Mark 6:14-29, Amos 7:7-15; The Unpopular Word (7-12-15)

 

Are you politically correct?

This seems to be a popular question in our modern world.

In the cartoon Kudzu, the characters describe this reality.

The Rev. Will B. Dunn sings the familiar hymn:

“AMAZING GRACE, HOW SWEET THE SOUND,

THAT SAVED A STUNTED SELF-CONCEPT LIKE ME,

I ONCE WAS STRESSED OUT, BUT NOW EMPOWERED

WAS VIRTUALLY CHALLENGED, BUT NOW I SEE.”

In the last frame of the comic strip, the preacher says: Actually, I never felt like the lyrics to Amazing Grace needed updating!”

The initial idea of being politically correct is sound.

It invites us to be sensitive to other people, especially people who are different from us, the powerless, the oppressed, and the marginalized.

Too often, it is used as a tool of the politically powerful to assert their agenda on others without respect for their personhood.

Thus we have the endless cable news talk shows and political pundits throwing word-bombs at each other in the name of political correctness.

The question becomes: not who is right, but whose definition of political correctness is right.

This always changes based on who is in power.

When the Republicans owned the White House the definition of political correctness was thoroughly Republican.

Now that the Democrats own the White House the definition of political correctness is completely Democratic.

Notice that it doesn’t really matter who is in power—the power politics has not changed—perhaps it never will.

I want to propose another approach to modern power:

                     Spiritual correctness.

By this, I mean that we allow God to be God and accept God’s divine power to define how we use our power.

This may not be any easier than it is for politicians—because our theological work is open to many varying interpretations

Besides, our attempt to be SPIRITUALLY CORRECT may in itself be very unpopular; even politically incorrect.

This is not a new situation. For example:

Listen to these words from a famous sermon:

“In the Gospel of Christ…one must not love oneself so much as avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us…the experiences of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for this earth…May we give ourselves to Christ, not for self, but to give justice and peace to our people.”

Pretty harmless, right?

It sounds like many sermons we have heard every Sunday.

It sounds like many sermons you have heard from this pulpit

It sounds like the business of the church being the church.

The only thing is…I left out a part of the sermon.

The part that I left out comes immediately after the preacher said: “May we give ourselves to Christ, not for self, but to give justice and peace to our people.”

A shot rang out in the sanctuary and the preacher, the Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was dead.

He had been assassinated by his enemies in the middle of his sermon; in the middle of worship; preaching the Gospel.

The Modern Day Prophet spoke an unpopular word—he died.

He died because he was politically in-correct.

He was nonetheless spiritually correct—preaching Gods word

 

The Gospel of Mark provides another example.

In our scripture lesson today, we observe Mark giving us a truth about the prophets of God.

The Ancient Prophets always suffered when they proclaimed the Unpopular Word of God.

When the Prophet rises up to be spiritually correct;

The World rises up to be politically correct—kills the prophet.

We see this truth in our text today.

John the Baptist spoke an unpopular word against King Herod. He spoke out from his pulpit in the wilderness:

“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

John was trying to save Herod from his sin of adultery.

John was trying to rescue Herod from the demons of guilt that tormented him: living in sin is not an easy task.

The guilt can destroy a man.

John was acting as God’s prophet: condemning the sin but also declaring God’s path of righteousness that leads to repentance, mercy, reconciliation, peace, and joy.

John was declaring the GOOD NEWS: Herod, you can have your good life back, you do not have to remain separated from God.

Herod liked John, he knew he was a Prophet from God.

Herod protected John from harm.

Herod listened to John.

Herod’s wife Herodius was another matter.

When the Prophet rises us to be spiritually correct;

The World rises up to be politically correct—kills the prophet.

Herodius hated John—she knew he was a threat to her own power as the queen of Israel.

She used her worldly power to trick her husband Herod.

Herodius sent her lovely daughter into the King’s court to dance seductively for the king and all his guests.

The King was pleased and offered her a great reward:

“Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”

The daughter went straight to her mother and asked what she should ask for from the King.

The mother answered: ask for the head of John the Baptist.

The daughter returned to the king and made this bold request: “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

King Herod was trapped: because he made an oath before all his guests he complied with this request and killed John.

King Herod was politically correct—he was not willing to offend his guests, he was not willing to go back on his oath, he was not willing to appear as a weak King.

John the Baptist was spiritually correct—he was not willing to offend his God, he was not willing to go back on his oaths to God, he was unwilling to be a false prophet, he was unwilling to bow to the power of the King.

John the Baptist was spiritually correct—he was willing to proclaim the Unpopular Word because it was God’s Word.

 

The Book of Amos provides a third example of the unpopular word— a prophet who is spiritually correct.

King Jeroboam was politically correct:

       He founded a false religion in Israel;

       He deserted the religion of the Patriarch;

He allowed the false priest Amaziah to build new shrines in Bethel and Dan;

The shrines were full of idols of golden calves.

Amaziah supported this false religion—he defended King Jeroboams’ right as the King of Israel to establish this false religion.

Amos was spiritually correct as he spoke an unpopular word:

The Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

In Amos we see the Prophet rising up to be spiritually correct; Amos dares to speak the word of judgment against King Jeroboam and his rebellious religion.

Amos dares to speak the unpopular word—God will not permit sin, God will not permit false worship, God will not permit even the King of Israel to lead his people astray!

Amos speaks as God’s prophet—if the people refuse to repent, God’s cleansing judgment must wipe out the wrong.

       The sanctuaries of Bethel and Dan will be destroyed;

       The false religion of Jerobaom must be stopped;

       Jeroboam must be removed from power.

In Jeroboam and his false priest Amaziah we see the World rising up to be politically correct—they oppose the prophet.

Amaziah refuses to believe Amos’ words and threatened him: “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Amaziah is politically correct: he advises Jeroboam to ignore Amos claiming that he is a money grabbing opportunist, he accuses Amos of being a professional liar, he accuses Amos of being a traitor against the King and Israel.

Amos is spiritually correct: he answered with the unpopular word:

“I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

Amos is spiritually correct: he is not a professional prophet, nor a son of a professional prophet, he is simply a herdsman with the direction from God to preach the unpopular word.

So why do the prophets speak the Unpopular word?

Why did Archbishop Romero speak the UNPOPULAR WORD to El Salvador?

Why Did John the Baptist speak the UNPOPULAR WORD to King Herod?

Why did Amos speak the UNPOPULAR WORD to King Jeroboam and Amaziah?

BECAUSE IT WAS GOD’S WORD FOR THE PEOPLE!

The Prophets desired to be faithful to God’s Word.

They did not care if they were politically correct or not!

They cared that they were spiritually correct!

They did not care if the world would rise up to be the world and oppose them, behead them, assassinate them.

They dared to be the Prophet of God—they desired to bring God’s Word of mercy and judgment to this world.

GOD IS CALLING US TO THIS PROPHETIC MINISTRY!

We need to be like Amos—determined to stand for good.

We need to be like John the Baptist—opposing all sin.

We need to be like Archbishop Romero—we need to stand up with all the courage we have and speak the unpopular word.

We must not shrink back from the political powers, the unrighteous kings, and the false priests of our day.

We must be faithful to the call of Jesus Christ and be spiritually correct.

We must live according to Romero’s last words:

“May we give ourselves to Christ, not for self, but to give justice and peace to our people.”