There is a great little movie based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “A Knight’s Tale.” It is about a young man who is given the opportunity to change his life by being a squire to a knight. After many years of faithful service, young William finds himself in a spot where poses as a knight to feed the other members of the household because his master has died. William’s nemesis Prince Adhemar, constantly undercuts William and asks him, “You have been tried, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. In what world could you have you beaten me?”
If there is anything that I would countenance about Adhemar, Herod Antipas, the rulers and princes of this world is it that they are often fearful that there might be someone who is their equal. And if they have an equal, that means the prince and all he can command and possess means and is nothing. Thus he is nothing. Therefore, there is a great need to debase and reduce anyone who might be a threat or a possible rival to nothing so that the great prince can remain mighty, at least in his own eyes.
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 6:18-29) is about others and how they can and will respond to the Good News of the Gospel and to the person of Jesus. Many People around Jesus and around Herod are hearing of the great and awesome things that are happening. Everybody and their uncle has an opinion about who Jesus is and what he is doing. Herod himself thinks that he might have second chance after having John executed... that John is back and is coming to him and for him. Herod had been near the holiness of John. He had been impressed with John. He kept calling John to preach to him over the objections of the court and of his wife, Herodias. John was blunt and clear. Herein is a problem that we often face in the Church in North America these days: Herod was impressed, even frightened of the message he was hearing and wanted to respond but would not dare. He would not change his life in such away. He could hear the message but would do precious little to alter his life to conform to the message. He was impressed with the commitment and was touched by the holy but he would not allow himself to be changed. It had consequences.
Like young William we need to learn what it means to be noble. We need to learn what it means to be committed to our own transformations, whatever the cost is. Nobility, or in our case Christian character is not just something we are born into, it defines us and our actions. As Christian people we are called on by our risen and ascended Prince to live a live that us upright and straight in a world that is tilted upside down through our sin. We live in a world where giving service and making sacrifice are laughed at and scorned because it means that we have to put self aside in favour of others and their needs and dreams. We are called to live our lives as marked out people through how we love and treat each other. Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples, by this (sign), all will know you to be my disciples, by your love, one for another?
If we are who we say we are – Christian people – then ought we not to be more and more like our Master? Shouldn’t we be ready to stand up and be counted, knowing that we live in a culture that is not going to want to hear about giving, self sacrifice, and faith in the name of Jesus? We are being tried by fire, and our faith is being tested. Others need to see this so that they can come to see the news and the life that we proclaim is real and not just some fanciful thinking or “pie in the sky” hope. The world needs to see that we have been tried, that we have been measured; that there is substance to the message and truth that we proclaim. Let us be prepared to serve, to give, and to sacrifice that we might win some and draw them into life and life in the kingdom and our Prince so that we can say to them – may God have mercy on you and save you if it is his good will. Welcome to the new world.