Traveling Jesus Style

 

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30:1-12
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Caine

 

10: 1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: God of fresh beginnings, you make all things new in the wisdom of Jesus Christ. Make us agents of your transforming power to all nations and peoples, just as your Son commanded his disciples to preach and heal throughout the world. Grant us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the zeal to share the good news of your love, and help to gather all humanity into life with you. Amen.

 

Our two younger children are off at camp for a few weeks.  It is eerily very quiet at our house.  Not so at the end of last week.  When it was really frenetic at home getting them ready and packed for camp.   Here is a sample of the packing list:

1 pair non-scuffing basketball shoes

2 sets long twin bed sheets

6 pair underpants

1 pair water shoes for rafting trip – or old tennis shoes, something to wear in the river

1 pillow with 2 pillow cases

6 pair socks

1 pair running shoes

1 blanket/bedspread

4 pair athletic shorts

1 pair sandals

2 wash cloths, 4 bath towels

 

The details go on and on, you get the point.

 

Many of you travel for business, what do you pack?

 

Others of you are traveling this summer for big family vacations, what will you pack?

 

I never seem to pack right, I pack too much, afraid that I will not have the right clothes or that I will run out of something while I am away from home.  I also am guilty of bringing lots of extra stuff; a laptop, iPad, Kindle, and those books that I will never read.

 

You can tell a lot about the nature of a trip by what we pack.

For a conference for work pack business casual. (Comfort is important)

For an interview pack business formal. (First impressions are important)

For a 6:00 PM Wedding (Tux formal)

A camping trip pack (comfortable and durable clothes and boots)

A week at the beach pack (plenty of sunscreen and good books)

 

We spend a lot of time thinking about what to pack and what we might need.

 

It seems Jesus missed the memo.  In our gospel lesson Jesus appoints and sends out seventy followers to proclaim the coming kingdom of God.  He even goes so far as to give these followers directions for packing for their journey.  It is interesting to see his rationale behind his instructions.

 

Jesus continues to describe the difficulty of being a disciple. He tells them that they will work very hard because it’s an important job.  He makes it clear that very few people will respond positively. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”[1]

 

They are going to meet people who will be hostile or indifferent to their efforts and they’re going to be in situations where they will be rejected. “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”[2]  Jesus even gives them advice for what to do when they are rejected, “Wipe the dust of the town that rejects you off your feet.”[3]

 

His packing list is at best sparse: they are to travel light and pack nothing. “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…”[4]  Apparently, they are not going to need any luggage whatsoever. Apparently, they’ll be washing their clothes frequently or borrowing clothes from their hosts.  They are not to take food or snacks because they’ll be relying on the hospitality of others to provide for them.[5]

 

Jesus seems to be telling the disciples that this calling, this journey, that being a disciple is really about the willingness to be dependent on others.  Think about it: no money, no bag, no sandals, leave all unnecessary things behind and, most importantly, Jesus says there are no guarantees about how they will be received.  This is a journey of trust and dependence.

 

Jesus’ packing list is especially difficult for us today.  Think about how we pack for trips.  We want to make sure we have as many of the comforts of home as possible and that we are in style for every occasion.  We don’t want to be dependent on anyone for anything.  We want to be prepared for anything.

 

The concept of dependence is a hard sell in our nation.  There is something about our culture that values the concept of independence above all.   Our nation has gone to war for our independence, we pay someone the highest compliment, saying she was a fiercely independent women.   The idea that we are free from needing help from others means we can do it all on our own.  That is the pinnacle of being human in the United States of America.  Rugged individualism, a real self-made man, he pulled himself up by his own boot straps and look at what he has made of himself.  While these are wonderful adjectives to describe us it is horrible theology.  To think that we can really be independent, fully insulated from the ups and downs of life, and that we don’t really need God or each other is plain and simply wrong.   Imagine how the people of the small town Rainelle, West Virginia feel as their community is destroyed.   Covered with water and mud, 26 people dead from the heavy rains and water from this past week.   They must rely on the help of others to survive, to rebuild, to put their lives back together.  So, this is extreme, but it is really no different in any aspect of life, we need each other and we need God.

 

The irony of this message is not lost on me as we will celebrate our nation’s independence tomorrow.  We commemorate 239 years as a nation free from British rule.  And here on July 3rd is Jesus encouraging his followers, us, as we live in the world that defines what it means to be independent, successful, to be winners, or at least to avoid being losers.  The same is true for every organization and enterprise we are involved in, even the church.   We want the church to be successful.   Nobody wants to be part of a dying and unsuccessful project, a failure.

 

So, what are we supposed to do?  We can’t separate ourselves from that strong desire for independence that we are taught in this country and we can’t just throw in the towel and not care about being successful.  Does God really want us to do nothing, and to be failures?   Are we really supposed to sit quietly, and wait for God to save the world?  Do we come to this building and enjoy each other’s company and sing hymns and songs we like and then go about our business with no thought or mention of our faith until we gather here again on another Sunday?[6]  If we look around us today in the United States and other first world nations the Christian church is declining or better yet dying.   The statistics tell the truth about the Christian church.  A major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.[7]  We hear those kind of numbers and we’re likely to despair and assume that the harvest has withered on the vine and that our best days are behind us.  While the Christian church is seeing spectacular growth in the third world countries. What can we attribute to this phenomenon?   In the wealthier nations of the world we don’t believe we need God, the church or anyone else in life, while in poor less education and under developed nations people are acutely aware of their needs and they reach out for help from God, the church and their community.   What else this tells us is that people in need, and they are right here, our neighbors in Madisonville, in the city of Cincinnati, we should realize immediately that there has never been a better time for the church to be the community of Jesus.   There are immediate needs that we can respond to by reaching out, by sharing the good news of God’s love, by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, and befriending the lonely.  There are more people than ever before who need to hear of God’s grace and be touched by God’s love.   And we are the people called to be laborers in this work.

 

But know this, traveling Jesus style is never easy, doing his work is deeply rewarding and life changing but, the challenges are great and the outcome is uncertain.   We might fail.  People might not respond.  But, yet we shake the dust off our feet, keep walking along and showing others what a life dependent on Christ looks like.  Not independence, not perfection.  Jesus sends us, as he has sent his followers before, out in teams that we may encourage one other, for the work of God is nearly impossible to do, alone.  May we grow in our dependence and faith and trust this day and forever.

 

Let us pray:

[1] Luke 10:2

[2] Luke 10:3

[3] Luke 10:11

[4] Luke 10:4

[5] The Reverend Dr. Alyce M. McKenzie, Packing for Jesus’ Mission Trip: Reflections on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Jesus-Mission-Trip-Alyce-McKenzie-07-01-2013

 

[6] The Reverend Dr. Delmer L. Chilton, https://lectionarylab.com/2016/06/25/the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-proper-9/

 

[7] Pew Research Center, http://www.pewforum.org/

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