Mark 6:13

They drove out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were infirm, and cured them.

from appointed to anointing
evidences growth in trust
with nothing new under the sun
healing gifts are all around

to begin seeing need out there
and a gift to share in here
pushes us into a wilderness
of our own assumptions

need so great gift too small
confuse our tracking skills
running over one another
prodding here tugging there

until we are thoroughly lost
and in a moment’s moment
find ourself with the lost
reclaiming a grand mutual healing

after all these years
this still cannot be explained
how intentional lostness
leads out from wilderness

Hooray! The first part of the work of the Twelve seems to have worked well (authority over “unclean” spirits). Notice that nothing is mentioned about their second task to proclaim a change of hearts and lives.

There are technical terms such as synecdoche and metonymy that indicate one part stands for the whole or closely associated with it—e.g., seeing the tip of a sail just cresting the horizon and calling out, “Ship ho!” Under this rubric you can say one and mean both. But Mark has set them up verses apart as the crust ends of a sandwich holding a dress code and a conditioned leaving process—they are connected but distinguishable.

Working from silence to be able to have a positive response about the proclamation of John and Jesus and themselves (and ourselves?) tends to leave us with an encroaching piety that sees everything in its own light. We have to ask whether the hearts and lives of the Twelve were changed on their journey and healing acts? Given the track-record of the Twelve and events yet to come it seems unlikely.

We can see the Twelve excited about being able to participate in signs of G*D’s presence with them and completely blanking about how to report on the lives of those whose spirit and body were anointed (Messiah-ed). It is exciting to claim the authority of a Messiah without the ongoing work that comes from intentional testing and retreat grounding tomorrow’s present rather than the past’s today.

Mark 6:12

So they set out, and proclaimed the need of repentance.

carrying healing
expecting rejection
we go forth

abiding humbly
stalking off
we go forth

first second
or last
we go forth

together now
then divided
we go forth

only knowing
not understanding
we go forth

So John went out into the wilderness to proclaim a needed change of hearts and lives. So Jesus follows on John. So follow the Twelve and those in this train of learning about our hearts and lives and witnessing to the power set loose when we are in tune with the freedom to continue or change direction. An extension of this is to see changed hearts and lives partnered to change the heart and relationships within an Institution, State, or Culture.

Going forth is important to solidify the flexibility needed to engage one’s next self, as well as others. This is not a spectator sport or a commentator’s function. To actually work on oneself and invite others to that same work for themselves is prelude and process for a proclamation that holds to its current integrity and openness as well as acknowledging where others are located. This sort of proclamation finds its health in partnering for growth and diversity.

There is an old saying that teaching is learning. Stating change should happen has no correlation to actual change. The process of changing hearts and lives goes well beyond doctrine, dogma, canon. There are no universals or particular creedal language that will get to the heart of the heart. This has been true for the Twelve up to this point. We can hear the frustration of Jesus in this sending forth. It is time for his inner-circle to grow up and that takes some real world experience.

Remember the Twelve includes both Peter and Judas Iscariot. I expect if Mark had remarked on the pairings, these two would be a logical twosome to keep Mark’s penchant for ambiguity going strong. If these two proclaim, you could expect considerable difference in both how and what gets lifted up as a way toward change. Now, imagine you are alternately paired with Peter for a week and Judas for week. What might you learn from their teaching about change?

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.

Mark 6:10

“Whenever you go to stay at a house,” he said, “remain there until you leave that place;

all in all providence
is a worthy helpmeet
aiding our meeting others
on mutual ground
willing to push past privilege
to see what might yet emerge
from a cosmic blind date

to place our eggs
in the flimsy basket
of first opportunity
does not usually return
maximized profit
based on trusted return
of value-filled customers

first and foremost surprise
is in the air
beginning with our demon
being driven from its place
of first and foremost
opening space and time
to a serendipitous presence

This is movement material. We sense the lay of the land and where the lines of welcome lead. The easiest way to learn this is an urban immersion among those without shelter. Bonds that can be made are very valuable. Amazing generosity among the invisible is a wonder to behold and receive. (This is not to discount the difficulties of trust and those who would take advantage—there are predatory laity, as well as clergy, who quickly establish a sense of entitlement.)

Either learning on a Vision Quest or re-living an Exodus can lead to engaging people. When carrying no provisions, we are looking for those with an openness to partnership. Hospitality is a good marker for a good partner.

Waetjen124 reminds us that the simplicity of dress helps the Twelve, “identify more closely with the people they are evangelizing, specifically the lower-class masses….Their identification with the poor is to be so intimate that they are to live with them in their homes during the time they are ministering in a particular place.”

There are limits to expectations for hospitality and/or a safe house in the midst of persecution. Some of these are laid out in the Didache:

And concerning the Apostles and Prophets, act thus according to the ordinance of the Gospel.  Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord, but let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stay three days, he is a false prophet. And when an Apostle goes forth let him accept nothing but bread till he reach his night’s lodging; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet. (11:3-6)

Mark 6:9

but they were to wear sandals, and not to put on a second coat.

life lines
connect shoes with
public transportation
shirts reveal
a private savings account

we travel
better together
sedately steadily
not speeding erratically
laded heavy footed

steadfast love
at 3 MPH
goes a long way
without a retinue
for luggage

Sandals remind us of our being both in and not of the world. We are separated from the sticky clay of our creation that would hold us back while accumulating dust that reveals our movement.

There are those who would take us back to the basic of clay and dust, as though a “Let there be” didn’t and doesn’t still ring through the air. Mark knows the difficulty of his age and the Twelve are not required to leave all behind to become a cadre of a new creation. The resistance growing against Jesus’ presence will come to the Twelve and a vehicle, sandals, will assist them to move on (see 6:11 on not getting bogged down by proving rightness).

No matter how we walk in the world, its temptation to power (casting out demons) and greed continues to beckon. In John 13 there is a particular recognition that sandals do not keep us from picking up values that would lead us away from a betrayal of new understandings of a journey of theosis or a need for confession when taking easy ways out. A washing of feet is prelude to a commission to love one another as a sign of partnering with Jesus.

The question of being limited to one tunic or shirt or pair of underwear (Waetjen124) has had a variety of suggestions from Arndt and Gingrich identifying two shirts as a “sign of effeminacy” (Bratcher188) to a resistance uniform (Swanson190) or dress code (Myers72) distinct from Roman occupation and signifying dependence upon hospitality of those willing to engage an urgency for a change of heart and a healing of one kind or another.

There are several ways in which people are to go unto their Neighb*r. The details of appearance vary but underlying cultural symbolism of dress and language is the issue of an offering of a choice about abundance to be freely accepted, not coerced. Here the dress emphasizes simplicity and speed up to a point of contact whereupon matters become more complex.

Mark 6:8

He instructed them to take nothing but a staff for the journey – not even bread, or a bag, or coins in their purse;

a walking stick is humbling
announcing practice for a walker
wheel chair and death bed to follow

scouts of childhood and youth
required a 6′ staff
for wilderness travel

with a stick and utility knife
we’re good to go
everything else can be improvised

this supportive tool takes many shapes
fellow-traveler kindness of strangers
accumulated experience wisdom

uphill it pulls us onward
downhill it breaks a descent
plainly it extends our range

a rod and staff bring comfort
assurance enough to lean forward
courage enough for that one more step

In the aftermath of active distrust in Jesus’ hometown, we find an exercise in trust given to the Twelve to go into other towns with a basic trust in the bounty found in communal life. This is a basic trust found in religious sensibilities around the world.

And so the Twelve enter into a vision quest.

There is an urgency here to reestablish a source of energy based on a bounty of belovedness, innate goodness, and abundant creation. Mutual healing and mutual feasting are the poles of a larger life that moves from the seeds of the past to tomorrow’s harvest.

Mark differs from Matthew and Luke in allowing walking mercies, a staff (here) and sandals (next verse). These are reminiscent of preparations for an Exodus (Exodus 12:11). The healing of the nations begins by building a community. Jesus and the Twelve have been held captive by mistrust (a hazard of being occupied; an occupational hazard). This journey from slavery to freedom goes on at every level of relationship—one’s own heart captured by the powers of the day or bound by the norms of a formative family.

A journey at the trust level reclaims an arena of liberation by intentionally setting out to liberate those constrained by dis-ease in their life even before any hospitality is offered to the journeyers.

The Twelve are initiated into Jesus’ prophetic calling, not as missionary colonialists, but, practical connectors of G*D and Neighb*r.

Mark 6:7

He called the Twelve to him, and began to send them out as his messengers, two and two, and gave them authority over foul spirits.

check your assumptions
against those of others

add your weight
support and challenge another

Two-By-Two LLC
“Extending A Healthy Way”

teamed and yoked by lot
learn to work middle out

dance together sing
released joy is authoritative

Jesus’ standard ask is for people to join in his having been joined with a creative force of new space as in the landing of Noah’s Ark or next potential Eden. “Come, fly with the Dove of Belovedness!”

Some were specifically invited to learn how to “fish for people” (maybe it should have been a pelican that descended?). They have experienced some of their own doubt and mistrust in the midst of many opportunities to appropriate what they saw Jesus doing. Now the call to “join” is going to become clearer as they are sent out δύο δύο (duo duo, two [by] two).

It will be easy to read words like ἀποστέλλειν (apostellein, commissioning/sending off) and ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν (edidos autois exousian, give them power/authority) to think that they take away from new creation imagery above and in the previous verse or override an important definition of “exousia”, a capacity to choose.

This matter of choice will be important as we will find out that there is no authority seed that is planted within the Twelve that will work independent of them. There will be failures of this mission later in 9:18, and Luke 10:17 also records some surprise that they did any exorcising at all.

Knowing what we do about the disciples in general and the Twelve in specific, we might picture the pairs talking with one another about coming back with the most examples of power used for good. They might self-generously recollect, “it was those others who were scared in the storm”, or “how willing we were to share what we had before those others blurted out their financial limit at one of the feedings”. So easily a joint effort is lost through our desire to be approved. “Surely we will come back as the Number 1 team!”

Being able to coordinate and keep the pairs joined in mission, is problematic. “Mutual partnership” (Swanson192) is critical.

Mark 6:6

and he wondered at the want of faith shown by the people. Jesus went around the villages, one after another, teaching.

over-focusing on belief
without considering its limits
is like glancing at Medusa

we freeze in time and space
thick headed and stone hearted
only dynamite induced change available

by story-telling transference
all who gaze on us melt
worn out in their CPR attempts

statues and puddles
artifacts of religious history
litter our perceptual field

not doubting a door’s lockedness
saps curiosity and sits us down
until jogged to remember to play

a suspension of disbelief
opens multiple paths of trust
beyond an exclusionary faith

As we know, versification takes away some connections of a story. Do try reading a version of Mark that does not have verses notated.

Most modern commentators split this verse so the first half concludes a discrete section of Mark’s story.

As Mann290 indicates, “Here Jesus appears to take faith in God as a natural attitude and is pained by its absence.” This leads to another return to creation and the “natural” relationship between G*D and Image of G*D. For all that has wedged itself between, we grieve and commit to emptying it from power or control in our lives. Repentance that changes hearts and lives functions through a removal of blockages

The second half begins a more intense teaching/training of the disciples in participating in a larger mission through a simplification of their way of living.

The urgency of mission is pushed ahead through a paring away that a wilderness retreat brings. The clearer our heads the further we can see into the vastness of the sky and have a place to stand to better sort out real from false choices.

Verse 6a gives an ouch that leads to 6b and a renewed joining of Jesus with his chosen family. This verse connects them, but we are still don’t know the mind of the Versifier and how they saw this transition spot flow from a lack of trust to intensified teaching about trust.

Mark 6:5

And he could not work any miracle there, beyond placing his hands on a few infirm persons, and curing them;

healings are not miracles
states an unstateable

our desire for continuity is slow
confused when action exceeds a blink

unable to view reconfigurations
we can only figure a disjunction

our bayou accustomed reaction time
fails in the midst of a whitewater shoot

a community moving from suspicion
to welcoming is miracle-sized

a traumatized individual moving on
fast or slow is healing

salvific acts rejoin lost hopes
along disparate tracks

Rejection leads to counter-rejection. The Giardian Lectionary referenced a sermon by Thomas L. and Laura C. Truby, “Jesus is Cast Out and the Disciples Cast Out” that reflects on the strangeness that mere faith (a gift given us) can control the δύναμιν (dunamis, power, miracle) of a beloved of G*D:

I have always assumed he couldn’t heal because the people lacked faith as though healing depended on their faith. Now I realize he couldn’t heal because nobody came. Oh, a few defied the village ostracism and he healed them, but mostly they didn’t come. Word had gotten out that Jesus was off-limits.

This shift of perspective is one that most commentators are hard pressed to do. The strange situation of faith trumping power (except for a few physical touches) deserves more attention. Faith is not mentioned in most of the healings/miracles/acts of power found in Mark.

Here are the non-faith related acts of power:

1:21-28, in synagogue

1:29-31, mother-in-law

1:32-34, healing all sick

1:40-45, leper

3:1-6, withered hand

4:35-41, calming storm

5:1-20, Gerasene demoniac

6:30-44, feeding the 5000

6:53-56, sick in Gennesaret

7:24-30, Syrophoenician’s daughter

7:31-37, deaf-mute

8:1-10, feeding the 4000

8:22-26, blind man

What conditions have we set up, individually and collectively, to protect ourselves from uncomfortable relationships, to set off-limits?

Mark 6:4

at which Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his home town, and among his own relatives, and in his own home.”

looking through a lens
momentarily tangent
to an accustomed view
but fundamentally not of it
leads to prophecy
or its misspelled cousin madness

drop in on a troubled but stable
unforgiving line
brings an immediate reflection
on what seems forever set
cannot be otherwise
requires a happy-face mask

touch from beyond the present
exceeds two dimensions
intersections are deeper than seemed
inflections do add up
current dis-ease eventually welcomed
persistence reveals prevailing love

drawing a larger circle
expands contact
shocking more segments
shaking foundational assumptions
blind to options compassions
only embraced under duress

“…rejection is part of both the paradigm of the prophet and of the hero cross-culturally….” [Levine71]

Response to rejection is a formative moment in our growth. It can enhance or retard our claim on our gifts and opportunities to use them.

This saying recognizes a next shift in identity. In LaVerdiere’s schematic of Mark, we are completing the call to join a band of merry men and their early difficulties of lack of understanding parables, food, healing, and storms on the lake. We now leave hometowns and relatives behind to focus on teaching a mission of belovedness and change to the Twelve.

As Levine points out:

Jesus is eventually rejected by all of “his people”—however that may be understood. He was rejected by Jews and Gentiles: family (3.19b–21), townspeople (6.1–6), Gentiles who witness his healing power (5.17), Peter (8.32, 14.71), disciples (14.50), chief priests and Sanhedrin, and the “crowd” influenced by them (ch14, 15.8,11,15) those who “passed by” (15.29), the two men crucified with him (15.32), and finally, even God (15.34).

Any illusion we have of returning as a conquering hero needs to be left in the dust if we are going to do the work we sense is ours to do. Hero journeys are to bring us to a point beyond proof of worth.