July 3, 2022 Reflection and Worship Link

Picture of Rev. Nancy Talbot

Rev. Nancy Talbot

Associate Minister

Pack Lightly

Trinity Sunday

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

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This weekend I’m usually at Girl Guide Camp, but because of Covid we have another year without camp, so when I read the scripture this week the part that stood out for me was that Jesus sent out his followers, and they were to carry no bag or purse.  Growing up and now having 39 years of membership in Girl Guides of Canada, whose motto is “Be Prepared” made me want to say uh uh Jesus, you are wrong!  They can’t go out to share your message so ill prepared!! They at least need some shoes!! Quite the opposite of my years of Girl Guide camp in the past – where my van was filled right up with food, and we rent a U-Haul truck to get all the girls’ gear to camp. 


How much simpler it would have been getting to camp if we had followed Jesus’ advice in this reading.  We would have been in trouble with Girl Guides for being so ill-prepared, and perhaps it would not have set quite the example that we wanted for the girls.


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 that we heard last week, 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. 


Jesus does not instruct them to argue, convince, or threaten if they are not welcomed. He does advise them to signal their moving on by shaking dust off their feet. In this way, they are not weighed down by rejection, or paralyzed with trying to figure out what they did wrong or could have done differently to produce a different outcome. Instead, Jesus invites them to move forward in the confidence of these two proclamations, “Peace to this house!” and “The kingdom of God has come near.”


As Christians, we can reliably root our lives in these two proclamations — “Peace to this house!” and “The kingdom of God has come near.” This is the good news that we have to share! These keep our focus on God’s activity right in front of us, rather than turning it to blaming, accusing or judgmental analyzing, of situations, keeping us stuck in the problems or difficulties.


The followers are commissioned to keep their focus – to not burden themselves with rejection or 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.  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 or a global pandemic reminds us painfully of just how incredibly vulnerable we are.[1]


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.


Sometimes what weighs us down is not the physical things but the emotional things. Here at Mount Seymour we have a practice when we start each of our gatherings or meetings.  We do a check in.  We ask the question – how do you come?  What we mean by this is How are you?  How are you REALLY?  What are you bringing with you to this meeting that might impact the way that you are able to be fully present with us today?  Sometimes if we have just had an argument on our way into the meeting or got some upsetting news – we are not going to necessarily be present with our best selves in the meeting.  Knowing this in the group, gives a little window into each other’s lives, making us more connected – but also gives some understanding and compassion to group members’ emotional states. 


Maybe part of what Jesus was inviting his followers and what he invites us to do when he said to carry no purse, no bag – is to feel unburdened by our own baggage – which may be feelings of unworthiness, lack of confidence, not being good enough, or even sadness or grief – any of those feelings that hold us back from knowing that we are a beloved child of God. 


I believe that of the gifts Jesus gives his disciples in this passage, 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…


Let’s continue to dream about what we can accomplish together for the health and wellbeing of the community around us.  How do we go out unburdened and share God’s love and Jesus message of welcome through all the parts of our lives?  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.  We do this with the confidence that we are not alone – God is with us always.  God’s love will guide us in the ways of peace and justice.

Thanks be to God.


[1] David Lose