2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; (or Amos 7:7-15; Psalm 85:8-13); Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29
“Oh, bloody oath it was. Of course it was. Huge error, huge error. Obviously the worst thing I ever did in my life.” – Mark Latham
The politician says “If I am elected I will . . .” Then the press says he “vowed” to . . . Why is this sort of thing called a vow? Why does the press upgrade someone’s simple promise to a vow? Are not vows or oaths for more serious commitments like marriage, or the president’s oath of office to uphold the constitution, or the Hippocratic Oath of doctors, or ordination vows? Maybe many real serious vows and oaths are easily broken because we use these words for frivolous things. Certainly some oaths should be broken, like Herod’s oath to give Herodias whatever she wanted because she wowed everyone with her dancing. She ended up with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The above quote from Mark Latham, Australian politician and author, could easily have been spoken by Herod. If Herod had any back bone he would have broken his vow to Herodias. Or better yet, he would not have vowed frivolous things in the first place. Regretfully, sometimes we need to step away from our vows, as when a marriage endangers our lives, for one among many reasons. Perhaps in truth the marriage vows were broken way before the divorce. It is humbling but maturing to admit we made a mistake. John the Baptist was in prison over Herod’s marriage issues. That in itself causes us in our day to look more closely at such things as divorce or gay/lesbian marriages. Not speaking about marriage specifically, but in a general comment, Jesus suggests we don’t mess with vows at all. We are to simply say “yes” or “no” (Matthew 5:37). Be people of integrity and we will be believed. Be disingenuous and no vows or oaths will convince. Who in today’s Gospel do we resemble? Are we like the truth-sayer John the Baptist who is always credible? Are we like Herod who vows from the depths of insincerity? We know that at times we are each.
This Gospel passage has several rare Greek words in it. One word Mark uses appears only once in the entire New Testament. Even though these words are not very common in the New Testament (although common in classical Greek), there is nothing of particular note as far as understanding goes. It is pretty straight forward.
The bird so sings true.
It awakens the dawn bright.
Without vows it knows.