This Sunday’s scripture readings, 2 Samuel (6:1-5, 12B-19) is about David bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David, and Mark (6:14-29) is about the beheading of John the Baptist. On the surface these are two very different stories. What brings them together on the same Sunday are their contrasts.
But both readings involve dancing.
King David in bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David. The Ark houses the Ten Commandments and is a symbol of God’s presence in the community and blessing of the community. The people celebrate with dancing, and we are told that they danced, "with all their might". It ends with a banquet and it is important to notice that David serves all the people. It is intended to show that the kind of leader David will be is one who serves the people, as opposed to one who is served by the people.
Contrast that celebration with the dance in Mark’s Gospel. John the Baptist has dared to criticised Herod for his relationship with his Sister-in-law Herodius. John is imprisoned but Herodius conspires against him. Her daughter Solome dances for Herod and the gathered guests. Herod is so pleased with the dance that he offers the young dancer anything she wants, even half of his kingdom, if she wants. Following the instructions of her mother she asks asks for John head, served on a platter.
It was an exclusive banquet, celebrating the birthday of Herod. The whole nation was not invited, only a select few. It ends with a dance of death, not of life.
In Mark’s Gospel the intended contrast was not with the story from Second Samuel. Mark intends us to contrast this story with the next in his Gospel. It is the wonderful story of the Feeding of the 5,000.
In this story Jesus wants to go off alone, but the crowd follows him. He goes to a deserted place, but it comes to be a place of great abundance. The disciples tell Jesus to send away the hungry people, but he responds, "feed them". It is a place where people fear that there’s not enough yet they end up with leftovers.
At Herod’s palace there was a birthday party, he was not trying to be alone. There was an exclusive guest list, not a crowd of over 5,000 people. It was held in a palace not a deserted place and there were no worries about running out. Everyone had gathered to celebrate Herod’s birthday, but what will people remember? There remember a severed head and the death of John the Baptist.
Our worship is intended to be a banquet of life. A place of celebration for the truths we affirm: that we are created by a Loving God; that Jesus, the Christ, lives; that God is present through the Holy Spirit and; the Holy Eucharist is a Banquet of Life.
So, lets dance and sing and celebrate as the Israelites did, with all our might!