Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Portbury

Sunday 04/07/21

Fifth Sunday after Trinity 

Mark 6:1-13 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I don’t know how light you are travelling. Maybe it all depends on where you are going. Many of our journeys having been curtailed in recent times, it also depends on other things. Reading today’s Gospel in Mark 6, and especially Jesus’ instructions to the twelve as to how they are to travel, has reminded me of a game we used to play as children, at a school party for instance, or at a summer camp. One person begins and says: I’m going on a journey and I’m taking …. (a toothbrush for example). The next person says: I’m going on a journey and I’m taking a toothbrush and a jacket. And so all the next in line repeat the former lines and add a new item that they are taking with them. Of course, the game is to remember as many items as possible as the list gets longer and longer, (and ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime!).

Another memory I have is of one of our camping holidays. Our car being stuffed with all our ‘necessities’; some more so than others… I tended to say to the children that apart from their clothes, they could only take one certain bag of toys, so if it didn’t fit in the bag, it didn’t come with us. You have to draw the line sometimes, at the kitchen sink!

But, in all seriousness, how do you travel? Are you content to bring just a toothbrush and a change of clothing, or do you tend to want to take the stamp collection and the Encyclopedia Britannica? Jesus told his disciples not to take anything except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. The latter, because, of course, it’s tempting, if you’re not to take anything extra with you, to just put on an extra layer. Now, why would Jesus give them instructions like these? Why couldn’t they take food and other provisions with them? We, in our own situations and travelling plans, would certainly want to be prepared for the unexpected? Or even for the expected, every day need.

I think the answer lies in what they were to travel for, in the purpose of their journey. They were to be like ambassadors, or as envoys of the king. They were to proclaim that all should repent, to turn away from doing wrong, to cast out demons and to heal the sick. Their mission of proclamation, exorcism and healing would be successful only if they were committed and focussed, and totally relying on God’s power, not their own. They were to go in the name of Jesus, not their own name. They travelled light because they didn’t need anything except the authority that Jesus had given them. And wherever they were to enter a house, they were to stay there until they left the place. But if any place didn’t welcome them and people refused to hear them, they were to leave and shake off the very dust that was on their feet as a testimony against them. They would not need to take provisions, because, like the people of Israel in the desert after they had left Egypt, they would be fed and clothed by God. Also, in the case of a hasty retreat if they were not welcomed, it would be much easier to get out if they didn’t have to carry or worry about any baggage.

We sometimes think that we need to be clever in our plans for a successful mission and creating a sustainable church, and of course we are to use our brains, such as the ones we have been given. But I think that, too often, we tend to forget that it’s God himself who calls us to proclaim the Gospel in our lives, and therefore we should rely on his strength, by his Spirit, rather than our own. It’s easy, isn’t it, to think that we need more of lots of things, to be successful in our lives and in our faith, whereas only one thing is needed: to listen to Jesus, in obedience and commitment.

How are you travelling? Are you carrying too much on the journey? What do you need to let go of, in order to travel light and in God’s purpose?

Let us pray:

O God, our Peace and our Strength, help us to leave off anything that hinders and to travel light in your direction. Amen.

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