July 7, 2019
Luke 10: 1-11
Rev. Carla Wilks
Last week I was on vacation from here, but during that week, I went to Girl Guide camp with 150 people from our District. Within days of leaving for camp, we had a few obstacles thrown our way. First we could not get reservations months ago when we tried for all the vehicles that were going up to take the groceries and supplies for each site. We did get a reservation for the buses with all the girls on them… but – the day before we left for camp, one of the ferries was having mechanical difficulties, so they pulled that ferry and our reservations got cancelled because we were to be on that ferry. So BC Ferries rejigged the schedule and got us a different reservation at a different time, requiring shuffling of the bus schedule as well. To make it easier we didn’t change the drop off time, so we didn’t have to contact 150 people to let them know the changes… Meanwhile, the truck we had rented to haul all the kids’ gear was downgraded from a large truck to a van the day before camp and the company insisted that there was not a truck to be found. Well, they ended up finding us a bigger one, which was just fine… we could handle that!!
So as I read over this scripture reading at camp, I thought how much simpler it would have been getting to camp if we had followed Jesus’ advice in this reading and ‘carry no purse, no bag.’ We all could have just walked on the ferry, no vehicle reservations or gear truck required… all our issues we had the day before would disappear!
Though I can say with confidence that taking Jesus’ advice for Girl Guide camp would not have passed the Safe Guide Assessment paperwork that we have to submit before we have an event or camp.
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.
Two things stood out for me when I read this – first that the disciples go out in teams. And second that they are to take nothing with them, and instead rely on the hospitality of others.
Going out in pairs makes sense. Jesus’ message is a radical one, so he anticipates resistance to the message. Having a partner with them, gives them back up for when they share that God’s love is for everyone, even the ones that society sees as criminals or outcasts or sinners or in some other way not worthy. Jesus knows that plenty of folks will be none too pleased hearing that, because of fear or disbelief or self-interest. When the powers of the world are challenged, all kinds of things get upset.
And so Jesus sends them out in pairs. Thus, when one falters, the other can help. When one is lost, the other can seek the way. When one is discouraged, the other can hold faith for both for a while. That’s what the company of believers does – we hold on to each other, console each other, encourage and embolden each other, and even believe for each other.
But we forget that. We live in a culture that insists that it’s all up to us as individuals, that “you only go around once,” and that there’s not enough for everyone. And so we’ve been taught to “look out for number one” and that “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” Jesus’ reminder that we find success only with and for each other is therefore a timely gift to his disciples both then and now.
He also commands that they take nothing with them. This means that the disciples – far more, by the way, than the usual twelve we think about – must depend on the generosity of others. For their meals … for a place to stay … for, well, just about everything.
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.
The followers are commissioned 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, and this requires dependence on others.
Most of us find such dependence uncomfortable. It makes us feel like we’re not prepared, maybe unsafe, definitely vulnerable.
I wonder if that’s the point. I mean, we are vulnerable. We forget this, too, going to great lengths to manufacture and perpetuate illusions of control, independence, and invulnerability. But any illness, any loss, any death or disappointment or tragedy reminds us painfully of just how incredibly vulnerable we are.
And so Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs and instructs them to rely entirely upon the hospitality of others. Why? Because this is our natural state: we are stronger when we stay together and our welfare is linked to that of each other.
At Girl Guide camp last week, I stayed on the same site as the Pathfinders, who are girls age 12 to 15. One night I was just chatting with one of the girls – she was new to the group – just joined in the last few months. She told me that her mom had died. Talking a little more to her, I found out that it had just happened a few months ago, and that her mom had been killed by her stepdad. What followed for the next few hours, while all the other girls went to bed, was several of the leaders joining us as we sat listening to this Pathfinder’s story. This 13-year-old girl had been through more in her young life than anyone should have to endure in a lifetime. Afterward I was reflecting on the experience with the other leaders, and they said that they felt ill equipped to deal with that heavy conversation, and that they didn’t think they said the right things and felt like they didn’t know what to do. I assured the leaders that they had absolutely everything they needed for what happened that night. For these leaders, when Jesus said to carry no purse, no bag – I think what they needed was to feel unburdened by their own baggage – the feelings of not being good enough, or not having the right skills.
The Pathfinder was seeing a therapist and probably would be for a long time, but what the Pathfinder needed from her leaders that night was to feel safe and have a listening ear, and her leaders had provided that environment for her in the few short months that she was in their Pathfinder unit. It was such a beautiful thing to see that happen. She knows that she is not alone. She has these supportive Guiders who will be there for her. For me, that one evening with that one Pathfinder, made the months of planning and organization for that camp completely worthwhile.
I believe that of the gifts Jesus gives his disciples, the greatest may just be that of teamwork and trusting in God’s love. Because when we work together, when we recall that God said it is not good for us to be alone, when we see our hope and welfare as linked to that of those around us, then we can accomplish so much more than we possibly could alone.
So what might it mean if Mount Seymour United Church were to remember Jesus’ counsel and command and work and dream together of a more vibrant witness to the Christian faith? What might it mean to think about those things our congregation can do for our community? Things we assuredly cannot accomplish alone but might venture together? We have had great success in the past with this kind of vision and attitude…
I just think about the Thrift Shop and how it began with an idea and a couple of people supporting it. Fast forward to Thursday morning, and there was a line up to get in starting at 9:30 that wrapped around the building and down the sidewalk. It didn’t diminish until the shop had been open over an hour. And yesterday we had our busiest Saturday in the shop to date. I think that I could write a book, having witnessed so many beautiful stories of support and community amongst the customers and volunteers in the shop in my short time here.
Let’s continue to dream about what we can accomplish together for the health and wellbeing of the community around us. And as we do that, what might we have to leave behind like Jesus’ early followers – our bag and purse – what might be weighing us down? Might it be fear of failure, lack of confidence? Feeling that we are not good enough or don’t have the right skills. This is another place where working together is beneficial, because we can hold each other up, recognize one another’s gifts and draw on the gifts of each other – pool our resources to create something wonderful together. As we do this we know that God’s love for us never ends, and we are not alone.
 David Lose
10:1 After 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.
10:2 He 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.
10:3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’
10:6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
10:7 Remain 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.
10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;
10:9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,
10:11 ‘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.’