Pentecost 6C – The Packing List
July 3, 2010
This is the season of family vacations.
It’s the weekend of family trips.
AAA estimates that about 35 million people in the U.S.
will travel over 100 miles this weekend.
I think I’ve met half of them here in Gettysburg today!
My family tradition growing up was to spend a week
each summer at a cottage on a lake –
usually in Maine or New Hampshire or Vermont.
My mother had the packing for our trip down to a science.
Each one of us had our own list – even my father –
although I think that was wishful thinking on her part,
because she usually ended up packing for him too.
She kept all the lists folded up carefully in the jewelry box
on her dresser the rest of the year and
pulled it out the week before our trip.
By the time I was in high school,
my list looked rather well-used.
It was still readable, though.
On the list she included things like:
- 8 pairs of socks – an extra pair for emergencies
- Sneakers for everyday and a pair of shoes for Sunday
- Bathing Suit
- Jacket and sweatshirt in case it got cold
- Books and games for rainy days
My mother was never a Boy Scout, but she could have written the manual on being prepared!
We were prepared:
for changes in weather,
for the need to dress up or dress down
even for hunger – Mom kept a box of canned goods in the back of the station wagon in case we were stranded in the car.
If we didn’t bring it, we didn’t need it.
People in the neighboring cottages asked to borrow things from us all the time:
- A vegetable peeler
- Some baking soda
- Even an electric frying pan
We had it all!
But however detailed my mother’s lists were,
there was one thing she didn’t include.
She didn’t include what not to pack.
Her lists had lots of things to be sure and bring…
but nothing to leave at home.
(And frankly it seemed sometimes like we didn’t leave anything home!)
In this evening’s reading,
Jesus sends out 70 people two by two on a journey.
He also sends them with a list,
but unlike my mother’s packing list,
Jesus talks mostly about things not to bring along!
He talks about the things to leave home.
The purse, the bag, the sandals…
– Jesus says leave those home.
Why travel so lightly?
There’s a purpose in this journey the 70 are to make,
and it’s not for a vacation in Vermont.
The journey is for work – for laboring in the field, for bringing in the harvest.
St. James has a plot at the community garden at the Ag Center this year.
The hope is that the vegetables grown can be given to the food pantry.
The garden is a great mission opportunity,
but it needs laborers – workers.
Literally, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few!
St. James has another plot in the community –
it’s this piece of land on the corner of York and Stratton streets.
Here too, is a garden of sorts.
There is a great mission opportunity all around us.
Studies estimate that as many as 50% of children
in our neighborhood do not have a faith community.[i]
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few!
Jesus sends out some laborers – 70 – to start.
It’s a good round number.
They are to go out two by two into the mission field.
And they are to go and work.
He warns them that it’s not going to be easy.
They will be as lambs among wolves even.
But Jesus also says he isn’t sending them
anywhere he isn’t willing to go himself.
And he gives them their packing list – their packing list of what not to bring.
Leave behind the comforts of home.
Leave behind the thought that the journey of faith is an easy trip.
Leave behind the purse and the bag and the sandals.
He has other things on the list too.
He says leave behind the thought
that you’re not one of the 70 called to make the journey –
that you’re not one of the workers helping to bring in the harvest.
After all, the 70 people he sent out were not professional Bible teachers –
they were ordinary people who became the hands, feet, hearts, and minds of Jesus.
So leave behind the thought that you’re not called to this journey
because you don’t know enough theology.
Other things to leave behind?
Superficial chit chat.
He says, “Greet no one along the road.”
There is an urgency about the journey –
this is no time to let other things get in the way
The harvest is ripe now.
People are ready – now – to hear and respond to the Word of God.
Harvest time does not last forever.
Leave behind the distractions.
On his list of what not to pack,
Jesus also says to leave behind your fear of rejection.
Wipe off the dust on your feet – and keep on moving on.
There’s more to leave behind:
Leave behind your desire for judgment –
First say “Peace to this house” – every time you enter a house.
Leave behind your impatience –
Stay for awhile.
Listen and learn from the people you meet.
Leave behind your need for control –
Eat and drink whatever it is they lay before you.
Leave behind your desire for recognition
He says, to rejoice in God’s work – not our work.
Once we leave all those things behind,
we will be traveling rather lightly.
Once we’ve unpacked the obstacles which prevent us from reaching out deeper into our community
– the idea that only experts are the ones called to work in the mission field
– the notion that faith is filled with the comforts of life and not hardships
– the things which distract us from what is really meaningful
– our fear of rejection, impatience, need for control, and desire for recognition…
Once we’ve unpacked all those things,
what we carry along on our journey doesn’t feel like such a burden anymore.
It feels rather light doesn’t it?
On this weekend when we celebrate and give thanks for
the freedoms we have in this nation,
let us choose to leave one thing off our personal packing list
and receive the freedom God intends for us.
The freedom to go without burden
on the journey to work in the fields in our community for the kingdom of God.
The harvest is plentiful. The laborers are few.