We have all heard the scenario – you wake up to discover your house in on fire. Everyone is safe, and now you only have time to bring ONE thing with you. What do you bring? It is an exercise in priorities – what really matters of all the items you have and possess. And it is revealing in terms of your attachments. If you have trouble deciding on one item, then perhaps there are too many things in your world…
With that as a backdrop, I confess, in all my years of hearing this gospel, like that burning house scenario – I always understood Jesus asking: “What do you really, really need to take on the journey?” Because Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms: “Bring no food, no suitcase, no money in your belt” – everything that most of us would pack first if we were going on a long journey. His invitation then, was to live so completely trusting in God, that you were attached to nothing. You were to live so that nothing possessed you other than the Kingdom of God. So I found it interesting that in Mark’s version of the sending of the disciples, they are commanded to leave pretty much everything behind EXCEPT for two things:
Did you catch them? Take nothing with you on the journey, except for SANDALS and a WALKING STAFF. I don’t want to read into this more than is there – but those two items are kind of telling, aren’t they. In sending his disciples out with these two ‘permitted items, he tells them – be prepared for a journey. Be prepared to walk a long way – longer than you’d be able to do in bare feet. Bring a staff to help you overcome the obstacles on the way, because there will be some. Be prepared to go to places you never dreamed you’d go on your own…
…Students from the UMSL Newman Center left this morning for a service trip to Nicaragua. I can tell you that they took more than sandals and a walking staff. 😉 But what I challenged them to take as they went was what Jesus invited them to know – the ability to actually walk into other peoples’ lives, to enter another’s world, to sojourn to the sacred ground of those they serve, not as saviors and heroes, but as servants and disciples. To walk, sandals and staff in hand, to be the love of God to those they meet, and to receive the love of God in those they contact. It will be interesting to hear how well they did that.
Secondly, as Jesus sends out his disciples, he knows that there are some roads they/we will walk on that they/we would not necessarily choose. Which is why, even before Jesus sets the limits of what to bring, he tells them HOW to go. In pairs. Two by Two. As a mini-“community of faith” so they can support and encourage and challenge one another.
…I will celebrate a home mass for my friends Dave and Ann tonight. As I think about their lives, and how that diagnosis of ALS has affected them, I realize that they have spent quite a bit of time with their walking staff and sandals on. They have gone to Jeff City, and to Washington DC – to advocate for others suffering with Lou Gerhig’s disease and the care they need with this disease that strikes faster and harder than insurance programs are authorized to keep up with. They have journeyed to ice bucket challenges and ALS walks and 5-K runs. And, through it all, they have surrounded themselves with a wonderful group of fellow pilgrims, who have helped with Dave’s care and therapy. They ‘get it’ – partly from necessity, and mostly due to faith – that Jesus intends for them to travel, not as an isolated couple, but to let others in to care for and nurture them. And they continue to make the longest walk of all – to trust that somehow God is found in the welcome and love and hospitality of their friends and families who are walking with them on the journey..
So, where is Jesus inviting you to don your walking stick and sandals? What long or short or in-between journey are you being called to be a part of?
• Papal encyclical Laudate Si – walk the journey of recycling, of minimal use of water, or reducing your carbon footprint.)
• We are just under a month away from the 1st Anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting – and though the confederate flag is down in some states, the experience of racism continues. How will you travel in that world.
• WHO is God invited you to journey with – as he sends us out minimally two by two? Who is on your heart to pray for?
Take nothing for the journey EXCEPT your walking stick and sandals – not because the house is burning down and there is only time for one item– but because it is how we best travel as disciples – trusting the Lord and living in community. And have no doubt about it – the same Jesus who sent his disciples on the road, calls us also to go and bring the good news to every place where we will walk…