In Mark 6, the disciples are beginning a new phase in their ministry, in their relationship with Jesus. And Jesus gives them instructions and advice as he sends them out to work for him.
Jesus sends the disciples out, two by two. He tells them to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread or money – and just one pair of sandals and one tunic. “Travel light,” says Jesus.
Travelling is always about leaving something behind. There is always something ahead of us, but a journey always means leaving something behind. When we go on holiday by plane we have to decide what size case we’re going to take, what clothes we’ll wear, what books we’ll read. We only have a finite space available to us and we have to prioritise.
Jesus says to us all that travelling with and for him will mean travelling light, making decisions about what we need with us, about what is important and what can be left, or should be left, behind. We have to prioritise!
We have to decide what being sent, what travelling light mean for us. We have to decide what is really important and what is secondary and of lesser importance. We have limited resources. We cannot do everything.
“Carry only what you need,” says Jesus, “and target you efforts, stay with those who welcome you. God will provide for everything else.” Jesus’ disciples discovered that it was true. God did provide for their needs. This is how Jesus wants us to live – depending on him, trusting him to provide what we need.
But listen to what else Jesus says in our passage this morning: “Stay with those who welcome you,” he says. “If you are not made welcome move on.” These seem to be quite harsh words. Yet in saying them Jesus is highlighting two important things: The importance of welcome … and the risk of rejection.
Welcome is so important. If we fail to welcome others, to draw them into our community, to be willing to change to accommodate them, they will move on, they won’t stay.
But in everything we do, we risk rejection. When we reach out with the love of Christ to others, there will be those who turn their backs on us. It is our calling as a Christian family to be an open and welcoming place, to excel in our efforts to make people feel at home even if that means change and uncertainty.
Ultimately though, Jesus suggests we should target our efforts. But target them not according to our own agenda but according to God’s agenda. But, here is a word of warning: God is often at work in the least expected places, sometimes in places or people we avoid at all costs.
Think of the story of Zacchaeus, the little tax collector, so hated by everyone, especially by the most religious of people – but God was at work in his life. Think of the Roman Centurion, symbol of Roman occupation, Roman power of whom Jesus said, “Never have I found faith like this in Israel.”
Think of the Cross, the place of curse and condemnation, the place where everyone knew no good could occur, but the place where God did his greatest work of love.
“Stay,” says Jesus, “where you receive a welcome – where God is at work.” At the Cross; with people like Zacchaeus; with the poor, with the outcast, with the prostitute; even with the oppressor. … Wherever God is at work.
We need to commit ourselves again to travelling light, to focussing on the important and essential, to giving ourselves as best as we are able to those around us in our community – for if we don’t our Christian congregations will die.
“Live by trusting me,” says God in Jesus, “live in my strength; and work where you see me at work.”