Traveling Light

Posted 7/8/2018

Scripture: Mark 6:1-13

What I would pack for a vacation when I was younger was, quite honestly, absolutely ridiculous. For a 2 week vacation I would not only pack a couple large suitcases with clothes and “personal supplies”, I’d pack an entire large box of books (some “fun,” some “serious”) and at least one, or maybe 2, craft projects (normally knitting, crocheting or embroidery projects). There was also a need for snacks — lots of snacks — to eat while driving. And, of course, I’d need to be sure I had enough for both ways. And then there was my dog and all her supplies — kennel, food, toys, dishes, leash…

By the time I was done packing, my trunk would be pretty full, the back seat would be covered, and the passenger seat would also have its fair share of stuff piled up on it. My packing motto was “Be absolutely sure you have everything you might need or want with you.” Loading and unloading the car would require 4 trips or maybe 5, not counting the couple of trips for the dog.

Over the years I’ve learned to travel lighter. Today for that same 2 weeks I pack 1 medium sized suitcase, maybe a couple of books (or perhaps just my Kindle), probably my iPad and computer, a current craft project and the dog with her food and dishes. Loading now requires more like 3 trips, including the dog. If I had to, I could fit it all on the back seat. Yep, over the years I’ve learned to travel much lighter.

Our gospel lesson for today talks about traveling — and about the need to “travel light.” 

The first thing to notice about this lesson is that the call is to travel. Over and over we read in the gospel how Jesus insisted on traveling from village to village rather than staying in one place. It pretty much seems that any time people would try to convince Jesus to stay in a place, that was the point at which he would insist on moving on. Jesus wasn’t one to stay put and wait for folk to come to him (although there were crowds that did that, even crowds that followed him around). In the gospels we read how Jesus kept moving — traveling to where people lived.

And here we read about how Jesus sends out his disciples — putting them “on the road” much as he lived “on the road.” He sends them out to go where people live. He doesn’t want them to stay put and wait for others to come to him — he wants them “out there” — reaching out to folk who might never come to them.

I think this is important for us to notice because all too often, it seems to me, we in the church have had more of what could be called a Field of Dreams attitude. We tend more toward an “if we build it, they will come” attitude than a “go to them” attitude. We gather in our sanctuaries and wonder why people aren’t coming to us to join us here in our worship and mission. We don’t really think about or plan to go out to where they are. We aren’t all that focused on going “out there” — to the places where the folks who aren’t already coming actually are.

Yet the gospels are clear — we are called to “go.” In this passage Jesus sends the disciples out. He puts them on the road to the surrounding villages. He sends them to find people who weren’t, and most likely wouldn’t, come to them. 

And after his resurrection Jesus appears to the disciples saying “Go into all the world.” He doesn’t limit this sending to just the neighborhood any more. He sends us into the whole world — everywhere people are. He sends us to everyone who isn’t coming to us. (And frankly, we all know that’s a lot of people!)

The fact is, Jesus doesn’t call us to stay put in our comfortable church buildings, but to go out there — where people are. To go out to where those who aren’t coming to church spend their daily lives. To go out into the daily-ness and the ordinary-ness of people’s lives.

Secondly, in this passage Jesus is pointed in telling the disciples to “travel light.” He tells them to “take nothing for the journey.” No pre-made sandwiches or bag of snacks to eat along the way. Not even any money to buy a candy bar much less lunch or supper! No second set of cloths, just what they would normally wear in a day. They are to go with nothing but a walking stick and their shoes. Instead of packing along tons of supplies for the journey, they were to trust that God would supply their needs. They were to trust there would be people in the places to which they traveled who would provide them with food and lodging. 

As I indicated, it seems to me we are not all that inclined as churches to set out on the road. And when we do, we tend to not travel all that light. We figure we need our fancy evangelism programs, or an modern up-to-date building with special attractive events, or a bunch of technological gizmos in worship, or any one of a number of other things to attract people. We look to pack all kinds of things along with us — or even use the lack of those things as a reason to never set out.

But what if all we needed to do was to travel? What might happen if we were to actually decide to do what Jesus tells his disciples to do and travel light?

What if all we needed to do was to go out to where people are with just what we normally carry? What if we — our lives and the story of our own spiritual pilgrimage — was enough? What if it were the quality of our relationships with one another — the kind of community we are — that attracts others, not our fancy programs or modern, technologically equipped buildings? What if the call isn’t to carry a carload of stuff with us, but to trust God to provide what we need when we need it?

What if, instead of worrying about some special evangelism program we simply concentrated on becoming friends, real friends, with the neighbors we seldom talk to? What if we were to quietly share what our Christian journey has been or what our faith means to us when there are natural openings to do so in our conversations? What if we simply did what those early disciples did? What if we assumed WE were enough? That we didn’t need anything more than ourselves to carry the good news to those around us?

And what if we were to go to some of our younger people in the community? Despite what we may believe about younger generations, they really do have a hunger for a spiritual life. What if we were to journey with them, not only in our actions but in quietly, humbly sharing our own spiritual journey? What if we were to help them know how they could experience Jesus in day-to-day life by sharing how we have experienced Jesus in day-to-day life?

And notice WHAT the disciples were sent out to do. We are told they went out “proclaim[ing] that all should repent” and casting out demons and curing the sick. In other words, we are called upon to share the good news of God’s kingdom in word and in deed.

I think the other thing we too often do is we limit our sharing the good news of the kingdom to simply sharing it in deed. We think that our helping others is enough of a witness to Jesus. After all, we know we are doing all these helpful things because we are Christians. 

But that’s the point — we know, but do they know? Let’s be honest; there are lots and lots of people who do lots of helpful things for others for lots of different reasons. If people are to know we are doing these things because we are Christian, we are going to have to say that. Otherwise, how in the world will they know we aren’t just another helpful non-profit, like the Red Cross, or a social service agency? If we don’t speak the name of Jesus, how in the world can they know it is because of Jesus that we are doing what we do? That what we do isn’t just a matter of “helping others” but rather our showing the reality of the kingdom of God come into our midst? How are they to know we’re doing what we do because we know Jesus?

Our call is to travel — to get out there where the people who aren’t already following Jesus are. Our call is to travel light — to recognize that WE are what is needed in our travels, not some carload of programs and techniques. Just who we are and how we have experienced Jesus’ presence. Our call is to share — by word and deed. 

The question is are we willing to travel? Are we willing risk trusting God by traveling light; sharing the good news of God’s kingdom through what we do and through what we say?