Scouting Memories: Delano

Title slide with photo of Delano

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the time I was a summer camp scoutmaster. In that post, I mentioned my time working for the scouts. Here is a story of one of the many unique characters I met during the time I worked for the Boy Scouts of America (and organization I left to go to seminary and pursue the ministry). 

Delano in a Boy Scout uniform, early 1980s
Delano, early 1980s

“What are those government fools thinking, offering classes to teach us how to distill alcohol? They ain’t a farmer in these parts that haven’t made liquor at one time or another,” Delano fumed. 

This was in the early 80s and after years of prosecuting farmers for turning corn into liquids, a lively discussion on how to do this legally arose. Not for internal consumption, but for internal combustion. If the farmers made their own fuel, they could reduce their dependence on gasoline and diesel fuel. The local community college offered a course on alternative fuels, but Delano didn’t think much of the idea. This was an example of the government meddling where it shouldn’t be meddling. 

Delano’s views weren’t a surprise; everyone in Columbus County complained about the government meddling. Of course, they didn’t see it as meddling when they were first at the hog trough. Otherwise, they classified most government initiatives as meddling. 

However, Delano’s admission on the moonshining activities of area farmers surprised me. Did he include himself in the bunch? After all, he was a Mormon. Mormons weren’t supposed to be drinking. But then, neither were Baptist and those in that area who weren’t Mormon were members of one the several off-brand Baptist Churches. A part of me always wanted to know what went on in the “Primitive, Fire-baptized, Fundamentalist Baptist Church” that I passed on my way to church on Sunday. They always had four or five cars there, but I never got up the nerve to stop and find out.

Even though he marched to his own drum, I loved Delano. There was never a dull moment when he was around. He was always smiling and joking. And he had a repertoire of stories to entertain us. Some involved living between Pireway and the Green Swamp, near the Waccamaw River.

Other stories involved his year in Korea during the war. He was a disabled veteran of that war. He found the country the most hostile place imaginable. Partly, I’m sure, this was because he sent so much time behind enemy lines. He and a group of soldiers found themselves lost and had to make their way through enemy territory, back to the UN lines. Struggling to make it back safely, they crossed minefields and dealt with frostbite and starvation.  His spent his entire time in Korea in the field except his last night before coming home. That night, the heat was unbearable; he wished he was back outside. Korea left him disabled. Although he could walk and get around, he wasn’t particularly fast and limited with the types of work he could do. 

Delano enjoyed helping others. One winter, the scouts helped provide firewood for needy families. We gathered at a recent clear cut area. The remaining wood was destined to be burned and had been pushed into wind rows. The paper company allowed us permission to glean from this site. Delano showed up with his chainsaw and splitting maul. While he had limited mobility, he could split wood. His son placed a piece of wood upright, then he split the log. His boy collected the wood and threw it into the back of waiting pickups. We delivered a dozen or so truckloads of wood to needy families that Saturday.  

Like his neighbors in the Green Swamp, Delano supplemented his livelihood from the bounty of the earth. He entertained us with stories about the tricks of the trade his neighbors employed to put food on the table. He never indicted himself, but one had to wonder. 

One favorite was dialing for fish. The fisherman used an old crack phone to create an electrical pulse in the water. This stunned the fish. The shocked fish floated to the surface and were scooped up in a net.  

To hear him tell the story, nobody in his neighborhood purchased canned dog food to feed canines. Dogs got scraps from the table. Canned dog food served as chum for fish. Holes were punched in a can which was then tossed into the water at a spot where you wanted to fish in a day or two. The dog food attracted fish so that when you came back for business, you didn’t have to spend much time finding them. You just had to hope the fish, fat on dog food, were ready to bite into a juicy worm. 

I first met Delano at a chicken bog for scout leaders held in Fair Bluff. Having been told he was a Mormon, I made sure we had alternatives to the coffee and tea which everyone else would be drinking. I picked up a couple bottles of apple juice and offered him one. He refused and poured himself a cup of coffee. At this same event, I became troubled when I learned a chicken bog contained not only fowl, but also sausage. Knowing we had several Jewish leaders, I apologized. What little training I’d had from the Scouts by this point in my career had stressed sensitive to such issues. But sausage wasn’t a problem, these guys assured me, if their wives weren’t around. The same applied to Delano. 

Even his scout troop enjoyed drinks that went against the Mormon Word of Wisdom. Making my rounds at the first camporee, I noticed his troop were all drinking Cokes and Mountain Dews with their breakfast. At camporees, where all the troops in the county gathered, Delano made a point to invite me to eat Saturday dinner with his boys. Sometimes the fare would be normal, venison or fried fish. Other times the menu was exotic. In the three years I worked in this district, the Pireway troop served bear, squirrel, turtle, raccoon, and even a greasy opossum.

Delano and I got along well. Both of us believed that when camping, an afternoon nap was a necessity. He had a small but devoted group of scouts who looked up to him and knew that he looked out for their best interest. There’s not much more you could expect from a scoutmaster. 

Sadly, as I was leaving the Waccamaw District in early 1984, the church reassigned Delano, giving him responsibilities inside the church and appointing someone else as the scoutmaster. His son, had earned his Eagle. I have no idea who took over the troop, but they would have a hard time fitting into Delano’s shoes.

Eagle presentation, 1983
Delano next to his son at his son’s Eagle presentation. Next to him is another Eagle from the Tabor City troop and his scoutmaster (Harold).


Jeff Garrison, 1981
You won’t see many pictures of me like this. 1981, I’m working with the BSA, and have hair but no beard.

I rewrote this post from something I wrote nearly 20 years ago. After the piece was first published online, a relative of Delano contacted me to thank me for the article and to let me of Delano’s death. 

The Battle Over Tradition

Title slide with photos of Mayberry and Bluemont, two rock churches along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches 
July 14, 2024
Mark 7:1-23

This sermon was recorded on Friday at Bluemont Church. This was, before the events of yesterday evening. In have made a number of changes to the sermon, and completely re-wrote my opening remarks. Read the text to see my response to yesterday’s events.

At the beginning of worship:

At the beginning of worship this morning, it’s important that as Christians we pray for former President Trump and along with those who died yesterday evening and their families. I’ll do this in our opening prayer. 

As followers of Jesus, we shun violence. We follow a man who, even when receiving the most painful and inhumane treatment ever conceived, still prayed for his persecutors and refused to allow his followers to fight back. Only the complete trust in God allows such a response. 

Whatever your political views may be, I encourage you to set the example of civility in the days ahead. We are called to be peacemakers, to love our everyone, and to work for the wellbeing of all. Those are our marching orders. Only such actions can foster the type of society envisioned by the gospel. Retaliation by individuals is never right. That’s the role of government. 

My previously prepared opening remarks this morning now seem out of place. I had planned a humorous look into how we lean toward the Pharisees. If you want to hear those remarks, I invite you to go watch what I posted on YouTube, as I recorded that sermon on Friday. Instead, I encourage you to think about the conflict we’ll see in the scriptures this this morning between Jesus and the Pharisees considering yesterday’s events. While our Savior didn’t hold back words and was even sarcastic, he never called for violence in response to the Pharisees attack on him and his disciples. 

My revised “Prayer for Today” to be used at the opening of worship:

Faithful God, we come before you this morning with concern and anxiety in our hearts. We are frightened by the events yesterday and pray for the recovery of former President Trump and for others who were injured in yesterday at Butler, PA.  We ask that you hold the families of those who died in your arms and comfort them. Help us, O God, to tone down the rhetoric, and to lift up your visions of peace and justice for all. Give us the ability, as followers of your Son, the ability to be peacemakers. And keep us remindful that you are in control, that we might trust your plans for the world. This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Before reading the Scripture:

In the seventh chapter of Mark’s gospel, we find a shift in themes. Jesus is once again being attacked by the religious leaders.[1]The section we’re reading in many translations is titled, “The Tradition of the Elders.” Personally, I don’t like that title as it sounds too close to a book introduced in the early 20th Century Russia titled, “Protocol of the Elders (actually the full title is the Protocol of the Elders of Zion).”[2]

The book was supposedly written centuries earlier describes how the Jews planned to take over the world. The work is a forgery but gave Russians a reason to persecute the Jews. Of course, from their history, it doesn’t seem they needed such a reason. The book also found receptive ears by the likes of Adolph Hitler and other antisemitic conspiracy theorists to this day. 

Let’s refer to our text as something else other than the Tradition of the Elders. I suggest we call it “The Battle over Traditions.” As for traditions, we all seem to be slaves of them. How many times have you ever said, “we don’t do things that way?” We’re enslaved to the past. One of the more truthful things Karl Marx said was that “the tradition of past generations weighs like a nightmare upon the brain of the living.”[3]

In this battle over tradition, Jesus and the Pharisees duke it out. What’s important? Appearance or what’s in our hearts? Let’s see what Jesus has to say.

Read Mark 7:1-23

Washing our hands before eating seems an odd line to draw in a battle. After all, we’re bombarded with the message to wash our hands. Our moms instilled this in our heads. When the flu is prevalent, public health officials remind us of the need. The same went for the COVID outbreak. Every public bathroom is required to have a sign reminding employees to wash before returning to work. It’s good hygiene. Let’s get rid of the germs.[4] Who can argue with that?

So, what’s the problem with the Pharisees questioning Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands? We might also ask Jesus this question. 

First, germ theory has come a long way since the 1st Century. Back then, they didn’t know about germs. 

Second, the idea of washing one’s hands regularly wasn’t in the law. The law required the Priests to wash their hands and feet before doing their work at the temple. In times, the Pharisees extended this to apply to everyone and before food.[5] The act of washing hands became an identity marker and helped differentiate between the faithful and the heathen. 

Let me suggest that you wash your hands before eating. But don’twash them for religious reasons. At least don’t think you’re being religious when washing your hands. Wash them out of a public health interest. The idea of doing such an act to receive God’s favor is the theology of pagans. We follow the God of grace. God loves us all, whether our hands are clean or dirty at the dining room table.

We can assume in our text this morning that the Pharisees looked for something to discredit Jesus. They think they got the perfect topic when they see the disciples eating with dirty hands. Interestingly, Mark, in verses 3 and 4, explains some of these rules. Remember, as I reiterated again last week,[6] Mark writes to a non-Jewish audience. If he wrote for the Jews, there would be no need to explain. They would understand the issue. But non-Jews, the gentiles, would be confused.[7]

Jesus shifts the topic from outward forms of piety, such as washing one’s hands, to an inward piety. In this way, he’s much like the prophets and he even quotes Isaiah,[8] who condemned Israel’s hypocrisy, for saying one thing and doing another. If we think we can get by just by show, and not by changing our hearts, we are mistaken.

Jesus then goes into a long discussion over the 5thCommandment, that is to honor one’s father and mother. He speaks of the practice of Corban,[9] which is dedicating possessions to God, but still using such possessions during our lives. If a parent was in need, they could refuse to help because such resources have already been committed. This is a lot like Jesus telling us that before we make a gift in the temple, we should make things right with others.[10]  

Jesus has a problem with us taking an oath, which we also see in the Sermon on the Mount. Taking an oath will make us feel as if our future acts are bound.[11] So, if we promise to give our possessions to the temple, and then find the need of our parents will require what we plan to give, we could get out of the commandment to honor our parents. Our oath would take precedent. However, Jesus says, basically, if you do this, you’re still breaking the Commandments. Don’t be looking for ways around the law!

After shutting down the Pharisees through examples and some biting sarcasm,[12] Jesus turns to the crowd that always seems to be close by in Mark’s gospel. In a different way, he tells them the same thing. It’s not what’ goes into our mouths that defile us, it’s what comes out. In other words, it’s what we say and do, how we live, how we treat others. 

Afterwards, Jesus is alone with the disciples who are often clueless in Mark’s gospel. It’s no different here. Jesus must explain to them in even a simpler manner. Here, we learn that Jesus isn’t talking about food regulations, but about the heart, from which evil may arise. John Calvin describes our hearts as “factories producing idols.” This is why we must protect our hearts, for they can bring destruction upon us. 

Jesus lists a series of sins. While he starts with sexual sins, he extends this list to include others sins even more common. After all, most of us have done something wicked, or have been deceitful, or envious. In our idol talk, we slander our enemies. Some of you may have said such things while watching the news yesterday evening. And who among us hasn’t been prideful in some point in our lives? 

What’s the intention of this passage? I think Jesus tells us it does us no good to pretend to be a Christian. If we only go through the motions, to maintain the traditions of the past, without developing a relationship with Jesus Christ, we’re still lost. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says that true prayer is not doing it publicly (like in a restaurant) to draw attention. Instead, we should pray privately, where we can be honest with God.[13] The same goes for our lives. We’re not to do things to draw attention to ourselves.

As followers of Jesus, we seek to honor him, not to inflate our own egos. And that means following him, and not the ways of human tradition which often misses the point. We guard our hearts, work to develop a relationship with Jesus, as we love and care for others. Amen. 

[1] We’ve seen this several times in Mark’s gospel. See 2:18-28, 3:20-35, and 6:1-6.

[2] See

[3] Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte as quoted by my grandmother’s cousin, Francis M. Wilholt, The Politics of Massive Resistance (New York: George Braziller, 1973), frontpiece. 

[4] See Chelsey Harmon, Commentary on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

[5] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville, KY: W/JKP, 1996), 81.


[7] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 206-207. 

[8] Quote in verses 6 and 7 come from Isaiah 29:13 (in the Septuagint). 

[9] For a description of Corban, see Edwards, 210-211. 

[10] Matthew 5:23-24. 

[11] Matthew 5:33-36. 

[12] For comments on Jesus’ sarcasm, see Edwards, 209. 

[13] Matthew 6:5-6. 

Catching Up on Reading

With the construction of an addition on my home wrapping up, I haven’t had much time to read. But I’m looking forward to reading a lot of books on the back deck or (if raining) the front porch. Two of these books came back with me from Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing this year. Both memoirs are written by poets. Their use of language is enchanting. The other two are books previously read and I listened to them while walking or driving.

Tracy K. Smith, To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul 

(Borzoi Book/Alfred Knopf, 2023), 265 pages with a few family photographs. 

Drawing on her family history, Tracy Smith encourages her readers to foster community and to help create a better America. As an African American, she is a descendant of slaves. Her own father was an accomplished and high-ranking Non-Commissioned Officer in the American Air Force. He even worked on space projects afterwards. Yet even he suffered because of his skin pigment.  So did her uncles and grandfathers who served in a segregated military during both World Wars. Her mother encouraged her as she sought to help her family thrive even despite challenges. 

Smith tells of her family’s history as if she’s discovering it for the first time. In this fashion, it seems to jump around, but this is not a distraction. It is as if she is sharing her story of discovery with her reader.  She also shares her own journey, especially the hard moments of losing one and the other parent and of a divorce. She also shares a visit to a Southern Plantation. There, she has an imaginary conversation with a former slave. She also shares a dream of her carried across the ocean as an enslaved woman on the middle passage. While she finds herself “freed,” she realizes it’s not the same as being a part of the “free.”

Tracy Smith has served as the Poet Laureate of the United States and has received the Pulitzer Prize. She brings her training as a poet into her essays, making the book a delight to read. Her story, being African American, as one of the “freed” in a land of the “free” is worthwhile reading from those of us who come from a different background. 

Smith was a keynote speaker at Calvin University’s Festival of Faith and Writing this year. She blew us away with the poetry used in her presentation. I hope to read some of it, but her books of poetry at Calvin sold out quickly.

Danielle Chapman, Holler: A Poet Among the Patriots

 (Atlanta: Unbound Edition Press, 2023), 185 pages

This is a hard yet delightful memoir. Chapman begins her story as a young child on a beach in Okinawa. Her father, stationed on the island as a Marine, drown and her mother nearly drowned. Into her life stepped her paternal grandfather, a former Commandant of the Marine Corp. He brought his daughter-in-law and daughter (Chapman) back to his home outside of Washington DC and took care of them . Being included in this family meant summer trips to an old family cabin in Tennessee. The cabin, where nothing had changed since the Civil War, had been built as a saloon during the early years of our nation. There, she learned of her family’s mythology, including those who had fought in the American Civil War, and the descendants of the slaves the family owned. 

Because of her grandfather’s prominence in the military and government, she grew up around heroes and those with power. While she questioned some of their attitudes, especially about race. How could a man be so brave and endure so much and yet hold such attitudes, she wondered. She even questioned her own grandfather. However, he remained loyal to her and after her death, she learned some of the things he had down while leading the Marine Corp to help African American marines fit better into the Corp.  He also fostered building relationships with those descendants of his Civil War ancestors, which continues after his death with annual reunions.  

Chapman shows us through her own family how we all have faults and yet, despite our failures, can overcome and thrive. Primarily known as a poet, Chapman’s command of the language makes this memoir a joy to read.  

I heard Chapman lecture twice at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin University in April. 

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wildness 

(1968, Tandor Audio, 2011) 11 hours and 31 minutes. Read by Michael Kramer

This is my third time through this book. It’s been nearly 30 years since I read it the second time, shortly after moving to Utah. I learned about Abbey and his writing while living in Nevada in the late 1980s and have read all but one of his books. That one is hard to find. This time I listened to the book while walking and driving. I’d somewhat forgotten just how radical the anarchist Abbey can be. Sarcasm pours through his words and he attacks his employer (the National Park Service), technology, religion, and humankind. He can love cowboys but hate cow herding. But Abbey is also a man passionate about nature and the world. He makes careful observations of nature and brings alive a place in which many people consider hostile. He’s well read. In this non-fiction work, he often refers to the writings of others. 

Abbey writes the book as if he spent the summers alone at Arches National Monument.  Arches is now a National Park but didn’t receive that status until long after Abbey’s departure. Abbey spent five years working at Arches, but he tells the story as if it was only one season. While he wrote the story as if he’s a solo ranger, since my first readings of the book, I have learned that wasn’t the case. Part of the time Abbey worked at Arches he had a wife and even a daughter, according to another writer, Paul Scott Russell.[1]

While much of the work focuses on his time at Arches, when not working as a ranger, he helps neighboring cattlemen as they round up cows. He also joins with other federal employees from other agencies, (including his own brother), looking for a lost tourist near Dead Horse Point. The found the man dead. He searches for a renegade horse up a dry canyon. With a friend, he spends a week floating through Glen Canyon. This was before a dam flooded the canyons to create Lake Powell.  Along the way, Abbey helps his reader to understand the unique landscape lost to the flooding of the canyon. 

While there is a rough edge to Abbey, I think his voice still needs to be heard. He reminds us to take a second look at the world we inhabit and to find beauty in areas many overlook. 

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac 

(1949,  HighBridge published the audible version in 2020, 4 hours and 16 minutes), narrative by Cassandra Campbell. 

I first read this book in the late 1970s, as a college student. It is a classic conservation text. Leopold, works through the year, month by month, delighting his readers with his descriptions of his farm in central Wisconsin. Each month brings new discoveries. The author not only grounds himself in the spot where he would retreat every weekend (he taught at the University of Wisconsin), but also recalls others who have lived on this land. 

One of his monthly essays involved cutting an oak which had died the previous year by a lightning strike. Using a long saw with two cutters on each end, Leopold recalls what the tree witnessed during each decade as they cut into a new set of growth rings. 

Even in the 30s and 40s, when Leopold collected these stories (they were published after his death), he understood how we were losing our connection to the land. Considered the father of conservationism, Leopold’s vision is for his readers to understand their connection to the land and to all living things. While many may question his love of hunting, for Leopold it’s done out of a higher love for the land.  In his writings, he recalls getting up early and the positioning of the stars. He muses on the migration of animals and the use of well-kept tools. Leopold observes and records. . 

I think everyone should read this book. After forty-some years, I was glad to pick it up again. While I listened to the book, I often referred to the pages of my hard copy, cherishing Leopold’s vision.  The audio version also included a wonderful essay at the beginning by Barbara Kingsolver.

A quote: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only one to do so. When some remote ancestor of ours invented the shovel, he became a giver; he could plant a tree. And when the axe was invented, he became a taker;  he could chop it down.” 

This audio book I listened to consists just of Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. The version on my shelf includes additional essays. 

[1] Russell, author of A Private History of Awe, said this at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing years ago. He said Annie Dillard (A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) wasn’t alone when she wrote her solo stories. 

Jesus and the Disciples: More Adventures on Water and Land

title slide with photo of a sailboat heading upwind

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
July 7, 2024
Mark 6:45-56

Sermon recorded at Mayberry on Friday, July 5, 2024

At the beginning of worship:

We’ve just celebrated the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day. While the rain may have damped the celebration, I’m sure most of us were happy to receive it. 

Two hundred and forty-eight years ago, our forefathers and mothers came together to declare their independence from kings and tyrants. And while we have not always lived up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence, we have offered the world a vision of hope and new possibilities. 

But I am concern when people want America to be known as a Christian nation. I am not even sure of what that means. There’s no such thing found in scripture.[1] Throughout our history, attempts to change the constitution to name America a Christian country have failed.[2] I think that’s a good thing. As Christians, we should be proud Americans. But as Christians, we tie our identity to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, not to a nation.

We follow Jesus. We shouldn’t have to pound our beliefs into others. It should be evident in our lives. Others should, as the old gospel hymn goes, know we are Christians by our love. And if they don’t, instead of us thinking there is something wrong with them, we should examine what we’re doing. How can we be more like Jesus?

Jesus’ ministry, as seen in Mark’s gospel, involved wandering around Galilee, showing his love in acts of kindness and grace. That’s the goal worthy of those of us who attempt to place Jesus at the center of our lives. Yes, proclaiming Jesus as Lord is important; it’s what preaching is about. But more important is showing the love of God to others. 

Before reading the Scriptures:

Today, we’ll finish off the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel today by looking at the events that happened the night and early morning after Jesus fed the 5,000.

Geography is problematic with today’s reading. Jesus sends the disciples off to the other side, to Bethsaida. And then, a few verses later, we’re told they had crossed over. However, Bethsaida was located on the north side of the lake, beyond Capernaum. You’d get there, not by crossing over, but by sailing along the shoreline to the top of the lake. 

And then, instead of arriving at Bethsaida, they go on shore at Gennesaret. It’s located on the same side of the lake as where the feeding took place. Last week, I suggested that ministry often comes to us despite our plans for something else. That’s the case here, for in Gennesaret there is much work to be done. 

Why did they not go to Bethsaida? Perhaps because the wind was too great to make the headway needed. But it doesn’t matter. Wherever Jesus lands, ministry opportunities abound. . 

Notice also the disciple’s reaction to all that had happened and is taking place. In less than twelve hours, they’ve seen the miracle of the feeding, of Jesus walking on water, and of him again demonstrating control over the weather. And yet, they still don’t get it. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves when we struggle with faith.  Let’s hear God’s word… 

Read Mark 6:45-56

Having fed the crowd, Jesus sends off the disciples while he heads up the mountain to pray. Mountains in Mark are often a place of retreat and rest.[3]

Mark now resumes his fast-paced storytelling. We’ve seen this earlier, in the first three chapters of the gospel. “Immediately” as we’ve witnessed, is one of Mark’s favorite words.[4] We get the sense as soon as the disciples picked up all the leftovers, Jesus has them aweigh anchor and stow it so they can set sail (or row the boat). While Mark’s urgency shows the nature of the kingdom slipping into a lost world, here I wonder if the urgency of their departure has to do with Jesus protecting their egos. He wants them to leave before they soak up the praise of the crowd who benefited from the miracle.[5]

I hope that by systematically going through Mark’s gospel, you have begun to see some patterns and gain some insight into what Mark wants his readers to understand. Several of Mark’s themes are again picked up in our reading today. 

While the disciples are not threatened by a storm, as they had been earlier in Mark’s gospel,[6] they still experience difficulties on the water this night. The wind slows their progress. This, Jesus watches, perhaps from the mountain where he prayed. Then, at the fourth watch (or early morning as our reading translates it), which would be 3 AM, Jesus approaches the disciples’ boat. Interestingly, here Mark, who may have been writing to a Roman audience, uses the Roman style of timekeeping. The Romans had four watches at night. The Jews divided the night into three watches.[7]

Oddly, Mark tells us that Jesus was planning on passing them by. There are questions about the meaning of this passage. Presumably Jesus wants to go ahead of them to their next location. But the disciples spot someone walking on the water and think the worse, crying out it’s a ghost. At this point, Jesus’ speaks, calms their fears and climbs into the boat. At this point, the wind cease. 

As it was with the feeding of the 5,000, Mark doesn’t explain how Jesus pulls off walking on water. Some have sarcastically suggested he knew where the rocks were, or maybe he was walking on a sandbar, but that’s not supported by the text. Mark wants his readers to know the divine nature of Jesus. But the disciples don’t get it. We’re told they are astounded. They don’t understand. Their hearts are hardened.  But Mark continues to focus on Jesus and not the disciples, so he quickly moves on to the next adventure. 

They land in Gennesaret, a rich agricultural valley located just south of Capernaum. It’s not really a village or town, but a rural area densely populated with farmers.[8] Again, people flock to Jesus. While the disciples may not get Jesus, the people of this region of Galilee, like those in other areas, can’t get enough of Jesus. Again, they flock to him as he’s getting out of the boat. All those who are sick are brought to him. As it was with the woman who had bled for 12 years, just touching his cloak is enough to heal.[9]

The word used here and translated as “healed,” can also mean “saved.” People are healed and saved, a fitting ending to this period of Jesus’ ministry.[10]

What can we learn from this text?  

First, the opening of this story provide insight into Jesus’ spirituality. He sends the disciples off ahead of him so he can retreat into the mountains to pray. Ministry takes place in the context of other people, but it also takes a toll. Jesus’ actions affirm the need for us to spend time alone with God. If we try to always work and be busy, we’ll burn out and not have anything left to give. So be kind to yourselves and take a break when needed. 

Next, we see again how Mark prefers to show Jesus’ Christology rather than telling us about it. Instead of saying Jesus is God, Mark demonstrates it. Of course, the disciples mistake Jesus for a ghost. We’ve seen how Mark prefers to limit what he tells about Jesus’ teachings. Instead, he wants to show us Jesus’ actions. English teachers and writing coaches encourage students to show not tell. Mark demonstrates this lesson magnificently as Jesus walks on water, calms the wind, and heals the sick.  Jesus is God, which is something we should experience instead of only knowing intellectually. 

And finally, think of the disciples. They witnessed that incredible miracle as Jesus fed the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes. They’ve experienced a series of miracles, one after another, but still don’t get Jesus. Their hearts, we’re told, are harden. That may be, but it’s also the case that if the disciples struggled with Jesus’ identity, we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. We shouldn’t worry if we don’t fully grasp Jesus’ identity. Instead, we should honor and follow him. If we still have questions, we can approach Jesus in prayer and ask for clarification and insight into his nature. 

Jesus reveals himself in Word and Sacrament. We’ve heard the Word. We’ve seen how Jesus calmed the disciples despite their misunderstandings, and how he had mercy on those who were sick. Now we will come to the table where we pray for Jesus to reveal himself in sacrament. Amen. 

[1] While the Old Testament tells the story of Israel, which was a theocracy, such a vision is absent in the New Testament. The church is envisioned as a place where national, racial, status, and sexual boundaries are broken down. See Galatians 3:28. 

[2] Around America’s centennial (1876), there were such attempts, but they failed. 

[3] Ulrich W. Mauser, Christ in the Wilderness: The Wilderness Theme in the Second Gospel and its Basis in the Biblical Tradition (1963, Eugene, Oregon: WIPF and Stock Publishers, 2009), 109-110. 

[4] See for my discussion of  immediacy in Mark’s gospel. 

[5] In John’s gospel, after feeding the multitude, Jesus must deal with a larger crowd coming and demanding bread. See John 6. 

[6] Mark 4:35-41. See

[7] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 198. 

[8] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville, KY: WJKP, 1996), 73. 

[9] Mark 5:25-34. 

[10] Edwards, 203. 

Sailing upwind in the Warsaw Sound

My experiences with Amateur Radio

title slide with photos of QSL cards

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

This past winter, I took an introduction to Amateur Radio class. In March, I took the exam for my Technician license. It had been almost 50 years since I had held such a license. In May, I passed the General license and am now studying for the Extra Class.

I’ve been dipping my toes into the world of radio, using a small 5-watt handheld on 2 meters and 70 cm bands. These bands have a limited distance as the higher frequencies (VHF and UHF) don’t do the skipping off the ionosphere the lower bands do. However, thanks to repeaters last night I had a conversation with a guy in West Virginia, probably 75 miles from me as the crow flies. I have been assembling equipment and soon, once again, hope to listen for someone calling CQ from around the world on the high frequency bands. Here’s a reworked piece in which I share my early teenage experiences with amateur radio in the early 1970s. 

My new license call sign is KQ4PVG, although I may apply for a vanity call sign and see if I can get a part of my old call sign (at least the YGY part) back.

I’m not sure all the reasons I got so interested in Ham Radio. Perhaps it was because I was small and there was little chance of me playing sports once I got to junior high. To compensate, I decided to excel at something else. Don Conaway, a man from our church, who only had daughters (and perhaps to compensate for that), offered to teach my brother and me about radios. 

We started meeting in the evening, once a week, at his house. We’d begin sitting around his dining room table. First, we’d practice Morse Code for fifteen minutes. That was easy because I’d taught myself Morse code (and semaphore), due to spending too many days grounded in my room. After a code session, he’d pull out some paper and for another fifteen or twenty minutes, we’d have a math and drafting class, learning Ohm’s law, how to slice the PIE formula (determining power), the meanings of various electronic symbols, and the schematics of radio components. 

After the classroom session, Mr. Conaway would take us out to his “shack,” a small white wooden building behind the house and next to a persimmon tree. I remember the latter for he tried to entice us to try a green persimmon, but we were no dummies. Later that fall, after a frost, we enjoyed a few of the ripe fruit.  

The place was crammed with electrical parts and all kinds of radios and test equipment. Here, we learned the purpose of resistors and capacitors of which we’d drawn in our schematics and how to solder. In time, we built a power supply designed to take 110 AC current and, after running it through a transformer and a bridge built out of vacuum tubes which converted the power to the desired voltage and to DC current. Then we started building a transmitter, using a 6146 tube. When finished, this transmitter was able to produce 60 watts of power. It was a simple machine, utilizing crystals to control the frequency. This meant that if you wanted change frequencies, you had to pull out one crystal and replace it with another. He gave us three crystals, two in the 80-meter band and another in the 40-meter band. 

That fall, around the time the persimmons were ripe, we took the exam. A few weeks later, I learned I’d passed and received my “ticket” (or license). It arrived in early December; about the time we’d finished building the transmitter. My ticket couldn’t have come at a better time as I wasn’t doing particularly stellar in school. It provided a bit of pride as I passed the exam before my brother, who had to retake the test.

My call sign was WN4YGY. The first three digits indicated nation (W for USA, esst of the Mississippi), class (N for novice) and 4 for the Southeastern part of the county. The last three digits (YGY) were unique to an individual. Mr. Conaway immediately came up with a phonetic rending of the last three digits of my call, “Young Girls Yell.” In more ways than one, I fondly look back on those days. 

One of these longleaf pines held up one end of my dipole antenna

Soon afterwards, Mr. Conaway came over to our house and with our help, we installed an 80-meter ½ dipole antenna. As ½ of 80 meters is 40 meters (or around 130 feet), the wire stretched from a longleaf pine tree in our front yard to one in the back yard. The halfway point was just outside my bedroom window, and a piece of coax ran from the center of the antenna through the window and on to the transmitter and receiver. I started out with equipment borrowed from Mr. Conaway, but later would add our homebuilt transmitter along with a receiver I purchased. 

My first contact was to Wayne, another young ham in Leland, NC who was my age. Leland was only across the river from us, but it was a contact. Even though Wayne went to a different school, we became friends. After we both received our driver’s licenses, we hung out together. As he was on North Brunswick’s High chess team. As my much larger school didn’t have such a team, I occasionally sparred with those on his team.  We also did a fair amount of canoeing and hunting together during our high school years. 

That winter, as the sun set, the 80-meter band came alive. The upper regions of the ionosphere strengthens in the cold darkness of winter. This allows the long wavelengths the capability of making great bounces, allowing my signal to be heard across North America and into Europe. Every day I’d rush home from school and be ready to be online as the sun set. It was exciting to hear that first “CQ” of the evening, a call from operator looking for someone with whom to chat. I’d tap out his call letters, followed by “de” (from) and my call sign. Soon, we’d be exchanging information about our location and age and the weather.

Although my brother (he’s now a mechanical engineer) eventually passed his test and received his ticket, the radio bug never really bit him. Maybe this was because I was always online, and we shared equipment. Since we also shared a room, it annoyed him when I crawled out of bed at 3 or 4 AM and pull on a headset and fire up the radio. No one else in the house could hear, but the lamp was a nuisance to him. Using CW (morse code) I enjoyed chatting to folks on the West Coast as well as in South America and Europe. Each new state or country was like a conquest. Over time the wall behind my radios were covered with QSL cards sent from other operators with whom I’d communicated..

The most exciting period during my time on-air was when an emergency net was called to relay messages from Central America. It was around Christmas 1972, the same Christmas which my friend Mark had been killed in a motorcycle accident. An earthquake had hit Nicaragua and for hours I monitored traffic for messages were coming to North Carolina. Although I never had traffic sent my way, I felt as if I was a part of something big, especially when I saw the devastation on the morning news. This was the same earthquake that my hero, Roberto Clemente, the slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was killed in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission. Death seemed to be all around me that year, but it was also enlightening to watch history unfold.

In time, I lost interest in the hobby. By the time I graduated from high school, I was no longer spending time with the radio. At one point, I purchased a used low power transceiver. I got it up and running using 2 watts from a six-volt battery. Using a portable long-wire antenna, I could take this unit camping with me. But I lost interest and boxed it all away. The radios I used seemed so modern at the time. But they, were really behind times as everything was shifting to transistors and diodes and eventually to pre-wired circuit boards. Sometime in college, I gave all my equipment to the man who had helped me earn my licenses. By then I was into other hobbies. 

A Grand Picnic (and a call to feed the hungry)

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
June 30, 2024
Mark 6:30-44

Sermon recorded at Bluemont on Friday, June 28, 2024

At the beginning of worship:

We live with the mindset of scarcity. We ponder questions like, can I afford this? Will I have enough to retire, to live well until my death? While it’s good to maintain control over our expenses, some people become so concerned and worried over finances that it consumes their lives. They have no faith. Some build up massive bank accounts and then die. Others become hoarders, holding on to everything, and leaving their kids with a mess to clean up. 

While scarcity is real in our economy, I want you to ponder this: abundance is the foundation for Jesus’ economy. 

Before reading the scripture: 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken about Mark again creating a sandwich narrative in the passage we’re exploring. The first piece of bread had Jesus send out the 12 on a missionary adventure across Galilee. Then, while they’re gone, we have the filling. Mark discusses John’s death at the hands of Herod, which we looked at last week. Now the disciples return, as we’ll see today, which completes the sandwich. Part of Mark’s intention here, linking their missionary activity with John’s death, may have been to stress the danger of discipleship. There are forces in the world against the good news and sometimes the cost of discipleship is high.

But the return of the disciples sets the stage for another miracle and more insight into the nature of discipleship. It also provides a contrast to Herod’s banquet which led to John the Baptist’s execution. While we’re not given the menu for Herod’s banquet, we can assume it was rich with a variety of meat and bread, fruit and wine. Royalty dinners are elegant affairs. 

Jesus throws a different kind of banquet. He feeds the multitude with a simple fare. Bread and a few sardines, a typical lunch of a Palestinian peasant. The simple things are a blessing. Let’s look at the text:

Mark 6:30-44

The Galilean crowds flock to Jesus. We see this reoccur throughout the opening six chapters of Mark’s gospel. Even when their religious leaders challenge Jesus and those outside of Galilee fear his power (as we saw in the fifth chapter[1]), the folks in Galilee can’t get enough of Jesus. 

The twelve disciples have just returned from their independent mission work and Jesus suggests they get away. Maybe he wants to debrief them as he gives them a break. They’ve been so swamped that they’ve not even had time to eat. 

So, Jesus and the twelve, perhaps borrowing one of the fishermen disciples’ boats, sail down the lakeshore in search of a secluded place to land. But seeing them slip out of the harbor, the crowds follow the boat from the shoreline. The way Mark describes it, we can envision someone shouting, “There they are.” Pointing to a boat on the lake, a crowd builds. The crowd moves up and down the hills along the shoreline, following the boat. Maybe the wind was light, so the crowd can keep up with the boat bobbing offshore. By the time the boat steers for shore, the crowd had beat Jesus and the disciples, and are their ready to catch the lines and help secure the boat. 

While Jesus could have been upset that his plans for a getaway with the disciples had been ruined, he certainly didn’t let it show. Instead, he had compassion. Drawing on an Old Testament metaphor, he describes them as “sheep without a shepherd.”[2]So Jesus begins to teach. 

There is a useful message here. While we may do all kinds of planning in the church, often our most important ministry happens during interruptions. While plans have their place, as follows of Jesus, we must be open to God’s Spirit working by bringing to us opportunities to share with others. If we are so busy or so focused on a goal that we can’t pause and listen to the needs of others, we’re not following Jesus. We’re doing our own work. Look for those around us who are lonely and troubled, needy and confused, and offer a kind word or gesture toward them. 

Of course, Jesus seems to have gotten a bit carried away with his teaching. The sun makes a beeline to the western horizon. His disciples become concerned. They need to eat and there are no McDonalds or grocery stores nearby. They’re in the wilderness. Food is a real concern. 

Photo beside a small chapel in the Honduras mountains
Next to a chapel in Honduras

Years ago, I was on a mission trip in Honduras. One day, we took a medical team up into the mountains to a village 2000 feet above the town of Jesus de Otoro. I was the logistic person, so I had the pleasure of setting up lunch for the physicians and nurses operating the clinic. The lunch was being made back in town and was to be delivered to us by noon. The clock struck 12 o’clock and no lunch. Waiting, I tried to reach someone back in town. Finally, I got a hold of someone, and was assured lunch was on its way. In fact, they said it should have already arrived. We waited and waited. 

Finally, another guy and I went to the two little stores in town, brought junk food (mostly chips, crackers, candy bars, and soft drinks). At least the workers would have something to eat. Lunch arrived later that afternoon, as the car had broken down on the way up the mountain. 

Jesus shows us that it’s important to take care of physical needs. Sometimes we do the best we can as I did in Honduras. 

Jesus tells the disciples that instead of him saying a benediction and sending the crowd on its way, they should feed the crowds.[3]This stuns the disciples. How can they feed so many people? Even if they had the money, even 200 denarii (the equivalent to a year’s wages), there would be no place to buy food.  So, Jesus, realizing the disciples are not able to take care of the needs of the crowd, asks them to inventory the food available. It’s not much, just five small loaves and a couple pieces of fish. 

But Jesus takes control of the situation by having the disciples organize the crowd into groups. Having people in groups help ensure all will be fed. Then he looks up to heaven and says the typical Jewish blessing upon the food.[4] We’re not told that he asked God to multiply the food, only that he gave thanks for it. Then he began to break up the loaves and fish, feeding everyone.

We’re told that all were fed and were filled. The “all” here is important.[5] No one is left out. Jesus isn’t concerned if there were those who might not have been included because of kosher laws or anything like that. He wants everyone to have their fill. And, when dinner is over, the disciples collect the leftovers and there’s a basket for each of them.  

Another interesting insight into this story is that the crowd may not have even known it was a miracle. Jesus has everyone sitting in groups and its he and the disciples that are around the bread being broken. The bread comes from the huddle of Jesus and the disciples, not in view of most people.[6] Jesus didn’t do this feat to show off. His purpose was to care for the needs of people. 

We learn a couple of things from this passage. First, Jesus’ heart breaks when he sees people wanting to grow closer to God but in need of a leader. He wants his disciples to show and to do the work he’s called them to do. Our main priority, as followers of Jesus and collectively as the church, is people in need of God. We need to be open to listening to people’s questions and to encourage their search. 

A second thing we learn is Jesus’ concern for people’s physical needs. Jesus doesn’t want people to go hungry. You know, the story of the feeding of the multitudes can be found in all the gospels.[7] Feeding the hungry has always been an important ministry of the church. 

Even today, both Mayberry and Bluemont encourage people to collect 2 cent a meal and give it as a special offering to help feed those who struggle with food security.[8] While 2 cents may not be much, if we all did it for every meal, it would provide roughly $22 a year per person. When you multiply that by the number of people in our families and in our churches and throughout the presbytery, we can make some nice size grants to those ministries providing hungry relief in our communities and around the world.  

Furthermore, a gift of 2 cent a meal is certainly not something we should brag over. Instead, think of it as just doing our part to care for others. 

While it doesn’t matter how much you give, just placing a jar at your table and dropping a few coins in at every meal should remind us of Jesus’ concern for the food security of others. And the act of dropping in coins may also make your prayers more real, for we are prompted to consider our responsibilities for the wellbeing of others. 

As the five loaves and two fish illustrate, a little bit can go a long way. Keep that in mind as you make your offerings for those who are hungry in the world. Amen. 

[1] Mark 5:17.  See

[2] Numbers 27:17, 1 Kings 22:17, Ezekiel 34:5. 

[3] In the Message, verse 37 is translated the disciples’ request in this way: “Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.” 

[4] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville, KY: W/JKP, 1996), 77. 

[5] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 193. 

[6] Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (1991, Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 168. 

[7] In addition to this text, see Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:32-39, Mark 8:10, Luke 9:10-20, and John 6:1-15. 

[8] See

Thoughts on the Ten Commandments

Title slide with photo of my elementary school

In early June 1969, I graduated from the sixth grade. We even had a graduation banquet. The principal of Roland Grice Junior High, Mr. Mason, spoke. He told us there were two laws in the Bible that if we obeyed, we could slide through our next few years of schooling without an intimate meeting with his “Board of Education.” He had constructed this “board” from solid oak. Corporal punishment was still in vogue back in those days. 

Then Mr. Mason asked if any of us knew which laws he was referring. Some girl’s hand, one who sat up front, shot up. Mr. Mason called on her. 

“Do unto other’s as you’d have them do to you,” she answered. 

Very good,” the principal said. “Anyone know the other law?”

At first no one answered, so he offered a clue. “It’s in the 10 Commandments.” 

At this point, Jerry’s hand shot up. Mr. Mason called on him and he said, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” 

The whole room erupted in laughter. Even though most of us only had a vague idea about what breaking the commandment meant, we were pretty sure it was the one commandment we’d probably not break during our seventh year of schooling. 

Now, the state of Louisiana requires schools to display the 10 Commandments in classrooms. Some think this violates the separation of church and state. Maybe so, but it might also be an opportunity. Let me offer a suggestion for how teachers might engage their students using the commandments to learn about current events and human depravity. 

An educational tool:

Each day, have the students to read a newspaper. Encouraging them to look for examples of how politicians and public officials break each of the commandments. This could be made into games using bingo-like cards. The class strives to find examples of broken commandment as the students individually compete to complete a straight row on their cards.

Think of the possibilities. It’d be easy to fill in the blank for the seventh commandment with the number of politicians sleeping around.  But the eighth commandment would also be easy. Plenty of public servants have their hand in the government’s till. The ninth would also be a gimme for I know of no politician who doesn’t stretch the truth. And how about the politician who covets his neighbor’s house (or office) and breaks the tenth? Or the one who desires a graven image of someone or something they worship and breaks the second. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s encourage the students to let their imagination run wild.  They’ll learn a lot! And in no time, politicians will clamber to the schoolhouses to pull down the commandments.  But before then, the students will learn that the oratory ability has nothing to do with the truth, that we all fall short and should be humble, and that without God’s grace, we’re doomed.

The value of the Big Ten

Now don’t get me wrong. The 10 Commandments have great value. They provide us with a boundary in which we might enjoy the life God offers. I’ve done a lot of thinking about the commandments throughout my ministry. Below is an article of mine that appeared (in slightly different forms) in a newspaper and magazine back in 2003.  But more important than the Big Ten, are the ultimate two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. And let’s not forget the Christian principle of humility. Bragging about keeping the commandments either breaks the ninth or trivializes them as we think higher of ourselves than we should. The Commandments should be humbling to us all. 

And, if you are wondering, the answer to Mr. Mason’s question was the fifth commandment, “honor your father and mother.” It should also be easy to find examples of politicians breaking this commandment.

The Ten Commandments (2003) 

A variation of article appeared in The Presbyterian Outlook, September 29, 2003, along with an opinion column in The Daily Spectrum, a newspaper published in St. George, Utah. 

They’re marching in Alabama again. This time the destination is Montgomery and those who march support Judge Roy Moore’s fight to keep a granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn. They removed the statue on August 27. It appears Moore and his supporters have lost, but they promise to keep fighting. Sooner or later, the United States Supreme Court will have to step up and rule, but so far, they’ve refused to handle this hot potato. 

I’d sleep better if the Supreme Court decided such symbols acknowledge a foundation of Western law and are thereby an appropriate symbol that doesn’t violate the separation of church and state. Or maybe not. Of course, there are a variety of interpretations to what the founders of the Republic meant by such separation. As one who swore off the study of jurisprudence for theology, like the Supreme Court, I’ll pass on that potato.

Instead, let’s consider what the commandments are all about. The Big Ten provide a boundary by which we live as God intends, outlining that which enhances and destroys relationships. Theologians distinguish between two tables of the law, the first deal with how we relate to God and the second addressing our relationship with others. Put together, the two tables set the context for a society that honors God and other members of the human family. 

In ancient times, Jewish rabbis supposedly placed a drop of honey on the tongues of those studying the law to remind them that God’s law is sweet, not bitter. Theologically, the law is understood as life-giving.

A few generations, Presbyterians and most all Christians spent more time studying the Ten Commandments. Preparatory lectures, focusing on the commandments, were held a few days before Communion so members could prepare themselves for the sacrament. The catechisms of our denominations as well as those of other denominations go into detail of the fuller meaning of each commandment. If you read the Heidelberg Catechism, you’ll discover “Thou shall not steal” includes no deceptive advertisings. And in the new Catholic catechism, acts leading to the enslavement of another human violates the commandment. In other words, we should be careful about misrepresenting a used car or purchasing Goods produced in a sweatshop. 

“Thou shall not kill” also means more than not murdering someone. Martin Luther equated failure to feed the hungry, when you had the ability, with murder. Likewise, “bearing false witness” is more than just telling lies. The Westminster Catechism extended the commandment to exclude backbiting and vainglorious boastings, sins prevalent throughout society. 

I could go on with examples of how we ignore each of the Ten Commandments, but I won’t. Every generation has a problem with lawlessness. Instead, we should understand that even if we have monuments by all courthouses or on every street corner, we wouldn’t necessarily become better citizens. It’s odd that about the time many churches de-emphasized the study of the catechism, granite and bronze memorials started popping up around the country. 

In the 1950s, thousands of monuments were dedicated in the aftermath of Cecil B. DeMille’s’ blockbuster flick, “The Ten Commandments.” Today, we’ve lost the fuller understanding of the law while trivializing it into something chiseled on a rock. With the law publicly displayed, we prat ourselves on the back and brag about our piety while forgetting what the law is all about. Perhaps we should thank the ACLU. Maybe the publicity generated by these lawsuits will force us to understand that the commandments are not an image to be viewed. Instead, the law is to be studied. As both Moses and the prophets insist, written on our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6, Isaiah 51:7, and Jeremiah 31:33). 

Before marching off to Montgomery, take time to study the commandments. In the larger scheme of things, having a granite slab out in front of the courthouse won’t make a bit of difference. What will matter is who we apply the commandments. If we write them on our hearts as the Hebrew Scriptures encourage, rest assured they’ll be safe from an ACLU lawsuit. 

Update on my 2003 opinion column:

The 10 Commandments for Mr. Moore, a former judge and politician, appears not to have weathered well. It was only for looks, as he had a problem with the seventh, which led to his downfall.

Old photo of Bradley Creek School Building
Bradley Creek Elementary School from where I graduated from the 6th Grade.
This school building burned down in 1982, long after I had moved on, which is a good thing for if it burned while I was a student, I may have been a prime suspect since we sang a little ditty about burning the school down.

The Death of John the Baptist

title slide with photo of rocks along shore of St. Mary's River at DeTour Village, Michigan

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry and Bluemont Churches
June 23, 2024
Mark 6:14-29

At the beginning of worship

Over the past twenty-some years, I have invested a significant amount of time reading Robert Caro’s lifetime work, a multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. As he was President during my elementary school years, this work provides an insight into the world of my childhood. To date, Caro has published four volumes (which vary between 600 and 1200 pages). He takes the reader from LBJ’s birth through him becoming President at the death of John Kennedy, and the 1964 election. Along with a lot of other people, I’m still waiting on his final volume which takes us to this death in 1973. 

Caro’s interest in Johnson came from his study of how leaders use power. As with many people, Johnson is a tragic figure. He wanted so much to be President, but he also had a fear of being a failure like he saw his dad. His father may have been one the only honest politicians from Texas, and for which he suffered. Johnson couldn’t let that happen to him.[1]

When those in power abuse their position to maintain their authority, innocent people become victims. It happens today but it’s nothing new, as we’ll see in our scripture this morning. Those of us who follow Jesus have a higher calling than to just maintain our influence. We’re called to be truthful, to acknowledge our failures and sinfulness, and to realizes that regardless of what happens, we’re accountable to God. 

Before reading the scripture

As I’ve explained earlier in our work through the gospel of Mark, the book focuses on Jesus. There are only two passages in the book which isn’t about him. Both are about John the Baptist. The first looks at how John points to Jesus, so it’s still about Jesus. In fact, Mark’s introduction to John is more limited than what we find in Matthew and Luke because Mark wants us to focus on Jesus.[2]

The second place in the gospel where Mark diverts from talking about Jesus is when writes about John’s death. Mark inserts this story into the meat of one of his sandwiches, between the sending of the disciples out two-by-two and their return. Here, in these verses, Jesus isn’t mentioned, except that reports of his ministry caused Herod to fear that John had been raised from the dead. This passage is about how John’s death foreshadows Jesus’ death.[3]

Last week, we saw how Jesus sent the disciples out, two-by-two, to cover the villages of Galilee. While the disciples are away, Mark tells us this story. Immediately following this story, Mark’s metaphorical  sandwich is completed with a second slice of bread consisting of an announcement that the disciples have returned placed on top. 

Read Mark 6:14-29

Herod is paranoid. It seems to run in his family. His father, Herod the Great, fearing a rival, killed all the infant boys around Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.[4] While the Herod in our story today likes to be considered a king, he’s not really one. That was a title conferred on his father. But Herod Jr (or Herod Antipas as he is known—and this is confusing for there several rulers who go by the name Herod in scripture) rules a fraction of the territory his father governed. The actual title given to him (which is used in the gospels of Matthew and Luke), is tetrarch.[5]

This Herod is cunning yet charming. Jesus refers to him as “a fox.”[6] Sounds appropriate. Foxes can be cute and a pain in the rear, especially if you have chickens. He lures his half-brother’s wife, Herodias,[7] to leave her husband and marry him. 

To take a new wife, Herod had to dispose of the wife who was the daughter of Aretas, another regional king. This enraged his father-in-law. It led to a war a few years later. Herod’s troops were defeated. A few years after this, and either because of his military loss or his insistence on being given the title of a king, Rome had enough. Herod and Herodias were exiled to Gaul[8] (which would now be France and parts of surrounding countries). 

John the Baptist called Herod Antipas on the carpet for his adultery. Today, political leaders don’t like truth-tellers when it goes against their self-interest, and it was the same way back in the first century. So, Herod had John arrested as we learned of early in Mark’s gospel.[9] John’s arrest set up the events for what happens in our story this morning. 

The entire Herod clan were decadent. They seem to enjoy lavish dinner parties and the one in our story must have been something else. Herodias’ daughter, from her first husband, does a wonderful dance. She delights her stepfather and the guests. So, Herod grants her a wish, up to half of her kingdom. 

She must have been young, for she runs and asks her mother what she should request. And her mother, who had willingly left her first husband for Herod, also had a problem with John. So, she asks her daughter to request the head of John the Baptist. 

We can’t blame the girl here. She’s just doing what her mother tells her, but we can blame the mom who uses her daughter for such an evil act. Such parents are terrible and should never be a parent. 

The request troubles Herod. But he’s a weak man and afraid how it would look for a so-called king to renege on his promises. He’s no better than his wife. He gives the order and John’s head appears on a silver platter. I wonder what happened to the appetites of the guest who witnessed the spectacle. 

By the way, this became a favorite subject for artists during the renaissance.[10] I haven’t seen or heard of any modern artists who have picked up on the theme, which is probably good. 

Herod, a weak and paranoid man, hears about the deeds and teachings of this wandering preacher in Galilee. He immediately fears the worse. He thinks John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. The way Mark inserts this story, we look back in time at John’s death, which had already happened. Mark has told us in the first chapter that Jesus’ ministry only began upon John’s arrest.[11]  Now that Jesus has become famous, Herod Antipas is fearful. 

The disagreement between John, Herod and wife parallels the Old Testament story of Elijah struggles with King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.[12] In both cased, the leaders are weak, and their wives encourage them to commit atrocities. In both cases, God’s prophet confronts the powerful. Elijah prevails, but John loses his head. 

There’s a parallel between John’s death and Jesus’ forthcoming death. In both cases, you have a man executed without having been convicted of a crime. Those who claim that Jesus is like someone else whom they think has been unjustly condemned overlooks this fact. Pilate, in whose hands Jesus’ fate was held, told the crowd that he found nothing to charge Jesus.[13] Nor was there anything legal about John’s execution. It was a weak leader abusing his power to fulfill a promise and not look bad. Jesus’ execution was because a weak leader wanted to avoid a riot and appease the crowds. Neither man was found guilty in court. 

There’s also a dissimilarity between what happened to John and Jesus. After his death, John’s disciples collect his body and provide a proper burial. Jesus’ disciples ran away and hid. It’s left to others, mainly Joseph of Arimathea, to bury Jesus.[14] Mark may have been offering a subtle criticism of Jesus’ disciples for abandoning Jesus out of fear.[15]

What can we learn from this story? First, as I pointed out, this is the center of a sandwich, fitted in between the disciples being sent on a mission and their return. Perhaps equating John’s death with discipleship, will help us understand what Jesus will later say in Mark’s gospel, that whoever wants to follow him must pick up their cross.[16] Discipleship comes with a cost, and sometimes that includes our lives. For we must put Jesus first, over everything. 

From the point of view of Herod, we learn not to write checks that can’t or shouldn’t be cashed. In other words, make no promises we can’t fulfill without resorting to evil. A simple promise to a young girl got him into trouble and ended John’s life. Perhaps this is why we’re encouraged not to make oaths and to just let our yeses be yes and our no nos.[17] Furthermore, we learn that character matters. The stealing of another man’s wife and the adultery it entailed has consequences. 

Finally, there are times when the faithful are required to speak truth to power even when it inconvenient or it endangers our lives. But if we don’t speak the truth, who will? We should trust God, place our hope in Jesus, and refuse to be intimidated by those in positions of power. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Thankfully there’s grace when we fall short. Amen. 

[1] I was reminded of LBJ’s struggle with failure in a post by Scott Hoezee, who introduced me to Caro’s biographies of LBJ. See

[2] See

[3] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 183.

[4] Matthew 2.

[5] Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (1991, Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 159.

[6] Luke 13:22. 

[7] Many of the more reliable ancient manuscripts have Herodias as also the daughter, but Mark is confused. Joseph provides her the name Salome. See Hooker, 158.2 and 161. 

[8] Edwards 184, notes the banishment occurred in 36 AD, three years after Herod’s defeat but gives no reason. Hooker, 159, suggests that the reason for banishment had to do with Herod’s desire to be called a king. 

[9] Mark 1:14.

[10] See

[11] Mark 1:14.

[12] See 1 Kings 16;29-22:40.

[13] See Matthew 27:24, Mark 15:12-15, Luke 23:4, 20-24, and John 18:38.

[14] Mark 15:32. See also Matthew 27:56-57, Luke 23:56, and John 19:38. 

[15] Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion: Mark (Louisville, KY: Westminster, 1996), 75. 

[16] Mark 8:34.

[17] Matthew 5:37

full view of shoreline of St. Mary's River near DeTour Village, MI, during snow
Snowing along the edge of the St. Mary’s River, DeTour Village, Michigan

Camp Bangladesh

title photo with view of Bear Lake
Ralph and Olga at "The Joint" in Randsburg, CA
Ralph and the bartender Olga at “The Joint” in Randsburg, CA in 2005. Ralph grew up and went to war (WW2) with her son.

I came across this piece that I wrote in August 1999, five years before my first blog. It brought back good memories. That summer, I played the role of scoutmaster for Troop 360, chartered by Community Presbyterian Church of Cedar City, Utah. Joining me as assistant that summer was my friend, Ralph Behrens. Ralph and his wife Pat were good friends of mine in Utah, and I often stayed with them when I would return to visit Cedar City. Sadly, both have died. 

We took a dozen boys that summer to camp along Bear Lake in Northern Utah. The camp week ran from Monday morning through Saturday, so we loaded up after church on Sunday. I drove a 15-passenger rental van with the scouts and Ralph followed with his pickup truck, the back of it filled with gear. We made the 330-mile drive to Logan, Utah, arriving at dusk, where we stayed overnight at the Presbyterian Church. Early Monday morning, after a stop for breakfast, we drove Highway 89 up Logan Canyon and across the mountains, before dropping down to Bear Lake. This was an incredibly beautiful drive and the lake before us as we dropped out of the mountains was so inviting. My story will pick up on our arrival at camp. 

I looked for the camp and it appears that it is no longer in operation. Probably because the Mormons pulled out of the Boy Scout program, there seems to be a consolation of councils in the West and fewer camps. This camp had a lot of strikes against it as it consisted of small spit of land between the lake and the highway. However, I am sure the land was very valuable as it had so much lakeshore footage. I have edited my story slightly. I’m also sure I have a few more pictures of the camp, but am not sure which of many tubs of photos they’re in. The one of my son preparing to scuba dive was in a collection of albums and the only one from camp that summer. 

Camp Bangladesh
August 1999

Camp Bud Schiele
Dining hall and waterfront at Bud Schiele

A lot has happened in the fifteen years since I was last in a scout camp. Back then I was the Camp Director at Camp Bud Schiele in Western North Carolina. With grounds manicured like a country club and lots of trees, it wasn’t a bad place to spend the summer. However, after eight weeks in an all-boys camp with very few females, I knew the summer was winding down when the camp cooks, who were older than my mother, started to look attractive. In order to see what improvements made to the scouting program, I signed this summer for a week at camp with our local troop. I knew a lot had changed. However, I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced, especially girl counselors.

Ralph's truck on the "Hole in the Wall" Road in Central, Utah
Ralph’s truck on another trip

Ralph and I and a dozen boys arrived safely at Camp Bangladesh on a Monday morning. It was supposed to be an aquatic camp, but it felt like an overpopulated refugee settlement on the eastern shore of Bear Lake in Northern Utah. Greeting us at the gate was Gilligan, looking fresh and neat from his recent cruise on the S.S. Minnow. He wore Navy khaki, we assumed, because he didn’t meet the six-foot height requirement for the Coast Guard (and would have been unable to walk ashore if his boat had sunk). Gilligan directed us to our campsite and told me to report to the pavilion and check in. On the way, I stopped at the head (euphemism for latrine), where I quickly surmised that the U.N. and International Red Cross Refugee Commissions hadn’t yet inspected this site.

At the pavilion, the powers that be lightened my wallet as Robyn gave the troop a tour of the camp. Robyn substituted for our camp friend Randy who was, we later surmised, in the bushes with a female staff member. We never saw Robyn again; some think he got lost in the sage brush. Unable to see over it, he may have traveled in circles till he passed out. As for Randy, he and the Misses showed up hand-in-hand halfway through the week. We learned then that Randy was quite a philosopher and explained all the world problems as “someone must be smoking something.” We all assumed he was the “someone.”

At the opening scoutmaster’s meeting on the first day, I qualified for the BSA’s “Safety Afloat” certification by listening to a lecture. Little did I realize the camp practiced another form of safety afloat. They kept most of their boats in dry dock. They reserved the fully functioning boats for staff use. Our troop re-christened the small sloop named the “Ark” into the “Love Boat.” They had suspicion as to what the staff did on the boat that they kept safely moored offshore and off-limits to campers.

I will forever remember the galley experience at Camp Bangladesh. They served dinner in two shifts (called watches). If you’re unlucky enough to be on the second watch, as we were, it was like eating in an emergency canteen following a Kansas tornado. Another unique experience was dining in this open-air pavilion during a thunderstorm. Paper plates and cups flew with the wind, ridding the camp of rubbish by sending it all to Idaho. I’m sure it was from such an experience that the shifts became known as a watch, for we watched our food fly away.

The day following, the camp staff must have had a knife sharpening contest. The cook took first place. That night we were treated to beef trimmings, trimmings so fine we didn’t even notice them. Even the camp’s sole vegetarian seemed satisfied. In all seriousness, the night with the gluey noodles made up for the undercooking of the previous night’s rice, things have a way of balancing out in the end. Quality aside, the real problem was with quantity and our neighboring unit leaders resorted to rattlesnake hunting to supplement their boy’s diet. Ralph and I, being more practical, took our boys for milk shakes at the ice cream stand on the south end of the lake.

Of course, what goes in must come out, which brings me back to the subject of the rotten white buildings dotting the landscape and were a contributing factor for the outbreak of constipation that struck our campers. The smell of these buildings was so bad that I stopped using flashlights and followed the stench from one to another on the path back to our site. People had reported several large skunks along the highway east of the camp . They all facing east, obviously running across the highway afraid another skunk laid claimed the territory when they meet their demise under the tires of moving vehicles. 

Our troop’s strawberry blonde commissioner was Ms. Pope. We could never remember her name, so Ralph and I started calling her Hillary, in honor of the First Lady. In addition to serving as our commissioner, she was also the commandant of the dining hall and ruled with an iron fist. Hillary was an electronic engineering technician student at Weber State (MIT on the Salt Lake). We found her knowledgeable about most everything except for the difference between a foot and a yard. If she gets that confused between volts and watts, we’re afraid she may be in for a real shock.

In addition to her commissioner duties and studying electricity, Hillary is looking for a good Mormon husband who will allow her to stay home and tend to a scout troop. If Robyn hadn’t gotten himself lost in the sagebrush, they’d made a cute couple. Of course, I’m sure Hillary would have wanted Robyn to grow up a bit, but until then they’d be shoe-in winners in a Dennis the Menace and Margaret look-a-like contest. However, I secretly doubt Hillary desires a husband. She really harbors ambition to be the first female Chief Scout Executive. I just hope she doesn’t get her sights on the Presidency of the U.S. of A, or our country will never be the same.

There were three classes of staff at Camp Bangladesh. The elite, like Hillary, wore Navy uniforms and look like they just walked out of a surplus store or off the set for a remake of McHale’s Navy. The second tier wear dark green sea scout shirts and various colored pants. Our favorite in this class was Hot Legs—the blonde lifeguard with a nice tanned body fitted into a red one piece swimsuit. When on duty, she looked more like a movie star posing than a lifeguard as she stretched herself out sunning on the pier. I never saw Hot Legs without large sunglasses. She wore them even when the sun wasn’t shinning. Our boys, seeing her without the glasses one day, reported that she had a serious case of raccoon eyes and better keep them on.

The bottom rung of the staff hierarchy was the kitchen crew. Without regular uniforms, their selection was based on their lack of speed and foresight. Or maybe they were pressed into service, like the British did to our seamen before the War of 1812. If that’s the case, they’ve decided as a group that indifference is a subtle way of protest. Or, maybe they really didn’t think we wanted nor needed anything to drink with our uncooked rice until the meal was nearly over. 

Speaking of drinks, choosing the beverages of one’s choice was another interesting experience. Any other camp would have put labels on the coolers, but that would be too much work for the staff of Bangladesh. We learned that the way to tell what a cooler contained was to look underneath at the color of the puddle on the floor. Since we were the only non-Mormon troop in camp, the dining hall didn’t serve coffee. Suspecting such, I brought my own stove and percolator and fixed coffee every morning. I quickly became popular and found myself having to go into town to buy more coffee midweek as all the neighboring Mormon leaders decided to forgo their prophet’s word of wisdom and have a several cups of Joe a morning with Ralph and me. 

Scuba divers on the dock waiting to dive
my son learning to scuba dive

Our patch for the week informed us we’ve been on an aquatic land cruise—I supposed it’s a land cruise because most that’s where most of the boats remained. But there were some good things about the experience. First, I wasn’t in charge and could blame everything on the camp director, Captain McHale himself. Instead, I passed the hours sitting in my camp chair or laying in my hammock, reading books.

Our boys averaged three merit badges and only one fight a piece and they all eventually got to sail on the one of the few fully functioning sailboats available for campers. I even spent a wonderful afternoon on a Hobie (that was reserved for scout leaders). For an extra fee, I allowed my own son to experience the underwater world as he took a scuba diving class.  Now that I’m home, I’m hoping to break my Valium addiction by the end of the year.


Even though I put a light spin on this, from my experience of working within the Scouting program in the Southeastern part of the states, it shocked me the camp passed the Boy Scouts of America’s rigorous peer inspection program. The waterfront controls were lacking, and I spent less time in my hammock and more time playing lifeguard than I hoped.  

After this experience, I‘m not sure why, but we signed up for another year. In 2000, Ralph and I took the troop to a camp in the Ponderosa pines south of Williams, Arizonia. It was one of the best run camps I’ve seen. Sadly, there was no large lake, just a pond for canoeing and a swimming pool. But the food was great. After that camp, it shocked me to learn most of the boys preferred the camp on Bear Lake. But they cherished the freedom, and the lake was a great. 

The Challenges of Going Home

Title slide with photo of a rough mountain road

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
June 16, 2024
Mark 6:1-13

At the Beginning of Worship

The movie, A River Runs through It, is a great Father’s Day movie, as it tells the story of a loving father and his two sons. At one place in the movie, Norman MacLean has just returned from college in the East to his home in Montana. At a fourth of July party, he falls for the flirty Jesse Burns of Wolf Creek. As the two began to grow closer, Jesse’ brother Neal returns home for a visit. Both Norm and Neal grew up in Montana, but it’s evident that Neal hates the place while Norm embraces it. 

Norm loves to fish and his relationship with Jesse almost ends when he’s encouraged to take her brother Neal with him and his brother, Paul, on a fishing trip. Paul is leery of the idea, betting that Norm will be a bait fisherman, not a fly fisherman, and will show up with worms. But he agrees to go because he’s been asked by his brother. 

Sure enough, Neal shows up late, with a can of worms. He’s also drunk and with the prostitute he’d met the night before. He tells the brothers he’ll meet them later and they decide he’s not worth it. While they spend the morning fishing, Jesse’ brother gets himself into more trouble, for which Jesse blames Norm.[1]

As those who have moved away from where we grew up understands the tension when we return home. Are we like Neal and want to be seen as making it in Hollywood or doing something incredible with our lives in a failed attempt to cover up our failures, which in his case was alcoholism. Or are we like Norm, torn between the academic world of the East and the wild rivers of the West. And do we worry how others might accept us when we return home, which caused Neal to put on airs. 

Regardless of how we’re accepted, when you’re away and then return, things are different. Some people, like those in Jesus’ hometown, may be jealous, envious, or even question as to who we are and what we have done. And if they’re jealous or envious, there is little we can do to change the situation, as Jesus experienced in our text today.[2] Here’s where the truth lies in Thomas Wolfe’s well quoted title, You Can’t Go Home Again.

Before the Reading of Scripture

Our text today contains two stories. The first involves Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth. If you remember, his ministry has mostly been focused in and around Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. Early in the gospel, we learn Jesus came from Nazareth.[3] In Jesus day, it was a small village, with less than 500 people. Jesus left this village and headed down to the Jordan River where John was baptizing, then he went out into the wilderness to be tempted.[4] When he returned to society, he settled in Capernaum, where he taught in the synagogue and casted out evil spirits.[5] Now, he returns and teaches in his hometown synagogue. The reaction is mixed, but essentially, they reject Jesus. With the people’s obstinance, he’s unable to do any great miracles while among them. 

But Jesus didn’t let this rejection get him down. Instead, he doubles down by expanding his ministry. He’s been training the disciples all along. Now he sends them out two-by-two, to hit all the towns of Galilee. 

Read Mark 6:1-13

Our text begins with Jesus making the journey from the shore of Lake Galilee to his hometown. It required a twenty-five-mile walk. For us, with cars and paved roads, such a journey isn’t a big deal, but when walking, it would have required a long hike through rough terrain. 

Once home, they invite Jesus to teach in his home synagogue. It’s always a daunting task to preach or teach to those who have known you since you were in diapers. I remember the first time I preached at Cape Fear Presbyterian, the church I attended from age 9 through college. There in the pulpit, I looked out and saw my sixth grade Sunday School teacher and former youth group leaders stare me down. It made me nervous. These people knew me.  

By the way, I’m going back to preach at this church in October for their 80th anniversary service. But by this point, most of those who taught me as a kid are no longer sitting in the pews, having joined the triumphant church in the life to come. 

At first, the crowd in the congregation is amazed at Jesus’ teachings. In Luke, we’re told Jesus read from Isaiah and things went well until he proclaimed the prophecy fulfilled in their hearing. This was too much for the crowd and after a tense exchange, they tried to hurl him off a cliff, but he slipped away.[6]But as we’ve seen, Mark often avoids giving us the details on Jesus’ teaching. 

Instead, Mark shows how the crowd went from thinking well of Jesus, to questioning of his authority. How did this carpenter get so wise?[7] After all, he’s just Mary’s boy, which may have been a slap at Jesus, as if they hinted Jesus was without a father (and you know what that would make him). If it wasn’t a disparaging remark, it could have been that Joseph was long dead; however, that doesn’t appear the case as we’re shown in John’s gospel.[8]It appears this was an insult directed at Jesus.[9]

In addition to knowing his mom, they also know his siblings. Here, we are given a list of brothers but not sisters.[10] Although Jesus’ teachings and action challenged it, first century Palestine was a patriarchal society. 

Furthermore, the acknowledgement of siblings seems to have been embarrassing to some, especially after the notion of Mary remaining a virgin throughout her life became popular in the early church. Some have tried to explain this away as the kids being Joseph’s sons from a first marriage, but that’s just speculation. Others suggest the “siblings” are really cousins, but that doesn’t fly because Greek has distinctive words for a sibling and a cousin.[11]

Jesus responds, reminding them that a prophet has no honor in his hometown and among kinfolks. The people of Nazareth, who refused to believe in Jesus, were the ones who suffered as he was unable to pull off any great miracles. This isn’t because of Jesus’ lack of power, but because God works through us. If we don’t believe and reject God, we limit ourselves as to how Jesus might help us. However, Jesus does help heal a few people, so not all must have shunned Jesus. A few may have believed.

After such a rejection, most of us would probably slip away and lick our wounds. But that’s not Jesus’ way. Instead, he doubles down. It’s now time to expand his ministry by sending out the disciples two-by-two. This effort is to ensure that all the villages in Galilee may hear the good news and experience the miracles of grace. 

Jesus gives the 12 what they need to be successful They have the power they need to take over his mission. He provides two instructions. First, they travel without preparation. They carry only a staff and the clothes on their backs. They are not to take food or money or a bag for possessions. In their travels, they must depend on God and the hospitality of those they meet. 

The second instruction has to do with how they relate to those they meet. They are to honor everyone. If someone poor offered them lodging, they are to accept it and stay there even if someone else offers better lodging. It’s a way of honoring everyone! Furthermore, if the people in a village are not interested, they are to move on without making a fuss except to clean off their feet. This was a tradition of Jews leaving a gentile area. By the disciples doing this to the Jewish villages in Galilee, they remind the residents of what they’ve missed. 

Their mission is successful with many demons cast out and people healed in addition to hearing the call to repentance. 

Our text today reminds us that our Christian faith and ministry is more than just proclaiming the gospel. Jesus’ ministry always involves taking care of the physical and mental needs of those who also hear the good news of the gospel. 

The text also reminds us that while grace comes from God, we must be willing to accept it. Otherwise, we’ll be like the folks in Nazareth. 

Furthermore, while the gospel is a positive message, it also acknowledges the reality of evil in the world.  Yes, we’re to lift up the positive, for there is much good in the teachings of Jesus and how we are to live and to get along with others. But we also must combat the negative which exists in the world.[12] Evil, as I discussed a few weeks ago in a sermon, is out to destroy.[13] It must be challenged in the name of all that is good, in Jesus Christ who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

[1] “A River Runs Through It” was a 1992 movie directed by Robert Reford and based on the novella by Norman Maclean and found in A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (University of Chicago, 1976). 

[2] The idea of the envied person being trapped came from Scott Hoezee’s reflection on Miguel deUnamono’s,  story, “Abel Sanchez”

[3] Mark 1:9. 

[4] See  

[5] See  

[6] Luke 4:16-30. 

[7] A variant reading in a minority of ancient manuscripts read “son of the carpenter and Mary.” See Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (1991, Hendrickson Publishing, 1997), 152. 

[8] John 6:42. 

[9] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 171-172.  For an alternative position (that it wasn’t an insult) see Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion (Louisville, KY: WJKP, 1996), 69

[10] His family has already questioned Jesus’ ministry in Mark 3:21, 31. See Two of his brothers would become leaders in the post-resurrection church. 

[11][11] Edwards, 173, Hare, 69. 

[12] Hare, 72. 

[13] See

A two-track mountain road
A two track mountain road