about Herod in Mark’s Gospel. If he wanted to curry the favour of the people, he would never have beheaded John the Baptist. This is a gruesome story, and as one commentator asked, ‘Where is the good news in this story?’.
It is a story of self-interest, power and manipulation. Herod was the son of Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus as a baby. He was ruler in the Galilee on behalf of the Romans and built the town of Tiberias on the shores of the sea of Galilee. BUT he had divorced his wife and married his brother’s wife, Herodias (the names get confusing!). They were all inter-related, and this brought the condemnation of John the Baptist. John spoke out against Herod for a number of reasons; he would have been a thorn in Herod’s side, I am sure, but the king was also fascinated by him, perhaps because of the hold he had on the people. He was popular, whereas Herod was not. But his speaking truth to power had led to his imprisonment.
Then there was this birthday party, and Herod’s step-daughter danced. We call her Salome, because Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, named her thus. We have the impression that she was a Mata Hari seductress, but quite probably she was young and being manipulated by her mother. So this is a tale of abuse as well. A drunken Herod was so taken that he promised her anything, and prompted by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. The king was too weak to refuse. He preferred to save face rather than admit to a foolish promise.
Where is the good news in this story? There is not a lot, and it is one of the few parts of the Gospel where Jesus is not mentioned. It is a horrible story, of a prophet killed on a whim; of a girl being exploited; of everyone out for themselves. You can only wonder how that kingdom was governed. Greed, abuse of power exploitation. Where might was right. Then you contrast the kingdom of God that Jesus was proclaiming, which was one of compassion and love, one of justice for all and breaking down barriers. Where the first would be last. No wonder Herod and Herodias wanted to silence such a kingdom. John was killed. Jesus would be killed. But the resurrection of Jesus was God saying an almighty Yes to the kingdom Jesus offered and where mercy and grace and compassion would be paramount. We live in a world of power, of corruption, of exploitation, but continue to work for God’s kingdom here on earth. So be it.
Hymn 473 – They Kingdom come (1,4,5)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Generous God, we look around at the growth in gardens and fields this summer, and trust in the generosity you have planted within your creation. Bless the gifts we bring, that they too may grow in fruitfulness, and touch lives in need with your generous love.
Today we pray for courageous leaders in cities, countries and congregations who strive to serve with integrity and honesty in a world prone to self-interest.
We pray for those who struggle to create justice where it has been compromised, and to build reconciliation and understanding in divided communities.
We pray for people of all ages trapped in toxic relationships. For victims of abuse. For the lonely and the elderly in our communities. All those whose vulnerability is exploited by the actions of others.
We pray for the government and all those in power agonising over the timing of lifting all Covid restrictions. We pray for peacemakers everywhere. May they speak your truths and be heard.
We pray for Afghanistan as troops prepare to leave. We pray for Nigeria where the number of student kidnappings by rebels keeps rising.
We remember before you the sick and the dying,
and the bereaved who must try to put their lives back together again.
We pray for those who are recovering from the pandemic, looking for better health, a fresh start, more stability or a glimpse of hope.
Draw close to all these who suffer, offering your comfort and courage to face whatever comes next.
Receive our prayers, both spoken and unspoken,
and embrace us all in your love.
Hymn 710 – I have a dream (1,4,5)
Go in peace and may the blessing of God, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit be with you and with all people, now and always. Amen