Dustin Miller – Six Words: Reading Mark 9 as Poetry – 9/30/12

Thanks Dustin Miller for sharing these reflections at Cincinnati Mennonite.


Mark 9:30-37

6 word summaries of this story


Secretly travelling, death and resurrection foretold.


Mark 9:30-31

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

1. Foretelling death, a doctor delivering bad news

That six months might be all we get.

Or a realization, in a split second that could be our last

That we will die.

Reconciled to the possibility, of both living and dying,

that in giving up the ghost

we might find the only way to resurrection.


Your friends ignore the fact,

that you are once again

speaking in third person.


He teaches, they argue, corrected again.


Mark 9:32-35  

But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

2. A classroom empty except for a bare desk

Like that of a substitute teacher

And a black worn out chalkboard that screams

“The levy didn’t pass again”


The teacher Sophia

Again rambles on about a subject not unlike

Whether Faulkner and Hemingway might have been

friends if the circumstances were different


A scuffle in the back of the room

Or the side, I don’t remember

The teacher ignoring as she finishes her thought

Writing on the wall with her back turned


As the final bell rings she pulls

Aside the group of boys walking out together

Say, what was that all commotion about?

Just arguing about the point


Of the Great Gatsby.


Understanding atonement often leads to questions.


Mark 9: 32

But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.


 3. Was that satisfaction or penal substitution you ask again?

I respond that I don’t understand the question.

Bearing the curse of man’s failure

Is enough of a workload for three days.


“I never saw it that way” I say

“Christus Victor always seemed to fit my view

That the evil in the world was conquered

By offering a new alternative.”


But what about the sacrifice, what about God’s need

For God to be made whole?

Could it be that it doesn’t fit, doesn’t work


I think I’d leave that up to God.


“If we were created in God’s image,

then when God was a child

He smushed fire ants with his fingertips

And avoided tough questions.

There are ways around being the go-to person,

Even for ourselves,

Even when the answer is clear,

Like the holy water the gentiles would drink

Before they realized,


‘Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.’ “


-Borrowed from Buddy Wakefield, Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars (Hope is not a course of action)




Upside down thinking, last is first.


Mark 9:35

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”


 4. Dancing to the silence

And walking against the wind instead of with it

Where does the beauty lie

In a confused world


Going against my every instinct to

Be the first in line to see my favorite band

Over the Rhine, only to be sat near the back

In some sort of reverse wedding recession


The sock lint and flip flop marks I’ve seen

On feet of those who bend to wash my mine

As I wash theirs, the action reconciling

Making all things new,

Awkwardly sealed with a Holy kiss


Or simply enjoying the fall leaves instead of

Gathering them up, allowing the rake to lie

Unused, letting them decompose

Only to bring life again


Attempting to figure out some way

To redemption, my God!

In a world that needs an end

When the action has already happened

We only need remember



Little children are welcomed, greatness redefined.


Mark 9:36-37

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”


5. Holding Lillian, or Ainsley, or Gracelyn

In my arms

Reminds me that the world is not too

Far gone for the beauty of a child

Or the smell of the head of a baby


Is it too much of a stretch

That this skin

That these fingers and toes,

Aren’t the kingdom of God

Made manifest


Who wouldn’t want to welcome these?