Wednesday, July 12, 2006

difficult passages

This week's gospel lesson, from Mark, is not the kind of story whose picture you'd hang in your living room or, certainly, your nursery.

Which is not to say it's the kind of story that no one make pictures of--lots of artists have been inspired by the story of the death of John the Baptist. King Herod's wife Herodias's daughter (who we've come to call Salome, thanks to details supplied by an early historian) dances for the King, and he's so pleased he offers her anything she wants. She asks for instruction from her mom, who tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. On a platter.

Now, I'm not sure if it's that I've grown accustomed to the image of crucifixion, and so it doesn't seem to unsettling, or what.... But this image of a severed head on a platter turns my stomach in much more visceral ways. Perhaps it seems too much like violence I've seen lately in Iraq. Perhaps it's because it's stems from a personal quest for revenge--Herodias remembered how John the Baptist had preached out against the morality of her marriage to Herod.

In any case, it's an uncomfortable text.

Made more so because it's one of the few (only?) stories of dancing women we get in the gospel. And I'm all for dancing. Specifically for women dancing. That it's not a disgraceful or immoral thing. We have bodies, and we can use and enjoy them in beautiful ways--even praise God with them.

The Psalm for this week is all-for dancing, too. (Well, okay, it doesn't SPECIFICALLY say "dancing," but it does use this image of the temple, which both lifts its head and has gates. I read it to be a metaphor that easily stands for our bodies. And I don't know how to lift up my head as a might gate without a little bit of dancing...)

So, I guess one of my questions for this week is: what divides the dances of the Psalm and Salome?

Check it out and see what you think. (Psalm 24 and Mark 6:14-29)

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