Sermon Seeds: Coming and Going

Sunday, July 21, 2024
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost | Year B
(Liturgical Color: Green)

Lectionary Citations
2 Samuel 7:1-14a and Psalm 89:20-37 • Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Psalm 23 • Ephesians 2:11-22 • Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Focus Scripture: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Focus Theme: Coming and Going
Series: Here I Am…Following (Click here for the series overview.)

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

I can remember hearing this expression about coming and going being applied to people in two distinct ways. One seemed born of confusion and a flurry of activity: “They don’t know if they’re coming or going.” Another description jettisons the confusion and makes the busyness intentional and even admirable. “They are always coming and going.” Both commend constancy of movement. There is no stillness or rest inherent in the movement of coming and going.

Recently, I visited a local zoo and observed one of the caged predators. They seemed to be all by themselves and paced back and forth over and over. They had nothing to hunt, no one to chase, and no one to fight. The animal, a tiger as I recall, had their needs met. They were fed regularly and had a supply of water available to them. Yet, they seemed incapable of rest, of being still, or taking a break. The movement was in their nature.

The human impulse to be in constant motion may be a holdover from our evolutionary period as hunter-gatherers or a more recent habit ingrained by hustle culture. Some of us have been nurtured in a competitive and capitalistic structure that encourages us to constantly strive for the next position, opportunity, or promotion. Standing still, in that system, is wasting time and energy. Rest is required for recovery not for rejuvenation. One is expected to be constantly on, inspired, and ready without need for refreshing. The grind is the goal as much as the fruit of our labor. In an earlier time, it was referred to as winning the rat race, getting ahead, and even a version of the American dream.

In the church, we sometimes call it commitment and faithfulness. Leaders find themselves overworking and over functioning while losing the joy of ministry. Programs and projects that may have outlived their fruitfulness are maintained despite the cost in human capital, energy, and spirit. The people of God pat themselves on the back for their coming and going, for carrying the cross of busyness, and sacrificing hope and peace in the process.

The gospel narrative reminds us that the kindom of God has not been designed to function that way. It’s a contrast to the Markan rhythm that emphasizes the immediacy of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the gospel that seems intent on conveying that Jesus makes things happen. Miracle making and teaching move the story swiftly along. Mark seems the least concerned with character development. We find out who Jesus and his disciples are by what they do and what they teach. Yet, even in this account, Jesus does a remarkable thing by prioritizing rest in the midst of impactful ministry and gathering crowds. This time, it is not his own rest, which he has already modeled as a spiritual practice. Jesus is as concerned with his disciples adopting a routine of rest within the rhythm of their coming and going.

Being in ministry with Jesus was a relational commitment. He does not hire them to do a job but invites them to live a life. Jesus builds a community among his disciples that will also witness to other communities how to live in the kindom. It explains the dynamic in which Jesus attracts crowds but was not himself attracted to them. The crowds had no hold over him even if he has compassion for them, uses the opportunity to teach, and responds to the need for healing. He does not denigrate the crowd but he does not become attached to it either. They are fine for coming and going, but crowds do not foster or facilitate community building, intimate relationships, and rooted discipleship.

In an article titled “Jesus and the Renewal of Local Community in Galilee,” Jonathan Draper challenges the dominant scholarly perspective that Jesus was an itinerant charismatic leader and argues that more attention should be given to group formation in the Jesus movement as a response to the economic and social disintegration and threatened landlessness in Galilee. He contends that Jesus was attempting to “renew local community in villages and towns, to strengthen and renew family and community relations and reverse the downward spiral of violence”. Except for a few passages that describe specific instances in which disciples are sent out, the Jesus tradition presupposes the existence and support of settled local communities. Geographically, Jesus moves within a limited radius of a few villages until he goes to Jerusalem. Hence the emphasis on Jesus’ itinerancy may be more a consequence of superimposing post-Enlightenment individualism on the Gospel tradition so that a focus on Jesus as a unique religious figure eclipses his “concrete program of action for social transformation” (Draper, 38).
Raymond Pickett

Jesus does not want his followers to become attached to the crowds either. His actions encourage the crowd to disperse from the euphoric and miraculous experiences to go back to their community to spread the transformative witness of the ministry of Jesus.

Communities need rest as much as individuals. In the beginning, the Triune, Creating God rests. Jesus makes his entry into public ministry and almost immediately seeks rest. Here, Jesus insists that following the fruitful ministry of the disciples without his direct supervision and intervention, the disciples also rest. Like Jesus, they will need it for their journey even if they do not feel that need at that moment.

The section concludes with a Markan summary (6:53–56). Rather than reaching their original destination of gentile Bethsaida, they land at Gennesaret, still in Jewish territory. People throughout the region pursue Jesus for healing, whether in the towns or in the countryside. The summary ends with the earliest reference to people touching the fringe of his garment for healing (6:56; cf. 5:27–28). The word kraspedon (“fringe” or “hem”) probably refers to the tassels (LXX: kraspeda) worn by Jewish men to remind them of God’s commandments (Num. 15:38–39; Deut. 22:12; as noted by Marcus 2000, 437). The weakness of the disciples’ faith contrasts with the enthusiastic response of the crowds at Gennesaret, who have not witnessed any of Jesus’s miracles but have heard of his miraculous deeds and have faith that they can be healed simply by touching his cloak (cf. 5:27–29).
Mary Ann Beavis

Superficially, the conclusion seems disjointed from the call to rest. Yet, the final note reminds us of the recent encounter of the hemorrhaging woman. She reaches out to Jesus for her own healing. Jesus does not have to actively do anything. His strength is enough. His presence is enough. Her faith is enough. Like her, believing that a touch is enough, people in the crowd reach for an encounter with Jesus in coming and going of this community that Jesus has called, gathered, and led.

Here I am.

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
I’ve chosen darkness. Lately, I’ve been trying not to rip myself fully into the land of the conscious with the light of my computer screen. Some nights I do. But tonight I chose my journal so that I could avoid turning on the light. I hardly know if this letter will be legible come morning because I can hardly make out where the next line should begin. This is okay. It is in the darkness that I am reminded of darkness’s beauty. In a body that is hyperalert, this moment alone in the dark is a kind of rest. It narrows my vision, keeps me from being able to see more than I should be alert to. I must be content with the hidden. I cannot make out the doorknob or the muscles twitching beneath my skin, I can only see the words before me, the pen in my own hand. In a way, I am calmed by this.
There is a reason you can’t bring yourself to close the laptop, to walk away from your work, to close your eyes. How terrifying might rest appear to a woman who is working three jobs to pay her rent? To those who fear homelessness or hunger or punishment if they do not produce for these toxic systems? We belong to a society that claims ownership over our bodies, that across generations has used our bodies for its own ends. Our petitions for rest cannot be grounded in self-help wellness talks that don’t recognize this reality.
Tricia Hersey wrote, “[I refuse] to donate my body to a system that still owes a debt to my Ancestors.” This is how we account for the restlessness of the world. By naming the oppressive, greed-stricken capitalistic culture that sowed it in us. By naming the stories of trauma and abuse our bodies have endured. By remembering that this anxiety ricocheting through your body at three a.m. has an origin. And the origin is not you.
I want sleep for you. Deep, dream-bearing sleep. But if the restlessness of the world has done damage that cannot immediately be undone, have compassion for yourself. It’s not your fault the dreams won’t come. Your body is doing the best it can in a world that has used it far more than it has loved it.
No healing is immediate, and it’s rarely ever linear. Some days you’ll dream your ancestors back to life, and other days it’s you and the cold sweats and the darkness and racing thoughts. It’s not your fault. Somebody should’ve told you it’s not your fault.
It’s past four now and the birds are waking. It’s time for us. Lie down with me and don’t apologize. Quiet now. This dark, for however long it lasts, can also be our harbor. I’m breathing with you. Let our bodies be our lullaby.
Dreaming with you,
Cole Arthur Riley, Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human

For Further Reflection
“Some people come and go and are forgotten. But there are other people who share a part in our destinies. They come, they go, but they are never forgotten. They come, they go, but even after they go… they’re still here. They never really went anywhere.” ― C. JoyBell C.
““I don’t know where you’ve gone this time
But if you don’t come back
You’re going to have to leave.” ― Kate McGahan”
“The tide of hope approaches us and recedes from us as we stand on the mortal shore – some of us wait for it to arrive, some chase after it, but we all vanish into the sunset and our footprints in the sand fade in time. The feet of infants replace ours, and the dance of the tide commences anew.” ― Stewart Stafford

Works Cited
Beavis, Mary Ann. Mark (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
Pickett, Raymond. “Jesus and the Christian Gospels.” Gale A. Yee, Ed. Fortress Commentary on the Bible: Two Volume Set. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.

Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection
This sermon series invites us to explore the call to Christian discipleship and to examine our response. In particular, encourage the congregation to rest.

Worship Ways Liturgical Resources

After Pentecost 9B – July 21

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (, also serves a local church pastor, public theologian, and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments on our Facebook page:

A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.