The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29th)
Who was imprisoned, and who was free? Herod the King was bound and enslaved by his own lust, while John in the dungeon could not be controlled or silenced. Herod had married his brother's wife; their mutual lust had brought her to divorce her husband and had brought Herod to take her to be his own wife, in direct opposition to the Levitical code against marrying one's brother's wife, and against all decency. But still this lust was not satisfied, for now we see Herod turning his desire's eye to his wife’s dancing daughter! Now he wants her instead, and now, encouraged by the drunken stupor of the wine of his own birthday party, offers her anything, up to the half of his kingdom, if only he can have her. See how halved his kingdom and his loyalties already are! for he cannot serve God and mammon; he cannot gladly hear the preaching of John and at the same time desire the wanton pleasures of this life. So the dancing daughter asks her wicked mother what she shall require, and the head of John becomes the necessary payment. Herod is trapped, ensnared by his own lustful heart, and must order the execution. And Herod's birthday celebration is ruined by the serving of a gruesome platter delivering John's head and overflowing with his blood. O beware the desires and lusts of the heart! For when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. But now behold John in prison: he speaks freely; he will speak of God's testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed. He is faithful unto death, and shows that he will not be moved from his willing loyalty to his true King and Lord. And so he gains life eternal by this unshakable faith. And so shall we, renouncing and confessing the folly of our own hearts, and holding fast in faith the One who alone can free us eternally. Sermon for the Beheading of John the Baptist.