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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 9:1–17

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.

On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (NRSV)

A lot of great actors have played Herod in the movies: Claude Rains, Leo McKern, Vincent Price, Ciaran Hinds. Harry Shearer played Mr. Burns playing Herod in The Simpsons’ version of the Christmas story. But when I read this bit about Herod, the actor that comes to mind is Paul Newman. Ol’ Butch Cassidy, himself.

In the movie, Butch and Sundance rob a train and a group of horsemen starts chasing them. No matter what they try to do, the pursuers stay after Butch and Sundance. The two fugitives try to think of who they might be. Toughest lawman they knew? Couldn’t be; he’s in Wyoming. Best tracker? No, he’s in Oklahoma. And it all comes back to the same question: “Who are these guys?”

In this passage, Herod keeps hearing about this guy proclaiming the kingdom of God. Herod’s not the most secure king. He’s a pawn of the Romans; he’s been through a nasty divorce, been held up as an adulterer by John the Baptist and had him beheaded . . . now there’s this Jesus guy. Who do people say he is? Elijah? Can’t be. John the Baptist? But I killed him.

Who is this guy?

We all spend a lot of time running. There is always something we don’t want to acknowledge, some accountability we want to dodge. The most fearful thing in the world is the idea that we will be caught, but the truth is we carry our judgment with us. We know what we’ve done, and our judgment fuels our flight. The Telltale Heart is our own.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Butch wound up in Bolivia on the wrong side of the Bolivian army. Herod wound up in Gaul on the wrong side of Caligula. Running never ends well. We need to be caught.

Lord, we carry our judgment and run from grace, and it’s exhausting. Please hurry up and catch us, deliver us and let us rest. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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