Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus would have been a terrible travel agent! When you make plans for a trip, you get advice from travel agents on what to bring, what the weather will be like, so you can take the appropriate clothes. Whether you will need sunscreen or a parka, etc. Jesus, on the other hand, admits that this trip he is sending the disciples on will be uncomfortable and possibly dangerous! And yet, he tells them not to take anything they might need. Sandals would be nice, considering the miles they will be walking. Traveler’s checks or a cell phone just for emergencies, at least some snacks, for heaven’s sake! No, Jesus doesn’t want them to have anything extra. No distractions from the mission.
Jesus does not just send them out to wander around, though. He wants them to visit the towns he intends to visit on his way to Jerusalem. And he gives them specific instructions. “Go to a house in each town and if you are welcomed, say ‘Peace be to this house.’ Stay at that house, eating whatever they offer you, and don’t shop around for the home with the best cook. Just stay wherever you are welcomed.” Jesus even repeats, “Eat whatever is put before you.”
I struggled a bit with this reading, because I wasn’t sure what we are supposed to take from it now. After all, we do not need to be missionaries traveling Westchester County, bringing people, the story of God’s love, do we? People know we are here, don’t they? Shouldn’t we just focus on being welcoming to people who come to our church? For many of us, that is how Christianity has worked for most of our lives. We’ve sent missionaries to other countries to tell people who had never heard of Jesus all about God’s love for all people, and how Jesus came to redeem us from our sins, but we didn’t need to evangelize here at home.
We live in a very different time now. Church attendance for all denominations, and most other religions, are declining. It is no longer reasonable, in this time, to expect people to show up at our doors or even know about God. That’s why this reading has come to us at just the right time! We need to be disciples in our time. We do not need to be Jesus, but we are called, as the disciples were, to share the good news of God’s love for all people.
Notice what Jesus wanted them to say? The Kingdom of God has come near. And the Kingdom of God did come near in the disciple’s actions: when they cared for the sick, when the demons were sent out, when they shared table fellowship with the people who welcomed them. We are prepared, as the disciples were. We gather here every week. We are fed and nourished, by God’s Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are equipped to go out and share the Gospel through how we live our lives: when we care for the poor and the outcast, when we speak words of comfort to the sick, when we love our neighbors no matter what things divide us. We need to show others how we are changed by our faith in what we do and how we live our lives.
We also need to share why we do what we do. A few weeks ago, I talked about acting out our faith by helping our neighbors, reaching out to those in need. And if we are asked why we do what we do, we can share that we do what God would have us do. That is what being a disciple is about. Amen.