“What Should I Ask for?” Let’s Pray Rev. Stuart C. Buisch Mark 6:14-29
The time was right, Mark tells us. Herod is hearing about miracles and gets nervous about death.
This is so interesting with all the despair today and the regularity with which we hear about
murder suicides, and all manner of other killings. But all that death in our time doesn’t make us
nervous about leadership, governments. Herod was worried about some of his decisions.
The Psalm reminds us that there was once a day when getting into the temple was the measure of
goodly decisions. It is an incredible laundry list of goals for healthy, life-giving living: free of
blame, does what is right, speaks the truth sincerely, does no damage...
What Mark really meant was that an opportune time came for Herod to get rid of John the
Baptist and he didn’t even plan it.
Quin is a planner. She has already landed two jobs because of her skills in organization. But not
everyone plans. Not everyone stops to trace out their day, think through their tasks, prioritize
them ( thank you Steven Covey) and then set out to accomplish them. Herod didn’t. He didn’t
think through much of anything. He lived by his eyes and his desires. Having a wife and
wanting another, sure. Wanting to live with your brother ( or in David’s case someone else’s
brother) no problem. What’s for supper? What’s my entertainment this afternoon, this evening,
tomorrow. Let’s see what happens. We as a people have come a long way from being the elect
who behave as elect children of God. We actually could perhaps be accused of picking up
Herod’s attitude, I’m ______ and I can do what I want. In the church we have a variation on that
I can do the things from our history that I like and leave out the needs of today which are
troubling. Maybe the reason so many young people are nones – individuals who have no
religious practice while at the same time being spiritual- is that they are aware of the world they
live in, the needs of others around that the church is not necessarily interested in, the global
issues that get lots of talk but little action bother them. Quin would not have gotten those
organizational jobs only on the merit of making the list, the list must be done. If we want to
engage spiritual young people we need again to be engaged in the issues of our world and our
That takes us back to Herod. He had a birthday. He gathered all the community power around
him, to make his attention deficit be reinforced by those who found it beneficial to kiss up to the
king. Not strange to Herod at all then he organized his step daughter to dance. Mark doesn’t
dirty his pen telling us what the dance was but we do learn that it thrilled all those in attendance.
I wonder if all were thrilled or if all played into the game of I am thrilled to stay on the good side
of a monarch who held your life in his hands.
Here the story turns bad, real bad. Herod offers his step daughter anything up to half of his
kingdom. In our family we have a habit of tipping because we know that those who serve tables
are not paid well. We want to help them and we want to help the next table they serve. Herod
was not offering a tip. He was reckless with his power and sense of self.
Here again the story turns. Is this a case of a good family value that the Bible teaches? Here a
daughter asks her mother for advice. Yes that is wise in most circumstances but not here. Her
mother has a vendetta out on John the Baptist and Herod is useless with morality. Is it possible
that she is old enough to do an interesting perhaps unhelpful dance but not to make decisions?
Or is this simply the way that John the Baptist was removed from the scene? Whatever the
reason John is killed and the price of a dance was outrageous.
So that makes me wonder if Herod was concerned about John’s death what did it mean that he
was concerned that John might be risen. What could a person who came back from death do to a
government that was corrupt?
This story challenges me on several fronts that aren’t really named as such.
What is the nature of a celebration and how should they come about? Do we celebrate personal
achievements or accomplishments as just that or the work of God operating through that
individual? How can birthdays work? Are they an act of gratitude for another year of life and
the potential of another year or are they a rave to feel good, forget any thing needing forgetting,
and blow through a chunk of time uselessly? Birthdays can be a time to look and see what God
did in the last year and ask what can next year hold.
Whenever we ask ‘what should we ask for?’ we are letting go of our responsibility and personal
wisdom to someone else’s. Sadly whoever gets the power of telling us the answer is not
responsible for the work of our hands, lips and feet. We are.
On the other hand this question is part of our daily devotion to God. Each day or more than once
a day we can appropriately ask God, what’s next, what should, what could, what might? In the
name of the Lord of all that is, the Christ who loved all without bias and the Spirit who breathes
around each of us, Amen.
Lord of the All, open our eyes to your will...
Jesus, Savior pilot each of us every day...
Spirit of the Living God, blow us in your way...