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I am available to preach for a variety of functions including ecumenical events, funerals, weddings, and ordinary worship services.
Conference Relations Organizer
General Board of Church and Society
From October 2011
Deacon / Minister of Discipleship
Mt. Harmony Lower Marlboro United Methodist Church
From July 2011
Education and Leadership Formation Network Coordinator
General Board of Church and Society
September 2009 - September 2011
Teen Center Director / outreach assistant
Hedding United Methodist Church
September 2007 - June 2008
The United Methodist Church
From January 2005
Science Teacher and Cheerleading Coach
spualding high school
August 1998 - March 2005
Today, I want to talk about two kinds of promises… and two kinds of people.
Most of the time when we make a promise, we do so with all the best intentions. Often we make promises before realizing their consequences. Sometimes this can be a problem, as we saw happened to Herod in today’s gospel lesson. He promised Herodias’s daughter up to half of his kingdom. He was a powerful man, and his promise was a powerful one. It would greatly impress his dinner guests – politicians and other members of his family, rulers of the land.
But he did not realize the temptation he was putting before Herodias. You see, Herodias was vengeful. She seized the opportunity to dispose of her main problem – John the Baptist.
John, as we know, was a prophet. He was to some extent, a mentor to Jesus and even baptized him. More importantly, he proclaimed to the world the coming of God’s kingdom and God’s Messiah. He told the world of the reign of God and how the world as they knew it would be turned on its head.
This was a very threatening message for those in power. When a prophet proclaims that your livelihood, your power and influence are not what God wants… and when the people listen to that prophet, it makes you nervous.
Additionally, besides the political fears of John, Herod had some personal reasons to be wary of him. John spoke truth to every situation and pointed out people’s sins.
Herod was married to his niece, Herodias. So there was a matter of incest, not uncommon among royalty, but still not considered ok by Jewish law and custom. What’s more, both Herod and Herodias had divorced their first spouse, in Herodias’s case – Herod’s brother. John judged her very harshly – not only was she committing incest (twice over) by marrying her uncles… but she also broke social customs by divorcing her husband while he was still alive. This was a grave offense, and he called her out on it.
Herodias, of course, did not like being the object of John’s preaching. She wanted him out of the picture so she could focus on her new husband’s reign and political future. But Herod was intrigued and to some extent intimidated by John. He knew John was a wise man, and that many revered him. Herod feared both the judgment of God, delivered through John’s words, but also the wrath of the people should any harm come to John at his hands. If what John, and Jesus after him, preached about the coming kingdom was true – his political future was in grave danger because all of society’s norms would be upended. He feared that to end John’s life would cause a riot.
So it is at the birthday banquet that we see the true test of the kind of man Herod is. Is he a man who keeps his promises? Is he a man who fears God? Who does he respect, or perhaps fear, more – the people or his wife?
Mark tells us that Herod would not be embarrassed at his party. He could not go back on his oath to Herodias’s daughter – to do so would show weakness and lack of integrity. So, even though it is against his conscience, he orders John killed and has his head delivered on a platter as the daughter requested.
This story is of course quite extreme. But the themes of greed, political power, and even murder of those who threaten that power or those who are seen as a threat to our way of life are not foreign to us, even in today’s society. Just turn on the news and see some of the violence around the world. They may not be served up on platters, but heads are still rolling when people in power are challenged.
In our own lives, I hope, none of us has ever resorted to murder to make our family happy and save face for the neighbors! However, I am sure that there are many of us who have made a promise to do something which we later had to decide whether or not to keep. Sometimes we promise to help a friend, only to find out that in order to do so we would need to break a law or violate our own moral code. Those decisions challenge our faith and our integrity, and the way we respond sends a message to all who see.
Let me give you a hypothetical example: You are chatting with a friend one day and they confide in you that they are troubled by something. They want to share their burden with you, but ask you first to promise not to tell anyone. You care deeply for your friend and agree, thinking that whatever it is it can’t be all that bad. Your friend then tells you that they have been having an affair and that, while they still love their spouse, they also love the other person and have no plans to stop seeing them.
You are now faced with a dilemma. Do you keep your promise to your friend and not tell the spouse? Or, do you break your word and tell their spouse, who is also a good friend of yours? What if you never liked their spouse to begin with, would you still tell?
These are the type of moral dilemmas that people face more often that we like to admit. The real measure of our character is how we respond when they happen. In most cases, there is no easy answer. In most cases, the “easy way out” means that someone ends up getting hurt, but the more difficult solution often means we risk our own pride and we may end up being hurt instead.
Psalm 15 offers guidance for moral living…
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
Ah, but wait… if these are the standards for satisfying God… who is the righteous one in today’s Gospel? Herod kept his oath, even though it hurt… so if one were to only focus on that verse, the argument could be made that Herod did the right thing.
But, John was the righteous one. John was the one who spoke truth from his heart. And the only oaths John made were to the Lord… promises which he kept until his death.
So, what kind of promises do you make? Do you make promises to people, not sure whether you will be able to keep them or not? What about promises to God? When was the last time you made a promise to God? Did you keep it?
As humans our promises are full of good intentions, but sometimes our follow up is weak. Often in prayer, when we are feeling desperate, we try bargaining with God. “Lord, if you make her well, I promise you I will go to church every Sunday and give more than a tithe”… and then she gets better… and within a week, or a month, or a year we forget our promise to God. But luckily, God understands our weakness. And we are forgiven, as long as we ask for forgiveness.
For some, the promise to God is a humble one. Some promise to follow the voice of God, to go where the Spirit leads, to do the will of the One who sent them. This is not an easy promise to keep. Jesus warned his disciples that following him would be difficult and even dangerous. Promising to follow God can turn your whole world completely upside down! You can find yourself doing things you never imagined.
This is the promise John made. And it was this same promise that the disciples made, to follow Jesus, and later, to follow the Holy Spirit. Have you made that promise to God? How’s that working for you? In my own experience I can tell you that it can be an amazing challenge, but also has amazing rewards.
When I was a youth, someone taught me to pray a simple prayer upon waking. I’ve modified it a bit over the years, but the basic idea is: “Good morning God, thank you for another day. Let me know your will and give me the strength to follow you today… one step at a time”. This prayer is not an oath, not a promise, but a sincere expression of the desire to follow God, and a request for help in doing so.
When I was older and struggling with my call to ministry, I had to decide how far I was willing to go to follow God. Was I willing to take a vow? Could I promise to serve God and the church, no matter the price? It is not an easy decision, and it should never be taken lightly.
However, you don’t need to be on track for ordained ministry to make that decision. There are plenty of people who decide to follow God and promise to do God’s will who remain laity. But, they do not remain stagnant. That promise challenges their faith and encourages them to grow. Some become missionaries in their own hometown, feeding the hungry or fighting for the rights of their immigrant neighbors. Others feel God calling them to far off lands, and they enter the mission field. No matter where God sends them, their covenant to follow serves as a reminder of their faith and their commitment to the one true God.
It was this one true God that John was following. And after him, Jesus… Jesus was the Truth and the light. It took them a while, but eventually his disciples understood this, and they too promised to follow him, to follow the will of God and the prompting of the Spirit.
- - - - -
God makes promises too. And, unlike us… God’s promises are true, always! God does not give up on a promise just because things get tough.
The most famous promise God ever made is probably the rainbow – when God promised Noah never to flood the earth again .
But the most important promise, the one we need to share with everyone we meet, is the promise which Jesus proclaimed. God promises to forgive our sins and bring about a new kingdom – where those who have suffered will hurt no more, where those who have been oppressed will be set free, and those who have died will live again.
So the next time someone breaks a promise they made to you. Or, the next time you are faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to keep a promise, remember that our human promises are just that… human. They are temporary and difficult to keep. But the promises of God are eternal. They are salvific. They will bring us joy and peace. They will change our world.
Qualifications & Certifications
Master of Divinity
Wesley Theological Seminary
Master of Education
Vermont College/Norwich University
BS in Biology and Secondary Education
North Country Senior Unified High School District 22
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