“How do you view the world?”Rev. Kirsten Hancock Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 Year B – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.
“How do you view the world?” In the Smyth & Helwys Commentary for Mark, Alan Culpepper shares the following story:
In December 1931, Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the only drug store in a little prairie town, fifty miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota, These were the days of the Great Depression. There were only 326 people in town, 326 poor people, and business was bad. Most were farmers who had been wiped out either by the Depression of by the drought. The winter winds were viciously cold, and in the Summer, it was blazing hot. Tin lizzies chugged along the two-lane highway on their way home for the holidays or over to Mount Rushmore, but nobody stopped in Wall, South Dakota.
Ted and Dorothy were devout Christians. They prayed and agreed that they would stick it out for five years to see if they could make a go of it. By the summer of the fifth year they were about to give up. There was no shade, no air conditioning, and no customers. Ed spent most of his time looking out the store windows, waiting for someone to come in. One afternoon Dorothy put the children down for a nap, but she could not sleep because of the noise of the jalopies making their way down the highway. Then, she had an idea. What the travelers really needed while they were driving across that hot prairie was water, ice cold water, and although she and Ted did not have much, they did have water and ice.
The next day they put up signs offering free ice water at Wall Drug. By the time they got back to the store, people had already started coming. For hours they poured water, sold ice cream, and gave directions. And the people kept coming. The next summer they had to hire eight girls to help them and today the drug store has become a variety store that covers several square blocks. The café seats 520 and one a good summer day about 20,000 people turn off the highway for some free clean water and to browse through the store.” (Mark. Smyth & Helwys Commentary by R. Alan Culpepper. Smyth & Helwys: Macon, Georgia, 2007. Page 223)
Keeping a drugstore open for five years when no one’s buying anything requires a lot of faith and perseverance. Many people feel this way about their careers or living in a small town where things are rote, and nothing ever seems to change. However, the Husted’s story and today’s reading from Mark 6 show us that good, no great, things take time to build.
In Mark 6, the disciples have been very busy in Jesus’ name. He commissioned them earlier in the chapter and gave them instructions on how to proceed in carrying the Gospel throughout Galilee. In Mark 6:30-34, the disciples are back with Jesus and probably all talking at the same time, eager to share their stories and experiences about the miracles and healings they’ve performed or encountered. I imagine them speaking over one another, maybe trying to get in the last word to Jesus.
This part of the Gospel of Mark is known as the miracle cycle and shows the disciples assisting Jesus, rather than watching. At the same time, the disciples haven’t learned balance, or trust. The verses between verses 34 and 53 in the lectionary tell the story about the water being very rocky as Jesus and the disciples try to get to their next destination. Kind of sounds like what the Husteads went through in South Dakota back in 1931. Then Jesus calmed the storm. The feeding of the five thousand happens at a time in the story when Jesus attempted to help His crew recharge.
Keep also in mind that not only were Jesus and the disciples traveling around Galilee performing miracles, but they just received devasting news that Jesus’ cousin, John (the Baptist), was murdered by King Herod. Everyone needs a break—physically, spiritually and emotionally. The past three weeks of lectionary passages from Mark 5 and 6, allow us to Jesus preparing the disciples to go out on their own and to understand the Power of God He has shown them by example. Verse 31 is the first time he instructs the disciples, “Come away with me to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’” Amid busy activities and travels, Jesus recognizes the importance of rest, just as God recognized the importance of Sabbath on the final day of Creation. “On the seventh day, he rested from all His work.” Genesis 2:3.
Scripture does not tell us whether the Disciples planned to keep going without rest, but since they were human, we can imagine they were probably ready for the next town or the next miracle without first taking time out for themselves. Though Jesus and the disciples are trying to rest, they cannot escape the crowds. “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34 NRSV
Jesus sees a need that becomes greater than Him or His need in the moment. This is not only an example for the disciples following Jesus but reassures us today that God is a Good Shepherd who will meet our needs any time we need Him. He has compassion for us. His need is never greater than ours when we need Him. We can be certain of this no matter how far away from God we feel or what circumstances surround us.
Jesus shepherds His disciples, nurturing them, seeing a need to address their exhaustion and says, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Mark 6:31 NRSV This is reassuring for those in helping professions that God says, ‘It’s okay to take a break and give yourself a breather.’ We are no good attempting to nurture others without nurturing ourselves first. God knows this need and created us this way in His image. Jesus understood this need and practiced Sabbath also. There will always be abundant needs around, but we will not always be able to give in abundance. With restoration and recuperation, we can better meet the needs of those around us.
Wherever the disciples go with Jesus, they are approached and crowded by people, so besides the ‘Self Care 101’ Class Jesus teaches them through example, it is remarkable that they performed miracles, healed people, and hung out with a particularly unpopular guy from Nazareth but still didn’t understand why or Who He was. “An important point to remember is that throughout Mark, the reader sees time and again that the disciples don’t recognized Jesus as the Messiah” Williamson 131.
Theologian Douglas John Hall says there are two fundamental theological questions emerging today. 1. How does your God view the world? 2. How does your God as you to view the world? Bartlett 260. Jesus asks these questions and the disciples answer them in today’s passage. I don’t think these questions are emerging today. I think they emerged in Galilee 2,000 years ago. The questions are as apparent for the disciples in Mark’s Gospel, as they are for us as disciples in the 21st century. Jesus shows the disciples how God views the world and the disciples follow His example. God asks us today how we view the world. We have Jesus and the disciples’ examples, as well as the paradigm of current culture to guide our response. As Lamar Williamson point out “The disciples in Mark reflect the enthusiasms, misunderstandings and failure of the Markan community and each succeeding generation of Christians.”
When the disciples arrive with Jesus in Genesserat, they are overtaken by the crowds. “The town of Gennesaret was located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Magdala and Cepernaum, where numerous hot mineral springs had attracted the sick and the injured for centuries” Bryant in Bartlett 265. Jesus and the group were physically located near apparent needs. “And wherever he went –into villages, towns or countryside – they placed sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” Mark 6:54 NIV No matter where disciples looked, they saw needs.
A final point of interest in this passage is Robert Bryant’s exegetical point that “there are no references to Jesus’ preaching or teaching or to their faith as conditions for healing. For Mark, this healing story is an epiphany of Jesus’ divine power, even is His divine nature is NOT understood.” Bartlett 265 Mark’s overarching themes are of mystery and misunderstanding. Jesus somehow heals by touching us, but we are healed when we touch him. Jesus teaches us how to be like him when we choose to follow.
If we listen, he will give us careful instruction on what we need for the journey. We must care for ourselves and along God to care for us because we are made in His image and He considers us friends. Sad, bad, unexpected and tragic things happen to us in life and we should take time to mourn them and recognize the emotions. We should not try to give when we don’t have anything to give. Nor should we expect our ministers to give when we haven’t given them a chance to rest.
Our actions will draw people unto us when we reflect Christ. The world promises that in life we will be in places of great needs where people need and want things from us; sometimes we can give and sometimes we cannot. Either way, Jesus is always present and with us. Ultimately, we need to continually ask ourselves how God views the world and how we view the world and our synchrony of those two questions.
Mark. Smyth & Helwys Commentary by R. Alan Culpepper. Smyth & Helwys: Macon, Georgia, 2007.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, Eds. Feasting on the Word. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2009.
About the Writer:
Reverend Kirsten L. Hancock serves as Interim Associate Pastor of Faith Formation. Woodlands Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas. A native of Guymon, Oklahoma, who grew up in Abilene, Texas is a graduate of Baylor University. She worked on several political campaigns before obtaining her M.Ed. in Gifted Education from Hardin-Simmons University, while teaching 8th grade U.S. History in Abilene, Texas.
Kirsten was a political organizer with state legislators and taught in DC Public Schools. She earned her M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas. Kirsten is a sustaining member of the Junior League of San Antonio and VP for Events for San Antonio Zeta Tau Alpha Alumni Group. She is the youngest daughter of Dr. Omer & Mrs. Judy Hancock of Abilene, Texas.
Scripture and Music:
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
Trust and Obey
I Need Thee Every Hour
I Know Whom I Have Believed
Wonderful Words of Life (Words of Life)
The Lord is My Shepherd (Settings by John Rutter or Allen Pote)