The last time I packed for a trip, I didn’t begin by making a list of things to pack.
I regretted that decision from the moment I arrived at the airport.
For as long as I can remember, I have begun every trip by making a list. It just seems to be common sense, doesn’t it? The last time I traveled overseas, a list was provided to me. Multiple lists, in fact. Healthy reminders that there are some things that can’t be gotten while away from the comforts and convenience of home.
I spent the whole time waiting for the plane thinking about what I had forgotten.
And then a tiny voice in the back of my head reprimanded me: It’s good to be prepared.
A motto that has taken root with many of the people and families I know.
In fact, for as long as I have known him, my spouse carries a multi-tool in his pocket for this very reason. Inevitably that little tool comes to the rescue of friends and occasional stranger alike. It’s a handy little thing – reliably present in case of need.
This past Christmas I received my own pocket-sized multi-tool. I keep it in a pocket of its own in my purse. And it has already proven to be just the right thing to have around just in case of need. I don’t need to rely on my partner anymore, I have one of my own!
Both those multi-tools and packing lists help me be independent and plan for every possible need. It’s just so good to be prepared.
Can you imagine what it would be like to stand with the gathered seventy-some people Jesus was about to send out on this grand co-mission?
Go in pairs.
Don’t greet anyone you meet on your way.
Eat the food and drink provided to you by strangers.
Heal the sick.
Okay, this whole co-mission thing with God just got a whole lot tougher.
No Jesus leading and taking care of the masses.
Just one other partner.
Oh, and Jesus says: “Be warned, though, that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”
It’s like Survivor: The Disciple Edition.
You can be sure that those seventy-some folks were not prepared for this particular social experiment.
But, unlike the final episode of Survivor, there isn’t only one left at the end of it all. All of those sent out, return.
And what stories they have to tell and share about their experiences.
There are a couple of lessons we can learn in this particular reading.
When it comes to following God and listening to God’s call, what is it that we think we need before we can go?
When it comes to sharing the good news with the world around us, friends and strangers alike, what is it that we think we need to have on hand, just in case?
What does it mean to live a life focused on and trusting in what God is doing through and around us, rather than making sure we have all that we need to have in order to live a faithful life?
I suppose those might be some very heavy questions for some of us gathered here today.
This is why I think that Jesus’ instructions are meant to appear heavy: They make us stop and think. Just what is he getting at?
Do you know why I like having a packing list?
It’s the same reason as to why I love having my own multi-tool.
It’s because I like to be in control. Independent. Not relying on anyone else.
Being prepared means I don’t have to look for help.
But, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
Jesus sends these disciples out, seemingly without anything, and totally alone – in a dangerous world, and my panic sets in because it’s a whole lot of no control…
…and then I realized something.
This is exactly the lesson I learned on my trip to Ethiopia: community and the hospitality of others.
As part of my education at the Seminary, I was to go on this cross-cultural experience. I thought I was going on this trip to learn about another people, another culture; about what it meant to be a stranger in a strange land, and how to live so far from the things I thought I needed in order to follow God. There was also a part of me that thought I was going on this trip to model what a good Christian traveler was. This trip was to be the vehicle to understanding the plight of the other so that I could be a better advocate for justice.
The lesson I learned however was tied very specifically to Jesus’ instructions to the disciples and to the lessons learned in reading this gospel lesson.
“Jesus sends his followers out with a simple message: live in the now, don’t worry about success or failure, accept the generosity of others and let go of peoples’ negative responses.”
The lesson I learned on my trip to Ethiopia was three-fold. Accepting the generosity of others can be terribly hard, especially when you know that those others are giving the best of all that they have to feed you. But, when you live into that moment, the reward is in seeing God ahead of you, showing you that you are not alone. And those people around you, friends and strangers alike, really are the greatest resource to life and faith.
It was a blessing to make that journey with a community of colleagues; to witness to the incredible hospitality and welcome of the Ethiopian people; and to discover God ahead of us all, preparing the way for that encounter.
Those seventy-some survivor disciples were never sent alone. They never had to be independent or totally in control at any point in their journey. They didn’t need a list of things to take on their survivor experience, because what they needed to participate in the co-mission with God was God and each other. What great resources for life and faith.
At the end of this reading, the disciples regrouped and were able to share their stories with one another.
Our faith continually brings us together. God draws us together to create this incredible resource of life and faith.
Turns out that when it comes to following God and listening to God’s call, what we need is right around us in the people who make up our faith community.
When it comes to sharing the good news with the world around us, friends and strangers alike provide us with a reminder that God goes before us, always.
The reality is that we have all we need in order to live faithful lives.
God has prepared it all for us.
And that is a good thing.
- Bruce Epperly. “The Adventurous Lectionary – The Seventh Sunday in Pentecost – July 3, 2016.” Living a Holy Adventure.
- Karoline Lewis. “The Security of Seventy.” Dear Working Preacher. Preach This Week. WorkingPreacher.org
 Bruce Epperly. “The Adventurous Lectionary – The Seventh Sunday in Pentecost – July 3, 2016.” Living a Holy Adventure. Patheos.