Nice is Not Enough

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

Mark 6:14-29

Psalm 24

Ephesians 1:3-14

I am honored to stand before you today. For many years this pulpit has consistently proclaimed the Good News of God’s redeeming love for all people!

I appreciate the introduction I’ve been given! There are a few things I’d like to add. First, I not only look and sound Korean, I am Korean-American! That said, I need to say I deeply love America and rejoiced in being able to be in ministry in your midst!

If you have a stereotype of Korean Christians – allow me to define myself. I’m neither a fundamentalist nor a supporter of the religious right. As a Korean. I love tea and a good tea ceremony, but the “tea party” is not my thing!

I am a follower of the Christ. My faith is shaped by the faith Jesus himself professed.

But many proclaim a faith that is primarily “about Jesus.” Faith “about Jesus” speaks of the metaphysical meaning of his death and resurrection, with scant regard for his teachings. A faith “about “Jesus asks you, “Do you believe Jesus died for you?” If you believe “these right things” about Jesus, you get a free pass to paradise. Otherwise you go to hell.

Faith modeled upon the faith “of Jesus” places his life and teachings at its center. The faith of Jesus emphasizes love of God and neighbor and responds to Jesus call to “Follow Me!” The difference is between being some sort of “believer in Jesus,” and becoming a “follower of Jesus.”

The faith of Jesus can’t ignore the repeated emphasis of Jesus on “the love of God and the love of others.”

Those who claim the faith “of Jesus” see him accepting and affirming every human as already a member of God’s family and feel compelled to do the same. His life and ministry was one of accepting and affirming all those that his religious peers were excluding. For Jesus, there was no question as to “who was in” and “who was out” with God. All were in!

I come to Christianity from a Buddhist background. It prepared me well for following Jesus. I honor and respect that background. However, that was not so for me in my teen years, when I rejected everything that was Buddhist. I refused to see that the Buddha shared a great deal with the Christ who I had come to serve, that the Buddha was a friend of Jesus.

Our Gospel reading for today was not pleasant to hear! Mark tells the gory details of what happened to John the Baptist following his arrest. If you’ve ever seen Straus’s “Salome,” you’ve experienced the terror of this story!

King Herod torn by guilt. Salome driven to insanity.

I draw your attention to an earlier section of Mark’s gospel – chapter 1, verses 14-15, where Mark makes a crucial reference to John’s arrest and it’s impact upon Jesus:

After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” (Mk. 1:14-15, Peterson) Prior to John’s arrest, Jesus was a little known carpenter’s son in Nazareth.

Being “nice,” apparently had been sufficient. But now, “being nice was not enough.” Jesus saw that sources of evil were clearly at work in the world, and “being nice” would never be sufficient to confront those forces. Then in Mark 6, the plot thickens! Mark tells the story of John the Baptist’s execution by Herod.

And why does he tell that story at this point? The story needs telling because Herod has learned of Jesus and his work that seemed all-to-similar to that of John the Baptist.

Now Herod is not all that sane himself. He’s overwhelmed by guilt for being seduced by Salome’s dancing and having granted her request for John’s dec