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The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 7, 2013
The Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Sermon: "Traveling Light"
The Very Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.'
"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Summertime is a time for traveling light. From the amount of clothing we wear as we walk about, to the shoes we put on at leisure, to the amount of stuff we tend to carry around, everything gets a little lighter. Even vacations are, at least are supposed to be, about leaving all our accumulated stuff behind, and “getting away from it all.”
Even our Summertime Gospel lesson from Luke, this morning, has to do with traveling light. Jesus calls his disciples together, gives them authority and sends them out, to carry the Good News of God’s Kingdom, to preach, to teach, to heal, and to confront evil wherever they find it; to be his missionaries. He charges them to carry no purse, no bag, and no sandals.
Contrast Jesus’ instructions with the typically dressed Jew in Palestine at that time. He or she would have had five articles of clothing: two tunics; one was an inner garment, the other, an outer one used as a cloak by day and a blanket by night. Then there was a girdle, a kind of waistband worn over the two tunics, a head covering, and sandals. A wallet or traveler’s bag was carried for food and money, and was slung over the shoulder. But Jesus told his followers to leave most of that behind. His missionaries were to travel light so that they would depend on him, and so be free to share his love with others.
There is a message here for you and me. We are called to be missionaries for Christ; called to share the story of our faith in Christ with others where we are. As with these early disciples, Jesus sends us out too. Yet, so often we find ourselves bogged down with stuff, with things, and burdensome activities. But not just to material things. Are we over-obligated to lesser causes, so that the real priorities get only brief attention? And what of emotional baggage: old scores, unsettled and festering resentments? Dragging so much baggage with us, so preoccupied with such a variety of things, we find it difficult to focus on Jesus and his call for our lives.
The Twenty-Third Psalm offers an interesting image here. One line of the Psalm is “He restores my soul.” From time to time the shepherd is required to restore the sheep, for sheep have a tendency to, quite literally, get, “cast down.” What happens is that the shepherd will find a sheep on its back, all four legs straight up in the air, and unable to get back up. The attentive shepherd will set the sheep on its feet again, massaging life back into its limbs. Thus the shepherd restores the sheep.
What causes the sheep to become cast down in the first place? Most often it’s simply a result of having too much wool. The sheep’s fleece becomes very long, heavily matted with mud and burrs and other debris, so that it is weighed down with its own wool, so much so that it can topple over and be rendered nearly helpless.
Sheep do not particularly enjoy being sheared, but when it is over, there is a great relief. There is no longer the threat of being cast down and there is pleasure in being set free from the hot, heavy coat; set free to follow the shepherd once again.
The analogy is pretty obvious. Most of us have too much stuff. Too much stuff can be a problem for a follower of Christ. The more things we accumulate, whether material, or time consuming, or emotionally crippling, the more our freedom is restricted. The more such stuff we have, the more it demands our attention. The more attached we get to our stuff the harder it is to hear the call of Jesus.
Jesus’ call to travel light, though, is more than just a call to be less dependent on things. It is also a call to simplify our lives; to become more carefree. Here is a short prose that says it all. It’s entitled, “If I had my life to live over.” There are several versions of it that can be found on the internet by a number of different authors, including Erma Bombeck who wrote her version in her last year as she faced terminal cancer. Much of this following version was in hers too.
If I had my life to live over, I’d pick more daisies.
I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would relax, I would limber up.
I know very few things I would take seriously.
I would take more trips, travel lighter.
I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets.
I would eat more ice cream, and less bran.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who live practically and sensibly and sanely,
Hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I have had my mad moments, and if I had it to do over again,
I’d have more of them.
Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many minutes ahead.
I have been one of those people who never go anywhere
Without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and road map.
If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefooted earlier in the Spring,
And stay that way later in the fall.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds, and swings more.
I would do more water and sun-fun things.
I’d turn more somersaults, and roll in the grass, and go barefoot all over.
If I had my life to live over,
I’d spend more time at fun places.
I’d try to be more in touch with God and those I love.
I’d pray aloud more and not care what people think or expect of me.
I’d just be me more and more…
Yes, I’d pick more daisies next time.
Jesus calls us, loves us, and then sends us out. He gives us the opportunity to be his missionaries. He calls us to travel light; to shed our excess wool, to un-complicate, to simplify, to catch a kind of lovely naiveté once again. To move with Jesus means that we don’t have to take all of our baggage with us.
What is bogging you down? What excess baggage might you be carrying? Too much stuff? Too busy? Life too complicated? Is the Lord calling you to leave behind the emotional baggage of complaints, grudges, and resentments? Healing often has to do with unpacking, shedding all those things that weigh us down.
Accept Jesus’ invitation to travel light. You will fall in love again with your life of faith; you will gain courage for the rough spots, and, with the prayer support of your friends, a skip in your step and a song in your heart. Travel light!