Call to worship:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Hymn: StF 342
All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
That angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all.
The chosen seed of Israel’s race
you ransomed from the fall.
Hail Him who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball.
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all.
Oh that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall.
join in the everlasting song
And crown Him Lord of all.
Prayer of adoration:
Mighty God, we adore you.
We thank you that we can come to you
knowing that you care about each and every one of us,
and all our needs, however big or small.
You created the heavens and the earth.
You put stars into space and filled the mighty seas.
Your power and your greatness is all around us from mountain-tops to the intricacies of a tiny flower.
Thank you that your power is limitless.
We are so small in comparison, but you love us all the same.
We adore you, Creator God.
Powerful God, forgive us
when we have not used our power to influence for good,
but for our own purposes;
when our actions have hurt and excluded others;
when we have allowed greed, fear and pride
to get in the way.
God, forgive us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
we thank you for never giving up on us,
even when we let you down.
Thank you for your faithfulness and love.
Thank you that your actions are always noble and selfless,
drawing us in to sit beside you.
Thank you that you love us even when – like Herod – we get it wrong.
Thank you that you used John the Baptist to bring many people to you – help us to do the same.
Let our thoughts, our words and our actions
glorify you and reveal your presence and purposes.
Thank you for saving me, what can I say?
You are my everything, I will sing your praise.
You shed your blood for me, what can I say?
You took my sin and shame,
a sinner called by name.
Great is the Lord,
Great is the Lord,
For we know your truth has set us free,
You’ve set your hope in me.
Mercy and grace are mine, forgiven is my sin,
Jesus my only hope, the Saviour of the world.
“Great is the Lord” we cry,
God let your kingdom come,
Your word has let me see,
thank you for saving me!
Martin Smith ©1994 Curious? Music UK
7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“See, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said,
‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.’”
12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
Herod was a worried man. He had John arrested and thrown into prison. He stayed there for over a year. Those who had followed him were allowed to visit him and talk to him. So why was he arrested in the first place?
Herod kept his throne because it suited the Romans to have him there. Keeping the peace with the Romans was a priority. Yet he really wanted the people he ruled to recognise him as a legitimate king, so he needed to be seen to keep Jewish law.
He was “married” to Herodias. Herodias had been married to Herod’s half-brother, Philip. She, herself, was the daughter of one of Herod’s half-brothers, who had been murdered by his own father. So, Herod’s wife was also his sister-in-law and his niece. It was a marriage not recognised in Jewish law.
John the Baptist was not afraid of the priests or Herod. He said what other people were thinking and told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
I doubt John would have had a private, cosy chat with Herod, I suspect it was said very publicly. John’s voice was added to those who thought that, with that kind of behaviour, Herod couldn’t possibly be Israel’s chosen king. Herod had to arrest John. After all he wanted to hold on to his throne.
In spite of that, though, Herod recognised John as a “righteous and holy man”. Mark tells us that he liked to listen to John. You can imagine the turmoil in Herod’s mind. He was angry with John, yet I suspect he recognised some truth in John’s words.
But then there was Herodias. She didn’t take kindly to John interfering in her business. This was a determined woman and she was going to get what she wanted. And she wanted John the Baptist dead. Herod’s birthday, and the banquet he held, gave her the opportunity she was waiting for.
Her daughter danced for the assembled people, pleasing Herod so much that he made that promise, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” Herodias made the most of the opportunity.
She had no hesitation in using her daughter to settle her grudge and ask for the head of John the Baptist. The king was deeply grieved, and must have realised he shouldn’t have made such a promise, but it was too late. The opinion of the people around him mattered too much. Outmanoeuvred by his wife, John must die.
There are those who like to listen to Jesus and his message but can’t put it into practice. When it comes to the decisions they make, other peoples’ opinions or the material things they covet, matter more. It seems so costly living by Jesus’ teaching, and they can’t live the life they claim to believe in.
I wonder how often we have that gap between what we believe and the way we live. It’s not enough just to enjoy listening to Jesus’ message and agree with it in theory, we have to live it.
Amos was a shepherd and farmer, who spoke out against the corruption of the nation’s leadership. He was seen as a traitor.
John criticised the those in power and was killed for doing so.
Jesus stood against the establishment and was crucified by those who wanted to silence him.
Similar challenges would lead to similar results – prison, exile, even death – in some parts of our world. Here, the response is more likely to be criticism, censure and the demand that religion keep out of politics.
I wonder how often we’re prepared to speak out, be it on the slave trade in this country, benefits, hunger, homelessness, sometimes when we see a lack of integrity at work, the list goes on. It’s not easy, there are consequences, perhaps not just for us, but for those around us. Footballer Marcus Rashford during his campaign for free school meals during holiday time, said: “This is not politics, this is humanity.” God called ordinary people to be prophets, to stand up for justice. He still calls ordinary people today. Us perhaps?
Questions to ponder…..
Where are the prophets today? Could it be us? What is God calling us to do?
Hymn: StF 713
Show me how to stand for justice
How to work for what is right,
How to challenge false assumptions,
How to walk within the light.
May I learn to share more freely
In a world so full of greed,
Showing your immense compassion
By the life I choose to lead.
Teach my heart to treasure mercy,
Whether given or received
For my need has not diminished
Since the day I first believed.
Let me seek no satisfaction
Boasting of what I have done.
But rejoice that I am pardoned
And accepted in your Son.
Gladly I embrace a lifestyle
Modelled on your living word,
In humility submitting
To the truth that I have heard;
Make me conscious of your presence
Every day in all I do:
By your Spirit’s gracious prompting
May I learn to walk with you.
C: 1999 Kevin Mayhew Ltd
Prayers of intercession:
Loving God, we pray for those whose voices are silenced:
for those silenced for speaking out against corruption…
and for justice;
for those silenced for speaking out against greed…
and for a fairer distribution of wealth;
for those silenced for speaking out against animal cruelty…
and for more humane alternatives;
for those silenced for speaking out against pollution…
and for more environmentally friendly solutions;
for those silenced for telling the truth
about things that have been covered up.
Keep them strong when they are threatened,
and be with them when they face danger and death.
Give us grace, that we may not be afraid to be truth-tellers,
but be your voice and your conscience in the world today.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Lord of dreams and daring vision,
as we live through daunting days,
help us find enabling riches
that inspire our prayer and praise;
give us insight in belonging
to the worldwide Church today;
finding, following, celebrating
Jesus Christ, the living way.
Lord of all our work and witness,
as we deepen common roots,
help us, freed from closed traditions,
see new purpose, show new fruits.
give us grace to learn acceptance,
hearing others’ points of view:
following, as the Spirit leads us
into truths we must pursue.
Lord of this world’s deepest anguish,
as your people cry, oppressed,
help us stand with brave defiance
where injustice is expressed;
help us choose the harder options,
feel our hurting neighbour’s pain,
by the depth of our involvement
open shafts of light again.
Lord of all Christ’s faithful followers,
as we catch his Spirit’s breath,
help us our fresh exploring,
find new life that conquers death.
Christ, the pioneer of mission,
calls his Church in these dark days
to proclaim and live the gospel
in diverse and daring ways.
- Tom Wilkinson
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ.
You have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation,
and you have believed.
Go, and live to the praise of his glory.
Prayers adapted from Rootsontheweb