Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Platter Pressure

July 15th:

Call:           Psalm 24        (755)
Text:           Matthew 14: 1-12; (originally to be Mark 6: 14-34)

                                Platter Pressure

Let me begin with an apology.

As the bulletin shows, I had originally planned to preach today's story
from Mark's gospel.

Mark is the gospel that appears in the lectionary for this liturgical year
        Luke was last year.  Matthew will be next year. John is interspersed

But I struggled with the way the story was written in Mark.
        It is confusing:                time wise               and character wise.

It seemed to me                 that if I were to stick with my original plan
        I would need to spend more time setting the facts straight
        Than in looking at what they mean to you and to me.

And it is the looking at what they mean to us
        That enables us to grow in faith and service.

I feared that by the time I was done setting the facts straight
        Some of you would be asleep
        Others of you would be wishing you were.

The story is just too good a story
For me to take the chance of losing you in extraneous explanations

And so
        I had to be flexible.   I had to change

I had to change
                Not the story on which I wanted us to reflect
                But the teller  and the telling         of the story.

I changed from Mark's gospel to Matthew's

I do, therefore, apologize to Mark
        I mean no disrespect to him

And I apologize to any of you
who have been sitting on the edges of your pews
        Eagerly anticipating hearing words from Mark

The story that is too good to take a chance of losing you
        Is the story of the death by beheading of JTB

From Matthew 14: 1-12

This story has all the necessary elements of a successful movie.

It has murder,
It has gore,
It has sexual undertones or overtones (I'm not quite certain which);
It has self destructive pride that enables a powerful man to be outwitted.
This would be a movie that we would find on television
        Not at Easter           Not at Christmas
        But at Halloween.

It is a movie whose title would be something like:

In fact, I was going to title my sermon that
        But then I thought about how it would look on the sign out front
                Right above the words, "Rev. Jim Barnes"

With people coming in for college reunions and the Summerfest
        I had visions of some of them asking the yard sale workers
                "Is that an accurate description of your pastor?"

And not being sure which of you were to be working at the sale
        I was worried about what the answer might be.

But this story has lessons that we need to hear
        Regardless of its title
And not just at Halloween       - but year round.

For the story   is one of those         to which we relate
        Albeit with intense discomfort.

Herod and his family            are the leading characters in the story
        That, of course, is a pretty strong hint
        That you and I
are not going to want
to recognize ourselves in the leading characters.
Herod is throwing a party fit for a king
        Which is appropriate because he is the king.

His guests are there and he wants to impress them
        He wants to impress them with his feast
        He wants to impress them with his importance
        He wants to impress them with his generosity.

Now, before we get too high and mighty
        Before we allow ourselves to be judgmental
Let us be honest.

There is not one of us who hasn't wanted at some time in our lives
to impress others
and most of us could probably come up with quite a few examples.

If we have any doubts all we have to do is ask ourselves
        "Have I ever laughed at a joke, not because it was funny
        But because I thought it was in my interest to do so.?"

Anyway, Herod is throwing this big - let's call it lavish - party
        And his niece whose name we know from other sources is Salome
is the entertainment.

As she dances, the men gathered are captivated - even transfixed.

Her uncle is absolutely delighted.
        She has been the life of the party
        People are grateful to him for providing such stimulating entertainment
He was - in today's words - trending big time.

But, of course, that wasn't enough..
So pleased was he with the effect that her dancing had on the crowd,
And seeking to impress them even more, he stood up
        And in a voice all could hear he announced to her,
"I am so delighted that I will give you anything that you ask."

The windbag was showing off.

Now, Salome's mother was Herodias
        She was or had been married to Herod's brother Phillip
        But she now lived with Herod himself.

Herodias hated John The Baptist
        For criticizing her for her present arrangement

In fact, because of that,       Herod   had arrested and imprisoned JTB

But he had kept him alive because the people thought John was a prophet
        And he did not want to rile the people up.

[Here I should note that Mark's version suggests that Herod was intrigued by JTB and liked to talk with him.  Matthew makes no such suggestion.]

And so prompted by her mother,
the king's niece responds to the unlimited offer to give her anything that she wants
with a demand that puts the king in checkmate.

"Give me the head of John the Baptist
On a platter."

This demand left Herod with two choices:

        He could tell her that what she demanded was beyond what he was willing to do
                And appear to be backpedaling
                Making him look foolish and weak in front of his guests

The selection of this alternative causes me to envision
The reaction of the inebriated men at the feast.

I hear them shouting out
        "Be a good sport, Herod."
        "You told the girl you would give her what she wanted"
        "Does your word mean anything?"

And I can hear the roars and guffaws of the others as they listened.

Herod's second choice was to accede to her demand

He could kill and behead the prisoner
This would mean he would risk the anger of those who thought John was a prophet.
But it would avoid the shouts, roars, and guffaws
the questioning of his honor            and the swallowing of his pride
Herod's pride was too great
to allow him to be seen as backpedaling or weak
It was too great for him to risk
Being seen as a man who was not true to his word.

Herod couldn't admit he was wrong in making his grand announcement
        After all, what would these people think of him?

And so he had John beheaded
        And had the head delivered to the girl - on a platter
                Which she promptly took to her mother.

[Maybe this is a scripture for Mothers Day - not for Halloween]

Herod was like today's politicians
        Who won't admit they were wrong
Herod had so much pride that he couldn't bring himself to admit
        He had gone too far.

Too, Herod was like us
        When our pride interferes with our faith and its expectations
Herod was like us
        When we know that what we are doing is wrong
                But cannot bring ourselves to admit it
                       In front of people from whom we want love and respect.

The only honorable person in this story is JTB

And while I certainly don't envy his role,

I would hope and pray that you and I would choose it
        Over allowing the pressure of pride to turn us into Herod.

When we respond like Herod
We are telling God
        "The esteem that others have for us is more important
                Than the love you have for us
                And the love we have for you.

I explained why I chose not to title this message, "Windbag."
I have not explained why I chose the title I did,
"Platter Pressure" is a title that if heard rather than read
                Might seem to suggest that it was to be about
 Urology rather than theology.

But I took that chance because it occurred to me that
        If each time you and I feel human pressure on us to do what we think is wrong
                We would,       before making our decision.
think of the gory platter Herod gave to Salome
        because he could not swallow his pride
        because he could not admit he was wrong
        because he was unable to resist the pressure.

My suspicion is that thinking of this platter when feeling the pressure
        Will have a decided impact on our decision.

And we will not then proclaim
that pleasing humans is more important
than pleasing God.