We are consumed by conversation about resources. Do we have enough? Will there be enough? Do we know enough? Resources come in lots of different forms. The money one occupies our thinking an awful lot. But there are other questions facing us. Do we have the smarts? Do we have the courage, the brains, the heart? “We’re off to see the wizard.” ... Ahem. Excuse me.
We’re lost in the wilderness and the trees are throwing fruit at us. The yellow brick road is too hard to discern through the weeds of our doubts and hesitations. The companions on the journey don’t seem up to the task, or they’ve let us down, or they’ve hurt us and we just can’t forgive them. Or maybe we’ve lost sight of the destination, the purpose of the journey. Maybe we aren’t sure we believe in the Emerald City any more. Maybe it is more about surviving day to day than it is arriving somewhere. Maybe it is more about being safe and warm and cared for than it is about accomplishing something. After all we’ve got our own issues to worry about. We’ve got wounds that need healing, we’ve got stuff we’ve got to learn, we’ve got families to tend to. We are way too busy to be taking on more stuff. Maybe later, maybe when we get the time, when we have the inclination, maybe when ... maybe.
Week two of our discipleship series is titled “Disciples are people who have a mission.” Our guiding text is the Great Commission from Matthew’s Gospel, 28:16-20 – Go into all the world... We’ll come back to that in a bit. But I chose another passage for us to look at this week. Similar, but different. Take a look:
Luke 9:1-6 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money-- not even an extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5 Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." 6 They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
The first thing to note is that it wasn’t just at the end where Jesus launched the followers out into mission and ministry. This is chapter nine of Luke’s Gospel. He just called them in chapter five. There’s a lot they don’t know yet, a lot they haven’t experienced. They hadn’t heard the Good Samaritan story yet, they hadn’t been taught how to pray, for heaven’s sake! Yet, he sends them out.
And get this, take nothing for your journey. What? Take nothing. You know Peter grumbled about that one. We would too, I suspect. We aren’t prepared, we don’t have the resources, we don’t know enough. You can’t be serious about sending us out there. Are you?
Seemed to be. He gave them power and authority. Ah, well, that’s a different kettle of fish then isn’t it. If only he would give us power and authority. Then we just might take him up on his offer to go. Cast out a few demons before lunch, heal some diseases in the afternoon, then call it a day.
Take nothing for your journey. Nothing. Nothing to rely on but the power and authority that we just barely comprehend. Nothing to fall back on but the name of the One who sends us. Nothing to hide behind but the image of the one we are trying to bring to life in our lives. Take nothing for your journey, because the journey is everything. It is not a mission that we take up and do for a period of time and then set down again. This is not a mission trip, a mission emphasis. This is life as mission. Mission as a way of living. Take nothing for the journey because you are the journey. You are the presence of the Christ who sends you. Take nothing external, nothing to prove your knowledge or experience. Take nothing in your hands so that your hands are free to hold and to welcome, to love and to soothe, to heal what has been broken with nothing but the witness of your life.
Brian McLaren says that we slightly mistranslate the instruction in the Great Commission. That “Go” thing. “Go into all the world!” It sounds like marching orders. It sounds like a crusade mentality. Go! Get on out there! Ten hut!! Get on out there. Like we are crusaders, like we’ve got a fire on our tails, like we are going to make those disciples if it kills us or them, usually them.
McLaren says the tense is actually a little bit different. He says a better translation would be “as you go” or “as you are going” instead of the hardline “Go!” As if Jesus is saying “while you’re up,” “as you are going out and about in the world. As you are living your life, as you are making your way in this world make disciples. No, I don’t he means be casual about it. Don’t take it seriously, or do it as an afterthought. No, in fact it might just be the opposite. Let it be the reason for being. Let this making disciples thing be what drives you, what motivates you.
Maybe the question is more about the influence we leave, the ripples that our lives make. Are we conscious of how our presence makes others around us different? Are we building up lives or tearing them down? Are we encouraging others or pushing them out of the way? Are we sincere about what it is that motivates us, what drives us to go and do and be, or do we keep it hidden, ashamed or embarrassed to admit that we are guided not by our own inner power but a power that comes from above? It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, that’s what Paul wrote. Would we do the same?
In the send here in Luke there is a very specific mission. Jesus gives power to do two specific things. He sent then out, Luke writes, to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Hmm, not sure about that, are we? Proclaim the kingdom of God. We’re supposed to talk about heaven all the time. About what happens after we die, about the condition of our eternal souls. Oh, great, we’re supposed to be that guy. That goofy not really dealing with the real world guy. “So heavenly minded as to be no earthly good.” Jesus sends us out to be that guy. Great. Just great.
Or does he? When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God is didn’t sound like a place for dead people. It didn’t sound like sitting on clouds strumming harps and polishing halos. It sounded like relationships. It sounded like people living together in community. It sounded like caring and helping and supporting and loving. It sounded like something that I’ve been looking for all my life, to be honest. All my life. Not my afterlife. Oh, sure it is exciting that this kingdom thing, this way of living and being thing just goes on and on, beyond the physical limitations of this bodily existence. That is a part of the appeal, I admit. But the real excitement is that it isn’t just a someday kind of thing. It is a this day, or the next day, or why not now kind of thing.
As you go about in the world, are you living and inviting others to live differently than many do in this world? As you are going about your living, your being made into a disciple, are you including as many others in the process as you possibly can? Are you proclaiming the Kingdom, with words, but not just words, with hope and confidence, with joy and laughter? Are you a bright spot in a dark time?
And healing. Uh oh. Be healed!! We are to wield magic like powers, right? Faith-healing. Well, maybe there are some who can do that, miracles do happen from time to time. But what is more likely is that we are to be a healing presence in the lives of others. We are to put back together what has fallen apart. Maybe we heal hearts and souls by loving and accepting as Christ did. Maybe we heal relationships by reconciling instead of holding grudges, by forgiving instead wanted to get even. And we keep trying. Again and again and again.
Take nothing for the journey. Nothing but Christ. Nothing but faith and hope in the One who loves us and works in us to love others. As you go, feeling underequipped and underresourced, trust in that presence. Don’t make me get the flying monkeys! We’re off ... to make disciples.