Out of Context

john head on platter

Has anyone ever taken something you said out of context and allowed the meaning to be totally altered? This often happens with scripture – even when folks are well-meaning. Case in point is our Gospel text from Mark this Sunday, The Beheading of John the Baptist. When taken out of context, it’s a gruesome tale of what happens when a prophet speaks truth to power, which is not completely contrary to Mark’s point. However, when read in the broader context of Mark’s whole narrative about “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1), we can learn even more about what Mark wants us to know about Jesus and God’s kingdom. In the full context, we might compare the fate of John with the fate of Jesus at the gospel’s conclusion. Perhaps we might also compare the banquet Herod hosts where John’s head is served to a few elites as the plat de résistance (Mark 6:14-29) to the banquet Jesus then hosts where bread and fish are served to crowds of peasants with more than enough to share (Mark 6:30-44)! When this story about John is taken out of context, I think we miss Mark’s poignant and pointed questions: Which banquet do you want to attend? Which kingdom do you serve?

The scriptures for this Sunday are Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, and Mark 6:14-29. Songs for this Sunday are #674 “Let Us Talents & Tongues Employ”, #513 “Listen, God Is Calling”, and #771 “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens”. If you are worshiping at home, bring bread and wine/juice to your home altar for communion!

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