• Steven Marsh

Serving–Coming and Going: a Reflection on Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Israelis and Palestinians continue to kill one another. The tension between the United States of America and her allies is palpable. Accusations of criminal activity among Russian and American leaders is jarring. Immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border, a moral and ethical decline in our behavior as humans, and the increase in the number of homeless across our contiguous states is disturbing. We often see our stories disconnected from the stories of those who are living such pained existences. But should we?

Jeremiah was speaking into a culture that was coming and going, just like ours. Government was in disarray and the religious leaders were divided on the message of God’s Covenant. The prophecy clearly states that God promises to be our Shepherd. We are to bank our hope on God, not government leaders or preachers. We are not to allow our lives to be shaped by the priorities of our busyness and aspirations for self-sufficiency.[1]The Gospel of Mark, on the other hand, is filled with stories that provide each one of us opportunities to hold the mirror up to our lives. Our comings and goings are exposed. And because of such comings and goings, people in Mark are persistent in their pursuit of Jesus.

Tanner Bixler, a resident of Sacramento, California, climbed Mount Everest ten years ago. Mount Everest stands at 29,035 feet high. He spent months in training for the climb. When Tanner got to the high camp, right before the summit attempt, he was exhausted. He began the final climb in the dark using headlamps. His toes, fingers, nose, and ears were numb. Tanner had frost bite on his ears and face. At 7:30 a.m. on May 24, 2008, Bixler reached the top.[2]Tanner’s persistence paid off.

The writer of Mark states, “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”[3]What a commentary on the lives of so many people today. We’re too busy to pause for an authentic meal. Vending machines have become a staple venue for young professionals. Teens grab whatever they can from a cupboard on the way out the door to school. Parents and children utilize any number of fast-food restaurants between after-school lessons and sports practices. Toddlers graze on finger food and cereals, so meal times do not get in the way of the days errands. Commuters sip lattes on the early morning drive. And takeout is the dinner of choice. We are a people besieged by activities and responsibilities that reshape even basic functions of life such as eating. What happens when Christians become too busy to gather for worship and education, missional service, and fellowship? We become disconnected from God and one another. Gathering as Christians is essential. If we don’t, we may be broken and poured out so often that we struggle to be useful as Christ’s hands and feet in the world.[4]Amid desperation, ours and others, “the One” who is able meets the demands of the many. When we focus on Jesus and gather with other believers, Jesus is never too busy or too tired to heal, bless, and encourage us. The source of all safety, security, and salvation remains with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. What Jesus said to the first disciples he says also to the Church today: come to a deserted place. You will find sustenance for the journey.[5]

Rebecca Manley Pippert in Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World writes, “…Christ desires to have a radicalizing impact upon us and our relationships. But that impact is greatly aided when we live as we are called to live” [6]We are to spend time with the One who loves us the most and knows us the best. Our persistent obsession with culture’s definitions of success and what’s important must be revisited, because our comings and goings disrupt being in the presence of God and one another. Our stories are designed to be intertwined.

[1]Some ideas in this paragraph are gleaned from Stephen Edmondson in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 242.

[2]Adapted from The California Aggie, June 30, 2008.

[3]Mark 6:31

[4]Some ideas in this paragraph were gleaned from Karen Marie Yust in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 260, 262.

[5]This idea of reaching out to Jesus is adapted from Cheryl Bridges Johnsin David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3,263.

[6]Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 116.

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