Ezekiel 2: 1-5
2 Corinthians 12: 2-10
Mark 6: 1-13
I often tell people that I never wanted to end up in New York City. There are people who are born and dream of living, one day, in New York. And there are other people, like me, who grew up watching New Yorkers fly overhead to L.A. and thought – no way. No thank you. Chicago is as East as I want to go. But, here I am. I feel, therefore, almost like a disciple. On my good days.
In the same way, when Clare – who liked having my piles of garbage in her living room so much that she decided to make the situation permanent – moved to Tanzania, we stored piles of stuff in her mom’s attic, stuffed a bunch of suitcases together and decided not to hire a maid in Tanzania so we could be humble disciples. But we didn’t know how to wash clothes without a washing machine and so we were often filthy and humiliated, which is different than humility.
I remember once, walking by the quarters for the Tanzania interns. They were single rooms with one lightbulb. I lived in a house, and I thought I should be living there. But I went back to my house.
Why does Jesus send his disciples out with nothing but sandals? Well, he doesn’t – he gives them authority. But it is the authority of God’s only begotten Son, who came not to be served, but to serve. And to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus strips his disciples of every crutch, every security, every protection, other than a walking stick and a word of healing. The authority they held can be shown in serving – in casting out demons and healing the sick and telling the good news of the reign of God. They came in the least of garb – no banners or trumpets, no troops or messages. No news articles, no TV panels assessing their every move. On their journey, they depend on the hospitality God’s people are supposed to show to strangers and migrants, and their response is to heal and speak the truth. This is an experience in faith and in service and humility. I wonder if Peter thought about going back to his nets, or to get a loan from his father, just in case. But maybe they realized and maybe one day I will realize, maybe one day we can realize that we all have the greatest possession of all – the truth, the work of God that heals and forgives.
There is no greater possession than the Word of God. We recognize it by its authority – the authority made manifest in healing and in freedom, the authority revealed in the casting out of demons, in light shining in darkness. The people around Jesus constantly inquired of him – “By what authority do you do things? By what authority do you say these things?” And Jesus simply points to his deeds. His authority as God’s Son, he gives to his disciples, so they can go and do as he does. To preach good news, to heal, to cast out the demons, to pray and to praise. There is no greater authority than this because this authority comes from the Maker and Ruler of all – it is the Word that calls out life from darkness and order from chaos. Our share in it, our possession of it, is more precious than any other good thing on this Earth – and indeed, all things that are good are made good because of this word.
But why do we need to give up our things? Why no bag, no extra tunic? Paul today talks about how bragging is his weakness. He could brag about a heavenly vision he once had, seeing the things no human should utter. Spiritually, he could brag more than anyone – but, he says that the Lord said, “My name is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
So the challenge we take today can be heard like this: How can I be weak for God? How can I be helpful? These are simply ways for us to be mindful of God’s work already enlivening our lives – God’s grace stripping away all the things we ’ve encrusted on ourselves for security.
The first thing – a simple thing – is to give our money away. Money is the chief competitor to grace. Grace is unearned – money is earned. Grace is interested - money earns interest. Some people have money and others don’t and we have to fight to get it justly distributed. Grace is infinite and there’s infinite grace for everyone. It’s no mistake that Jesus tells his disciples to leave their money behind. For us – how can we give some up? We have an offering because, like the disciples, we need to give away our money. We need it to be used in the Kingdom.
Another way is to heal and forgive – to meet the broken places of the world – wherever you are.
The Rev. John Z. Flack