July 8, 2018
The Outsiders: The Travellers
Luke 10: 1-9
Many of you have met my Dad. He’s a pretty friendly guy. When I was growing up, he was a high school math teacher in Burnaby, so in the summer when we were on vacation from school, we’d go camping with our gold and brown suburban and trailer, listening to Abba and Anne Murray cassette tapes on the drive to where we were going. Once we got to the campsite we were staying for the night, Dad would back the trailer into the spot with Mom’s direction, then my sisters and I would get the trailer unhooked, and levelled (which was certainly a lot more complicated an ordeal than my parents’ new trailer, where they press a button and it is done!) Soon after the trailer was parked, Dad would wander off to check out the site or to find the wood pile, and he would be gone for a long time. Once he came back, a while later, he knew the names of everyone staying at the campground, and where they were from and where they were headed. He knew part of their story, had found at least a few things they had in common or people they knew in common, and also had probably invited half of them over to our campsite later that night for a campfire.
For many of us in this sanctuary, our experience of travel is for the purpose of vacationing or increasing our cultural experiences and awareness or visiting friends and family. We often spend a lot of time packing just the right items and fitting them just so in our suitcase or backpack or in my case, last week in preparation for Girl Guide camp spend so much time packing everything else, like groceries for 150 people – that I ended up just tossing a few things in a bag for myself and hoped I remembered enough to be comfortable!
For Jesus’ followers who were sent out in today’s reading, they were told to take nothing – ‘carry no purse, no bag and no sandals and greet no one on the road.’ In the previous verses some people said oh, I’ll follow you, but first I need to do these other things… First I have these people to say goodbye to. Jesus expresses the urgency and importance of the mission, and he is pretty clear about this, almost in a surprising way, not with the compassion we usually hear or expect from Jesus… and we hear him say no – you need to come right now! Nothing else is this important – drop everything.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and he sends them in twos to go to every city and place where he was about to go. Jesus’ reputation by this time has likely spread, so they are to go ahead of Jesus and give them a preview of Jesus’ ministry. When they go to a house, they are to express peace to the household. If the peace is returned, they are to stay for a while in that house, eating and drinking what they provide, accepting their hospitality and shelter. They are told to eat what is placed before them, which may refer to the etiquette of being a guest, but also could be a reference to setting aside the strict food laws for the sake of sharing the Good News of Jesus’ message. When the followers find a hospitable home, they are to heal the sick and share that the kingdom of God has come near. They are instructed to only visit the homes and towns where they are accepted. Basically he is saying that once they find like-minded people, they should just stay and work with them and not let stuff get in the way or conflict with spreading the gospel.
In the Gospel of Luke, hospitality is a central theme. We often find Jesus eating with people in Luke’s gospel. But he is never the host of a dinner party – he is always the guest. In the same way, he sends his followers out to be guests at someone else’s house. In return for the hospitality, they are to heal their sick and preach the kingdom.
This story seems to me to be highlighting specifically two different aspects – the first is the commission of the followers to keep their focus – to not burden themselves with rations and extras for their journey – just the clothes on their back so that they can remain focused on the task at hand, sharing the good news of Jesus’ message.
The other aspect that this story highlights is the generosity of the hospitality extended to the followers from the homes where they are welcomed. These followers are complete strangers that they are inviting into their houses. Can you imagine? Someone comes to your door from out of town and offers you peace. What would you do? I can’t imagine inviting them in to stay for a few days. I know what I do when people like that come to my door! It usually includes some polite conversation and they ask me a question about the state of the world, and then I agree with them, and then they read me some scripture, and we have a lovely little chat, and then they continue on their way.
When we are travellers in unfamiliar places that are not our homes, and we reach out with peace and connection to others, and feel the acceptance and hospitality in return, we can learn from each other and expand our experience of the new and unfamiliar place, until it feels a little like home.
Think about a time that you have travelled to a new place. What was it that made you feel comfortable there? Was it a friendly welcome that you received from hotel staff? A tour guide that you connected with? A server in a restaurant striking up a conversation with you? A local you met in the market?
For the past two years I have had the privilege of welcoming international high school students into our family. They have come at age 15 or 16 to stay for the school year and have a cultural immersion experience. When I first decided to do this, it was because I was renting a house that had one more bedroom than I needed, and my landlord had hosted homestay students, so she told me about the program and gave me the contacts. I was expecting that I would do this to provide a service for this student, and give her a place to stay but was pleasantly surprised when as a result of hosting, I gained a daughter and formed lasting friendships, not only with my two Brazilian daughters that I have hosted, but also with their mothers in Brazil. It also provided an invaluable cultural experience for my own daughters.
Several of you have been involved in the refugee sponsoring program that Mt Seymour has been part of. I think about the refugee families in terms of the travellers that today’s theme is referring to. They often are leaving their home country, which does not feel like home to them anymore because of danger or war, living in a refugee camp for sometimes years and then finally moving in to our communities. At that point, it is the hope that they will find connection within a community here, and they will find what feels like a new home here. Much of what you do in sponsoring them is to help them create this connection and build for themselves a new home.
This week I was talking to a new Canadian who just moved to Canada last September. He said that he really felt lost and alone for the first few months here. Then he got involved in the community and made some friends, and that was when he began to feel like this was his home. It was that personal connection with others that gave him the feeling of home.
From today’s Gospel story at times we might be the travellers, the followers, looking for hospitality, and at other times we are called to be those providing the hospitality, welcoming the travellers.
When we travel, we feel less of an outsider when we can find that personal connection and welcome and feel the hospitality of the people where we are visiting.
When we encounter travellers on our home turf, we can be the ones to provide the hospitality, by listening to the traveller’s stories, by sharing new experiences together, by offering friendship and reminding them that they are not alone, and when we do, they are no longer an outsider.
When my Dad would wander around the campsite getting to know his surroundings and meeting the people and listening to their stories, what I realized that he was doing was finding community, no matter for how short a time. He was seeking the feeling of home in an unfamiliar place.
Jesus calls us to provide this welcome, to help travellers find home, and as followers of Jesus, we are also called to seek community when we are the outsiders.
We are the ones now who carry on this ministry that Jesus gave us. I leave you with part of a prayer from St Teresa of Avila that reminds us of this call:
Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.
Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless others now.