6-28-16 - Traveling Light

No purse, no bag, no sandals? Jesus obviously hasn’t met the typical female traveler! The trip he offers is for people who like a little danger with their sight-seeing, who are willing to be vulnerable among strangers and live off the local economy. As he sent out the seventy disciples to proclaim his message of the realm of God, Jesus said this:

“Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.”

There are virtues to packing light, but these instructions go beyond that. Jesus is saying that those who go out in God’s mission are to carry no baggage whatsoever, to bring no resources beyond their faith and radical trust. Without money, you’re forced to rely on what you can find or what is offered to you. Without a bag, you cannot accumulate anything for later. Without sandals you become like the poorest itinerant. And going like a lamb amidst wolves means you go defenseless. Who would sign up for that trip?

At least seventy people did that day, and many millions more since then. Over the centuries, though, missionaries started to carry baggage – literally, bringing to foreign places the comforts and customs of home; politically and economically, imposing their systems upon new friends; intellectually, insisting on their priorities and categories; and spiritually, offering a system of salvation that often became codified and rigid. Many went vulnerable and defenseless, and sometimes paid the price in blood; many others went weighed down with possessions and assumptions.

And many more of us don’t go at all, don’t even think about letting the world know about our faith in God’s goodness and love. This week’s story (every week’s story, really….) is an invitation to examine that reluctance and ask the Holy Spirit to nudge us out. In your own community, among those you know, what would it look like to go without purse, bag or sandals? What would it feel like to go to the Shelter not as providers but as people who want to get to know the men and women there? How would it be to go to community meetings not with answers and proposals, just to listen? How would it be to sit with friends who are sick or scared and not try to fix it or “do something?”

The last part of this passage is curious, “Greet no one on the road.” I can’t be sure what Jesus meant, but to me it says, Don’t get distracted from your mission. If you feel a Holy Spirit nudge to call someone, or do something, or go somewhere the light of God’s love needs to be shown, don’t dither or dally. Don’t let people divert or dissuade you.

It must have been scary for those men (and women?) to head out into strange towns with not so much as a toothbrush. But think how open their arms were, unburdened by baggage!

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