Travel Light!

Meditation on Mark 6:1–13

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

July 4, 2021

My husband, Jim, and I are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary this month. We share an anniversary with Dick and Alice Hoover! July 15.

It can be hard to be a pastor’s spouse. Can I say that? I speak from my own personal experience as a pastor’s wife before I became a pastor myself and from witnessing all that Jim goes through as my husband and a pastor, himself. The needs and activities of ministry consume so much of the minister’s time, energy, and emotion. Sacrifices are made for the sake of the Lord and His Church. The boundaries of ministry time and family time are blurred, sometimes because of the intimate nature of the calling—the lives of faith that we share and the Spirit that connects each one of us.

I am getting better at carving out time for Jim and me. But I have some room to grow in this area. I am working on it, with God’s help.

It’s also such a blessing to be married to a pastor. Can I say that, too? I wouldn’t be who I am without Jim, my partner in ministry, my companion for life. We have some interesting theological conversations. They would probably be boring to you! Not to us!

The apostle Paul gives good advice when he says in 2 Cor. 6:14, “Do not be matched with unbelievers” or “unequally yoked,” as some translations say. An equal yoke conjures the image of two oxen, working side by side for the same purpose, pulling and sharing the same load, going in the same direction.

   We are stronger together, Jim and me. We lift one another up, urging one another to be faithful and remember the responsibility that comes with God’s gifts to use for His purposes—and keep on using them! Just as Paul tells the Galatians in 6:9, “ So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”   

    Jim and I know that God brought us together for love and companionship—and for ministry. Just as it’s no accident that Jesus sends out his disciples on a mission two by two. slide This is an intentional pairing—I can just see him thinking about their personalities and who might work best together. He might even choose the ones who struggle to get along so they learn how to get along. He chooses the pairs and when they are ready to go. They don’t all go at the same time!  Listen: “He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…”

       They will hold each other accountable. And they will be companions, partners in ministry. Two are stronger than one and better protection from bandits on the road. When there’s someone walking beside us—to urge us on and keep us company along the way—it’s so much better. It’s easier when there’s someone to say, when we are tired of the struggle, “Don’t grow weary of doing right.”

     For there will be rejection, something Jesus prepares them for with his own example when he returns to his hometown of Nazareth. The village of about 300 people at the time is, “the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else. Any Jewish adult male could be invited to speak in a synagogue, and Jesus, a local boy comes home, accepts such an invitation.” (William C. Placher). The synagogue may have looked something like this…

Ancient tradition, says columnists Daniel Peterson and Bill Hamblin, maintains that something called the “Synagogue Church” in modern day Nazareth stands atop the Roman-era synagogue where Jesus worshipped as a young man.

The Synagogue Church

    Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran pastor and author, says of Christ’s rejection in our gospel reading today: He “enters his hometown, Nazareth, having just outdone himself in the miracle department: he raised a young girl from the dead. But he’s hardly been elevated to superhero or superhealer status—recall that in last week’s reading (in Mark 5), the people laughed at him. The rejection our Lord meets in his hometown is different from what he faces elsewhere only in degree…”

    Many who hear him are “astounded!” They question the source of his power and identify him by his siblings and mom, who still live in Nazareth, and his occupation—tekton in Greek, with a meaning closer to “construction worker” than “carpenter” in today’s language. Jesus the teckton or “construction worker” is something that only shows up here and in the gospel of Matthew (13:55).

    “And they take offense at him.”

     Christ’s response reveals a very human Jesus, who expects more of his hometown and kin. He is “amazed at their unbelief.”

     “Prophets,” he says, sounding defensive and angry to me, “are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kind and in their own house.”

       I am sure that he offended his audience even more!

      This rejection doesn’t hold Jesus back from doing what God has sent him to do. He doesn’t dwell in the failure of his hometown, where he can do no deeds of power, other than a few healings, because of their lack of faith. He moves on, just as he instructs his disciples to do when they are not welcome in a town.  He leaves Nazareth and goes about “the villages” teaching, setting an example for the 12 when he sends them out two by two and tells them to TRAVEL LIGHT. Take no food. No bag. No money. No extra clothing! There are echoes of the Exodus story with what Christ tells them to wear and bring. Sandals, staff, and tunic are what the Israelites are told to wear and carry when Moses leads them out of Egypt (Ex. 12:11).

Taking nothing with them on their journey, they will be radically dependent on others—on strangers! If no one has compassion on them or has room to spare and food to share, they will have to sleep outside and probably go hungry for a time.  On the other hand, without any possessions to worry about, protect from robbers and bandits, or be burdened to carry for long distances, the disciples will be able to focus completely on seeking people to share the good news and do wonderful deeds with the power and authority Christ has given them.

    There are more instructions. Jesus warns them not to stay at more than one house in the same town. They shouldn’t be scouting around for the most comfortable places and wealthiest hosts that offer the best meals. This isn’t a vacation! And Christ is known to show preference to the poor with his message of hope. For repentance is a restoration of hope through the transformation of one’s core values—dedicating oneself to live for God’s purposes and turn away from sin, selfishness, despair and fear.

   Author William Placher points out something funny:  when a town is not hospitable, shaking the dust from your feet as you leave is testifying to the “failure of hospitality” since one of a host’s first duties was to see to the washing of the guest’s feet.

    What scripture does this bring to memory for you, with talk of foot washing?

Jesus, being the greatest servant of all, a model of humble, self-giving host, washing the feet of his disciples on the night he is betrayed. He tells his followers in John 13:14, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

    Another benefit to staying in one house for their duration of their visit would provide time for the disciples to form a deeper relationship with their hosts. You can really get to know someone when you stay in their homes and eat their food! For the ultimate goal of the disciples is the harvest! To make more disciples—who will go out and share the good news of the Kingdom with the world.

    The reality is this is a dangerous mission. Matthew adds more detail about the dangers they face when Jesus sends them out to proclaim the good news in word and deed: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (10:16)

     Mark doesn’t tell us in this passage, but surely there were towns, homes, and people who didn’t welcome the disciples, just as Nazareth refused to welcome “Jesus, the construction worker.” What Mark emphasizes isn’t the rejection by the unfaithful, though, but rather the obedience and good works of the faithful, sent out in Christ’s name.

    I hope today’s passage moves you to embrace the message of new, abundant life and healing through God’s Son! You have heard about it for a long time, but have you personally embraced it? The gospel isn’t a burden. This isn’t another work you have to do! The gospel sets you free from your burdens! Christ has freed us from sin and death.

   God gives us the freedom to choose our own path. We aren’t puppets on a string. “I have decided,” as we sing in that old familiar hymn, “to follow Jesus! No turning back. No turning back.”

     You have all that you need to do God’s work, to be obedient to the call, with the clothes on your back and shoes on your feet. Travel light!

    You have faith and God’s Word. And you aren’t alone. You have the Body of Christ. Everything is better when you take a friend with you!

     God is already preparing people’s hearts and homes for you to visit—if only you have the courage to reach out, make a call, write a note, knock on a door.

   We don’t have to go far. Jesus walked to nearby villages and sent his disciples to do the same. Think Warsaw or Windsorwood. West Lafayette. Roscoe Village. Conesville or Newcomerstown. Or the family who lives next door. The doctor’s office! The grocery store parking lot!

    Don’t be afraid of rejection. They rejected Jesus after all the miracles he did! In his hometown, of all places!!! Just move on. Shake your dusty feet and keep on walking.

Footprints In Sand At Sunset, Shoreline Water B1452

   Remember the responsibility that comes with God’s gifts to use for His purposes. Keep on using them!

    “Don’t grow weary in doing what is right. We will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up!”

Let us pray.

Holy one, we want to follow Jesus. We want to embrace the call, respond to your Son’s invitation to proclaim the gospel in words and deeds. But we are fearful, worried we won’t have the right words to say, worried what people will think of us. Worried of rejection. Help us to remember the suffering Christ endured for our sakes and be grateful and courageous. Stir us to live our faith boldly, going out of our comfort zones, traveling with you and other followers for the sake of compassionate mission to our neighbors, sharing the hope of abundant and eternal life through your Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Minnie, a toy poodle.

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