King Henry II of England, back in around 1200, had a lot of power. He put an end to a long and bloody civil war, and ruled both England and a large chunk of France for many years. He was so famous that a movie was made about him, about 25 yrs ago, starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. He was a pretty good king. But what made King Henry most famous was the fact that his power turned a flash of anger into an actual murder.

He and a man who had once been his dearest friend, Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, were locked in a life-and-death power struggle between church and state. And in a moment of great frustration, so it is said, the King cried out, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!" and four of his more ambitious and unscrupulous henchmen rode out that night to Canterbury and murdered Thomas in front of the high altar of the cathedral. By way of penance King Henry walked, barefoot and in sackcloth, the more than 50 miles from London to Canterbury.

What did God care about, the will or the deed? I think Henry’s soul would have mattered just as much to God if those four men had never gotten on their horses.

(From a sermon by Alison Bucklin, Murder Mystery, 6/10/2011)