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“Take nothing for the journey.” That is interesting advice from Jesus. Nothing? Really? North Shore Search and Rescue would beg to differ. What is he getting at?
What do we need to walk the faithful walk? Come join in the exploration of Radical Jesus.
Reflection: “Radical Idea #2: Where? Here. Who? You.” – Rev. Will Sparks
So I am driving through some small town in Oregon one summer a few years back noticing how many signs there are that simply say “Ammo.” Something I will never get used to. But it was another sign that really got me going. Above a large store in one of those strip malls, it simply said in great big letters, “Christian Supplies.” Christian supplies? What might those be? What do you need? We didn’t stop but we had a great time speculating what that store might have sold. Probably Christian bibles. But what else? What do you need? A walking stick? Prayer beads? Bread? Sandals?
I am guessing that had we gone in we would have found books about all kinds of things, probably a large Christian music section, and a wide array of Christian swag with WWJD and a pile of other slogans on it. In some circles, Christianity has become quite the business.
4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 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. 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. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[b] The world as God would have it be, has come close.
These are the marching orders from Jesus the radical. Through the summer season we are looking at the radical Jesus, and last week we talked about the core meaning of the word radical being root, as in radish. Jesus was radical not because he was so out there, a kind of fringe character, but because what he says and does is really at the root of what it means to be faithful. And today as he sends his disciples out to be ministers of the gospel at the root of things, he says take nothing with you. You actually don’t need anything to be about the peace bringing, healing, freeing work of the gospel. Go to those who receive you and see what happens. And I just want to spend a few minutes looking at just what a radical set of marching orders that is.
And the first thing is, what does he ask them to do? He says go with nothing material to offer. All you have to offer is yourself. And when you offer yourself, the kingdom of God is near. What’s so radical about that? Well what is radical is that we live in a materialistic world, a world that places value on the stuff we have and the expertise we offer. Even in people’s religious life, we offer programs and churches with lots of programs are seen as successful. And programs are important because they bring people together, but strip away all the programs and what do you have? You have human presence, offered vulnerably. And that is what Jesus tells his disciples they really have to offer. And when they offer that human presence, vulnerably, without any things to get in the way, the kingdom of God comes near.
And did you hear the description? You go to a place and you say, Peace be upon this house. And if they share in that peace, that is, if they are open to you and who you are as people of the gospel, stay there. Be open to their hospitality. Don’t flit from place to place but stay there, offering healing where possible. And the message is this: “The Kingdom of God has come near.”
The Kingdom of God, that state of relationship between people where there is real vulnerability, real sharing in common, real peace. That is something that happens between people. It is a quality of divine presence that comes near to us in community. It’s not some heavenly home someday. It is not peace at the last, it is peace now. It is peace that we share in now when we come together in vulnerability. It’s not a program, although it can happen in a Bible study group, around a kitchen table, at a choir practice, in all kinds of the things that we do. But it is the vulnerable sharing of ourselves and the freedom, healing and peace that happens- that is what we are called to be about, at root and stem. That is the radical core of what we do.
And what do you need to make that happen? What tools does Jesus send them out with as the tools of the gospel trade? Are there any Christian supplies needed? And of course the answer is, no, not a one. The tools of the Kingdom of God are you. Don’t take anything with you, he says. That would be distracting. I think he knows the human tendency to rely on gadgets as if they are the thing. But no. You are the thing. You are the only tool needed. When you genuinely offer yourself to others, the kingdom of God comes near.
That is what makes this bread and wine meal communion so radical. I mean, we have ritualized it in the church and made it so that only certain people can lead it in certain ways, and for my whole career as a minister I have bristled at the rules, but what is at the core is really quite simple. Anyone can gather. You don’t need anything. You take the simplest of fare. You remember how Jesus did it, and you do your best to do the same. And what happens? The world as God would have it be happens.
So friends, leave everything behind. Leave your purse on your seat. Empty your pockets. Come unencumbered. And then gather around the table where you belong just as you are, where nobody is the expert, where all there is is bread and wine and a memory of Jesus. And who knows, the kingdom of God may just feel really close at hand. Amen.
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