There is a nice coincidence between this week’s worship theme, Land, and where we are at in the adult Sunday school study of the Gospel of Mark. Next class we will pick up at Mark 4:35, when Jesus, having finished teaching in parables from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, tells his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.” It is the first of five times (also 5:1,21; 6:45; 8:13) in the next four chapters that Mark utilizes that phrase, “the other side” – the popular teacher and healer whose entire ministry up to that point had taken place in his home region of Galilee, now shuttling back and forth across this wide lake which separated Jewish territory from that of the Gentiles. During that span there are also two references to “crossing over” (5:21; 6:53) as well as a journey by foot across this border.
Humans spend much energy, time, and money creating, maintaining, and defending boundaries and borders. But Jesus was a boundary crosser. His did not cross boundaries to claim or colonize land, but rather to claim people as children of God, and to colonize hearts and habits with what he called “the kingdom of God.” Unlike other kingdoms, or kin-doms as we might prefer, this one leaves people and land healthier, freer, and more abundant.
We cross borders all the time – between neighborhoods, between social groups, between the private and the public, the personal and the political – sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally, sometimes because we must or because we feel called to do so. It’s not so much a matter of whether or not we cross borders, but how we do it.
Who knows? We may even be transformed by “the other side,” which is how I read what happened with Jesus’ in his encounter with the Syrophoenician (foreign) woman in Mark 7:24-30.