Packing Light – 7-3-24

You can listen to this reflection here.  Sunday’s gospel reading is here

My luggage volume varies greatly according to mode of transportation, potential range of temperature and likelihood of a social life. If I’m flying to our cottage in Michigan, I pack pretty light, since I’ll have to carry my luggage and need little in the way of dress-up attire. Going somewhere by car, where there’s likely to be parties? I can take as many outfits and pairs of shoes as I like.

I would have flunked Jesus’ Packing 101. As he headed out on another teaching tour, he sent his disciples out too:  He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 

I guess he didn’t mean sandals in seven colors, did he? They were to carry nothing, no luggage, no change of clothes, no money. As we will see when we look at his instructions about where they were to stay, he insisted they rely completely on the resources they could find in the villages to which they went. They had to live by faith and the Spirit’s guidance.

Could we do this for even one day? Some do; others have tried it. I know of a bishop who lived homeless in New York City for a month, and there is Barbara Ehrenreich’s experience detailed in her book “Nickel and Dimed,” in which she attempted to live in America on minimum wage jobs, which would be even more challenging today. I don’t think many of us would get very far.

Why would Jesus insist on such stringent conditions for his disciples on their first trip out? To go with nothing, no money, no safety net? Perhaps it’s because he didn’t send them out with nothing. For one thing, he sent them in twos; nobody went alone. And He sent them with the Spirit’s power and authority over unclean spirits. They had ammunition against the strongest danger they faced, spiritual temptation and interference from the minions of the Evil One. Physical challenges they could handle, if they could learn to trust.

Absolute faith would be required for those who were to carry forward the mission of God revealed in Christ. Absolute faith is still required. All our safety nets and insurance policies and savings accounts hold us back from putting “our whole trust in his grace and love,” as Episcopalians promise in baptism. And no, I’m not ready to part with my retirement account. I am ready to look at and pray about how my faith could better guide my use of resources.

St. Francis of Assisi, when he renounced his family’s wealth and severed his relationship with his father, even took off his clothes so as to carry nothing from that life with him. One requirement of those who would join him, at least in the early days when he was still in charge of his order, was that brothers sell all they had and give the proceeds to the poor, owning no property at all.

What Christians are to do with wealth is one of the most vexing questions that face us. Giving a lot away makes us feel better about having it – and for those who are content to be on the outer edges of Christ’s life, that is just fine. Jesus did commend generosity. But for those who would be his closest followers? I suspect our baggage is weighing us down more than we’d like to contemplate. What can we part with today?

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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