FROM WHENCE CAME THE BRAVERY with which John the Baptist “explained the way of God more perfectly” to the Tetrarch, Herod Antipas, who had married his brother Philip’s wife? (cf Mark 6.14-29). From whence came the courage of the Christ of God who climbed the hill of Calvary and there gave up His Spirit? From whence came the bravery, the courage and the conviction of those saints and martyrs, and priests and people, who have proclaimed the Gospel faithfully, in season and out of season – seemingly untouched and unmoved by either public acclaim or the lack of it … from whence?

Well: the key is at a banquet. Not the debauched, drunken, revelling sort of a banquet. Not the stuff of the Kingdom of Herod – he, who, with puffed-up self-importance, promised “even half of my Kingdom” to a dancing-girl.

The bravery, courage and conviction of John the Baptist, of Jesus the Christ, of saints and martyrs, and priests and people, through countless years, comes from the great banquet of the Kingdom of God. How very small a Tetrarch must appear to those possessed of higher vision! How small and really rather sad, and futile, the little lives of powerful men given over to quaffing wine, puffing out their chests, and a haze of belly-dancing.

At the banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven in Bramhall today our sights were set rather higher than one of Herod Antipas’ parties.

High on yon celestial mountains stands his sapphire throne, all bright, midst unending alleluias bursting from the sons of light; Sion’s people tell his praises, victor after hard-won fight. [So] Bring your harps and bring your incense, sweep the string and pour the lay; let the earth proclaim his wonders, King of that celestial day; he the Lamb once slain is worthy, who was dead and lives for ay.

Job Hupton, (1762-1849)

Half a Kingdom, King Herod? No thanks. Our sights our set on higher than that, and in God’s good time, at that. For:

Whoever is devoid of the capacity to wonder, whoever remains unmoved, whoever cannot contemplate or know the deep shudder of the soul in enchantment, might just as well be dead for he has already closed his eyes upon life.

So said Albert Einstein. So, each in their different ways, did John the Baptist, Jesus the Christ, and the whole glad company of angels and saints. Let synods and sinners, and the saints and the sorrowing, and the Church in every time and every place, look UPWARDS, to the sapphire throne all bright … and chorus in unending alleluias with the saints in light. So shall we know a new bravery, a new courage and conviction. So shall we be, confidently, the Christ’s Church.