It occurs to me that Jesus’ instruction to ‘shake off the dust that is on your feet’ (Mark 6.11) as they leave is a bit backwards. Normally we shake the dust off our feet before we go into someone’s house, as an act of respect and politeness, not as we leave. But of course, in this story the instruction is to shake the dust off your feet if you are not welcome into a house. i.e as you leave. What is the point of that? Aren’t you just going to walk away and add more dust?
It might be a bit of a long bow to draw but I wonder if politeness and respect is half the point of this? You see if the disciple was welcomed into a house, they would shake the dust off before entering. And in doing this they would be polite and respectful to those who welcomed them. Maybe Jesus is saying that the disciples should also be equally respectful to those who do not welcome them? Truth is this is always the much more difficult thing. It is much easier to be polite to someone who is polite to you. It is much more difficult if they are not.
But is it also much more important.
Because who we are matters, and we never ever know what the dust that we leave behind does in the life of those who encounter it. Those small moment of politeness and respect may just become the first step of change.
In any good story there is always one person that is grumpy at a party and in this story, it is no different. Michel, wife of King David and daughter of King Saul, sees her husband dancing and ‘despised him in her heart.’
I wonder why she avoided the party? Maybe she was not invited?
Possibly she does not think it is fitting to dance in front of the ark of the covenant.
I wonder if anyone asked what was wrong?
Obviously someone noticed, because we would not have the story that we have today, but whoever that wasn’t didn’t tell us why and I wonder if they knew or just noticed her discontent?
I don’t know the answer of why she was grumpy. Though I am sure I would find more if I looked a little deeper into the text
My curiosity about Michel reminds me that in community when we notice that someone is not joining in, or grumpy, it is really important that we understand why, before just assuming what is going on.
How do other people identify you as a Christian?
Is there something you wear?
Is it in the way you speak?
Is it because you go to church on a Sunday?
Are you someone who assertively identifies as a Christian, or are you someone, like me who is more quiet about your faith?
As someone who didn’t grow up in the church and is now ordained, my now, very clear, identification as a Christian has always held some challenges for me. I deeply humbled and proud of who I am and who Christ calls me to be. Yet I don’t want this very strong part of who I am to overwhelm those who are on a different journey to me or those who are unsure or uncomfortable around those like me with strong faith.
This text helps me to remember that outward symbols are not so important, and it is up to me if I choose to wear or project them, or not. These things are less important and are different for all of us. I don’t have to replicate the mannerisms and clothing of others to be myself. This text reminds us that that is as it should be, because regardless of outward symbols of faith, we are ‘one body’ in Christ.
This text churns my stomach. It feels to me like a story of a powerful ruler who wants something and takes it regardless of the consequences. Then, when it goes not quite as is expected, he literally kills off the person to ‘fix’ it all up for the future.
It is one of many texts in the scriptures that make me uncomfortable. So, what do I do with this feeling of discomfort?
Firstly, I take comfort in the reality that, though King David is God’s servant, David is not God. His behavior does not reflect God, and I very much doubt reflects what God would have hoped. Secondly, I take comfort in the fact that this is not the whole story of the Bible or of God. There is a bigger story that is more important. There is the grand narrative of the scripture. And when we sit this story within that grand narrative it is not excused or justified. It is still not right.
The bigger story shows both good and bad responses to God’s blessing. It reminds us that like King David, we have choice as God’s people. We have a choice to respond with grace to the grace we have been given, or to respond contrary to grace.
Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith