Pack Lightly (01/31/16)

Read Mark 6:1-13
Everyone seems to have traveling stories about packing for a trip.
In 2009, I took a group of high school youth the National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas. We took buses. Each youth, and adults, were told they could bring one medium sized suitcase. We had a meeting with the youth and discussed what to pack, and what to leave home. Does everyone really need to have their own hairdryer? Their own laptop? Five pairs of shoes? 20 changes of clothes? What do I really need? What can I do without? Can I just trust that things will work out if I don’t have everything?
When Nadine and I traveled to Columbia, South America, in the summer of 2014 with our Southeastern Minnesota Synod, we were flying, and we were told “one small suitcase and a carry-on.” I found myself asking the same questions that I told the youth to ask: What do I really need?
Here is another story about baggage. It is quite the opposite. When I served a church in Bagley, Minnesota, before moving here, there was a man who stopped at the church, looking for help. It was fall of 2005. He had left New Orleans, immediately following hurricane Katrina. He lost everything. He had no family. He had just enough money in the bank to buy a used car and he salvaged a few things to put in a backpack, and then left New Orleans. He was making his way to Montana, I think. He had a friend there. Everything he owned, all that he had, was in that small back pack.
Most recently, I’ve been thinking about the stories of the millions of refugees who have left their homes with only what they could carry in their arms, and sometimes all they are able to carry is the baby, and the clothes they wear, as they journey to a new place that they are to call home. Often they are fleeing the place they and their ancestors have called home.
Jesus sent out his disciples, not to escape, but to share with others the word of love that Jesus gave to them, and to pray for those in need of healing, and to tell people to repent, which means to turn in faith toward God who created us and loves us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is visiting the home of his childhood. Jesus has become known for his teachings and healing people. Word of Jesus’ reputation has reached his home town and now Jesus returns to this town where he grew up as a boy.
This is the place where people know him as Jesus, Mary’s son. They know his story, how his mother was not married at the time of her pregnancy and only engaged to Joseph when he was born.
They know about Jesus being born in humble beginnings. They know he is like one of them, poor, with little education – not like the schooled Rabbi’s. Now as an adult Jesus is coming home and they have no respect for him and his ministry. They say, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” (6:3) In other words, “who does he think he is, acting so high and mighty like some important Rabbi with his own followers? He’s just one of us.” And so, he is snubbed, rejected, and he feels it and it affects his ability to minister. We are told, “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (6:5-6)
So he leaves town. But that does not end his ministry. Rather than end his mission, Jesus instructs his disciples to go out two by two and minister in the surrounding communities.
They are to travel light and rely on the hospitality of others where they travel. I want you to note not just how light they are to travel, but how they are to bring their message to others as well.
Yes, they are not to have a lot of physical baggage as they travel from community to community, but they are also not to have forceful emotional, damaging baggage as they spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus says to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them. So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (6:10-13)
In asking them to pack lightly, Jesus also wants them to be satisfied with whatever is given them. Are we satisfied with what we have? A content person is a better witness to the grace of God. When they are invited to stay in a community, they are to stay in the home that is opened to them and be satisfied with whatever is provided. They are not to move from place to place looking for the better food, a better bed, or a wealthier lifestyle.
Another thing, Jesus did not ask them to force people to believe their message. Jesus did not give them the instructions, or the authority, to force people to believe what Jesus’ disciples had to say. No. They are to go where they are welcomed.
There are to stay as long as their message is being received, and then move on. If they come upon people that are not able to receive their message, they are not to stay there and argue. They are not to debate their theology. They are not to force themselves upon the people. That is not the way of Jesus. They are to present their message. If they are not received, they are to move along, and not to carry ill will from that experience, but to shake it off and go on.
As Christians in a world where there is such disagreement among well-meaning people, even among people who share the title of Christian, we are called to share the Good News of Jesus.
We have much to learn from the instructions of Jesus.
When we enter into a conversation, we are to pack lightly. We are to leave behind our assumptions about an individual that we may project onto them from a previous encounter, or what we may have heard from someone else, or about the people with whom they associate.
We must also leave behind our judgements about the lifestyle or opinions one may have that are different than our own, or that we have never experienced ourselves.
We must be sure to pack forgiveness that we may need to extend in the name of Jesus.
You see, the world is expecting Christians to come with their bags filled with condemnation and judgement. This is how Christians are portrayed in much of the media. However, we are followers of Jesus.
As you read the New Testament, listen to the interactions Jesus has with the people on the outside or those pushed to the margins of society.
Jesus always, always extends love and inclusion.
Jesus brings a whole new way of being in the world.
As followers of Jesus, there is a different way of life, one of compassion rather than judgement, one of forgiveness rather than condemnation. Jesus is the great liberator who sets us free from the bondage of sin and death.
The message we are called to bring to people is straightforward and simple. Many of you learned it in Sunday school – John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” Believing means turning in faith toward the one who loves the world, all people, and all creation; Believing means turning in faith toward Jesus, who in his life, death and resurrection, came to show us God’s love in all its fullness. This turning in faith toward our Lord Jesus is called repentance. The motivation for repentance is not fear of judgment, but the love of God. The message is never “we have to believe, or else.” The message is that we “get to” believe. It’s a gift of God’s grace. We “get” to live in this God and for this God whose love has been made known to us in his Son, Jesus. And in case we would forget, the Bible verse after that famous John 3:16, reminds us, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (3:17)
So, pack lightly, my friends. Don’t be weighed down with judgment and condemnation. Proclaim the good news of Jesus. This is our mission.


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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1 Response to Pack Lightly (01/31/16)

  1. Shirley g says:

    Another thought provocing sermon! Thank you!

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