The soft edges of the road were filled with hard rocks, sheep, and goats. Parking in the empty lot, we hiked the path that circled the flat-topped mountain. The landscape was pockmarked with caves, any one of which might have been John’s final prison: dungeon cells hacked into the hillside that served as the foundation of Machaerus, the Herods’ fortress. At the summit, the wind whipped across an abandoned and ruined site. It was surprisingly small. A couple of columns still stood. There was a small archway, and a deep and frightening pit in the center. For all his bravado and brash promises, what survives of Herod’s inherited, elevated palace two thousand years later is mostly sand and the sighing of the wind.

The tragedy of Herod is that he fails to learn even from his own conscience. Herod is perplexed by John, yet he shields him from the violence of Herodias until the day comes when his pride outweighs his fear of God. This is Antipas, Herod of the hand-me-downs. They called his father “the Great.” This Herod, forever uncertain of his place in the world, tries to assert himself before God and humans by hanging out with holy people—and killing them.

Later when he heard of Jesus, Herod wondered if John had returned to haunt him, still calling upon him for repentance. Later still, when the opportunity came again to stand on the side of righteousness, he failed to recognize the chance Jesus gave him for redemption. He handed him over to be crucified.

Unless we can confess to ourselves—much less to God—our sin, how can we experience forgiveness? Unless we are willing to receive the healing grace of God for our own hurts and injuries, we will be unlikely to share it with anybody else. What then will our legacy be?

My God, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed” (Traditional prayer).

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 6:14-29

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Lectionary Week
July 5–11, 2021
Scripture Overview

Two readings this week focus on welcoming God’s presence. David does this by bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. As the ark arrives, David dances, worshiping God with reckless abandon. The author of Psalm 24 poetically calls a city to open its gates and welcome the great king. These passages invite us to consider how willingly we receive God into our lives. The reading from Ephesians speaks of God’s eternal plan. While circumstances may seem chaotic, God holds an eternal perspective and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. Mark tells the sad story of the execution of John the Baptist, yet another example of a righteous person experiencing persecution.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19. How do you bless others in your daily life?
Read Psalm 24. In what ways do you honor the Creator in the ways you care for God’s creation?
Read Ephesians 1:3-14. Where have you stumbled on your faith journey and found God ready and willing to help?
Read Mark 6:14-29. When have you experienced a guilty conscience? Did you resolve the issue that was causing the feeling?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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