Mark 6:11

and if a place does not welcome you, or listen to you, as you go out of it shake off the dust that is on the soles of your feet, as a protest against them.”


messages are written in the sky
dust read while hanging in air
stirred by feet running like the wind
away from deeper wilderness

such signs bear witness
to stuck points breaking apart
at seams and seems
too much holiness on each side

surety brings a quick kicking out
relief to leave such strictures
no one constrained by another
now’s the time or it’s the highway

wherever eyes look dust clouds rise
a divide between yesterday’s ways
and tomorrow’s mirage thin hope
each contraction leaving nothing between

a cloud of witnesses more than only mine
brings questions about leaving
mid-sandal-shake a pause
an ash-cloth return seeking welcome


Mark’s ambiguities can lead to a harder reading than is necessary. “Place” can be read as a city, a synagogue, or one or more persons. If left as a city we remember other cities such as Sodom and Gomorrah just prior to their reported destruction. There a witness against their inhospitality results in their destruction.

All too often we read “witness” in a legal manner wherein we are making a stand for, or against, someone and their behavior. So it is important to remember the purpose of the Twelve—the practice of authority over unclean spirits (presence to those in need of healing).

When we remember the witness to changed lives the Twelve bring through their simple dress and reliance upon bringing forth hospitality/compassion in those they encounter, it is clearer that their witness is “to” others rather than a witness “against” them.

Mann293 notes: “The Greek specifically speaks of a warning to them, not an adjuration against them.” This reminds us that translational issues add to the narrative issues within Mark. With Mark firmly within a canon that freezes some stories at some point in their telling as scripture, there is always a temptation in a religious setting to see oneself as an extension of the Twelve and everyone else an outsider to be witnessed against, shunned, destroyed. This is lazy reading.

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