Take nothing for the journey

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The good news today is in Luke 9:1-6.

He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick]. He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.  And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”  Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Take nothing for the journey.  That’s not the way I’m used to traveling!  When packing I consider the weather forecast, the events I may be attending, the people I’ll be seeing, the activities in which I’ll be engaged.  And then I throw in a few extras for unexpected contingencies.  My focus is on me and my anticipated needs.

Jesus sent out the Twelve much as he must have been traveling through the villages — no extra clothes, no money, no food.  He relied entirely upon the providence of his Father acting through the Holy Spirit to move people to generosity, to respond to his needs.  His attention was always on those he encountered.  The New Jerusalem Bible Commentary states that this passage is the culmination of chapters seven and eight, which consist of accounts of Jesus’ healings, forgiveness, and teaching using parables.  So, Jesus showed the Twelve by example how they were to proclaim the good news, how they were to be utterly dependent on God’s care, and how they were to extend God’s love to others.  Their attention was to be on others, not on their own needs.

Jesus was teaching them not to fear.  Not to be fearful that their needs would not be met, not to be fearful that they wouldn’t have the words to proclaim the good news, not to be fearful of touching a leper or failing to be able to heal, not to be fearful of being rejected.  Overcome your fears, he seemed to be saying, by putting your full faith in the power of God to provide all these things.

Much of my behavior through life has been motivated by fear.  I think my fear has arise from the lack of trust I have had in God to care for me, to provide for me, to protect me. My usual modus operandi has been to count on myself, not God.  I have tried to pack my suitcase with every imaginable thing I will need for my journey, for every contingency.

Trust within me grows as I am shown that I am first accepted, then affirmed and finally loved.  For me, it comes slowly.  According to psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving, “It [love] springs from the need to overcome separateness and to achieve union.”   When I was able to overcome my separateness, I could “fall in love” with Cindy; I could let my walls down.  I could let go of my fear of not being accepted, of not being rejected, of not being loved because I grew to trust her and I wanted to be in union with her, with her goodness, with her love for me.

So, it is with God for me.  As He has shown me — or that I’ve been able to grasp — that He accepts me, affirms me, and loves me, I have grown to trust in Him, in His providence.  I have come to a point of yearning to be in communion with him.  It is as mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “If therefore I am changed into God and He makes me one with Himself, then, by the living God, there is no distinction between us….God and I: we are one.  By knowing God, I take him to myself.  By loving God, I penetrate him.”

I think that’s what had happened with the Twelve.  Jesus had observed that they had been transformed; they were in communion with God.  They had given up their old selves and taken on new life, a life infused with God’s spirit.  Jesus could trust and empower them to cure, to cast out demons, to forgive, to overcome rejection, to act in God’s name.  The test was to send them out with nothing but their trust in God’s love. So, in communion with God they set out free of fear to proclaim the good news, the kingdom of God.

Fear is a disabling thing.  It keeps me from trusting in God’s goodness.  When I am in communion with God, though, he empowers me to forgive, to heal, to love, to be in relationship with others.  That only happens when I rely upon Him instead of myself, when I take nothing for the journey except my trust in His providence, His loving care.

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