Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting away from it all

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 is a great text for northerners like me who have a longing to "get away from it all" every summer and head up north to the lakes and forests.  The disciples have returned from their first adventures as apostles (see 6:6b-13) and Jesus, sensing their fatigue, says, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."  This is a word that comes to us as well - a Gospel word.

(The following questions are from the method in my new book on Law and Gospel preaching which can be ordered by clicking the book image on this screen.  These questions are not meant to be exhaustive.  The method is fully outlined in the book.)

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  Jesus, the Word in this text, is the wise, compassionate, powerful healer and teacher.  He is teaching, guiding, and healing those around him, revealing himself as a merciful Lord.  This is a Gospel word.  The word of Law is implied as well as we see the crowds running about "like sheep without a shepherd," and the disciples, so set upon by those seeking healing that they have no leisure even to eat.   These scenes show our need for Christ.

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  There is no call to obedience in this text - no word which instructs us how to live in response to the Gospel word.  This call to obedience will need to come from other texts, as we ponder how those who have experienced Christ's peace are called to live.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We have several choices here - the disciples or the crowd.  Or, we could choose to identify with both - we are the weary ones, but we are also those who run around in a panic, needing healing.

4.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by the text?  Several come to mind:  Exhausted/rested; Depleted/supplied; Anxious/at peace.

5. Exegetical work:  I find interesting the description of "eremos", translated "deserted place" (vs. 31) in Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.  Kittel calls this deserted place "a place without inhabitants" and he says that "for Jesus the place without inhabitants is one where nothing separates him from God and which he therefore seeks when he wants to escape the crowds." (p. 658) This suggests that, while we might shy away from such deserted places, Jesus seeks them out, and they might be the very place we too need to go for R&R, and Resurrection!

6.  Insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic?  Eugene Lowry's notion that a listener must be brought into disequilibrium and then back into equilibrium is helpful here.  Our task might be take people into the wilderness -the deserted place - and back out again, announcing that Jesus is there with us.

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