This week we have all been watching the rescue of the young Thai soccer team with bated breath. Although like me, you were probably fearful that getting them out of the flooded caves would prove to be too hard, it was wonderful to have those doubts confounded as skilled divers and medics completed this amazing, courageous and in the end miraculous rescue. An article I read during the week told the stories of some of the boys and the coach. In this region of Thailand that borders on Myanmar, there are many stateless orphans, and many others who live in poverty because their families are stateless refugees and therefore unable to work. For many of these boys and their coach, the football community had become their family.
‘Families’ in Scripture are often fraught with tensions and politics, as we have frequently observed, and today we are presented with yet another shocking example. King Herod’s marriage was considered wrong and immoral under Jewish law and when John the Baptist publicly calls him on it, his truth-telling lands him in gaol. At Herod’s birthday party, his wife sees an opportunity to get her own back and to get rid of this meddlesome prophet once and for all. She lures the King into a promise that strokes his enormous ego and makes him seem like a very big man in front of his guests. When Herodias and her daughter then ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, Herod risks losing face in front of his guests, and so he agrees to her murderous request.
How are these for family values: Herodias uses her daughter to get the horrific thing she wants, and Herod would rather be taken for a murderer than a cuckolded fool. The daughter doesn’t have the sense to see that she is being used as a pawn in this murderous situation. Although our own families may not match this level of destructive nastiness and manipulation, we all know family situations where people use and hurt one another, or where people are discarded or manipulated on an egotistical whim.
In today’s epistle, we hear about God’s plan for a very different kind of family. We are adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ. Rather than abuse or manipulation, jealousy or pain, our inheritance as adopted children of God is redemption, forgiveness, love and grace. Right after this horrific Gospel story set at Herod’s birthday feast, Jesus throws a great dinner party. At this party there are no restricted invitations, no guest of honour, no head table, and everyone is welcome. Just simple food, bread and fish, blessed broken and shared among five thousand people, with more than enough to feed all who are hungry.
In peace, Mother Lynda