7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 8, 2018
“I’m Going on Vacation (?)”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today is the Gospel lesson from Mark chapter 6 as was previously read with an emphasis on verses 7-13.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
This might be really dumb to say, but…next weekend I won’t be here. There…let the chips fall where they may. I know they say that “when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” meaning that if the usual pastor isn’t there, people are more likely to skip church. DON’T DO THAT! Don’t be excited to skip church because I’ll be gone. Be excited to come to church because I’ll be gone! Next week Pastor Steve Hess will be here; someone with a new style, a new approach, a new way to explain biblical texts. Check it out!
I won’t be here because I am going on vacation to that exotic travel destination that is Lincoln, NE. I’m going to Lincoln to visit my mom and brother and generally to “chill” for a week. To get ready I had to buy a plane ticket and get a new suitcase and I’m sure that, in a couple of days, I’ll pack all my stuff and triple-check my itinerary and then make my way to the Sarasota Airport. I am sure that if you were going on this trip (hey…who doesn’t dream of going to Nebraska), or any vacation, you would so the exact same thing. You’d make reservations, you’d have your travel plans made, you’d have a suitcase packed, ensure you have your cell phone charger, and plenty of money to get there and back.
Now, compare our vacations with the trip on which Jesus sent the Twelve in today’s text from St. Mark. Their trip was a little different from a family vacation, and as a matter of fact, their trip is less like a vacation and more like a mission trip…which it is. We can confidently say that Jesus doesn’t send us out to live each day like we’re on vacation, but He daily sends us on trip…a mission trip.
Like the disciples being sent, the preparation for our trip is not so much to pack lightly as it is to pack rightly. Can you imagine going out on vacation with nothing more than the possessions on your back? I doubt that many can. While much has been made of this list from Mark 6, this list is not the main point of this text. Our Lord is not teaching about how to do mission or what to take, but He is teaching about the character of the mission; you go as you are taking with you the important thing. Most people are so interested in the list that they forget the most important thing! Jesus gave the disciples power over the spirits; He gave them the Word of God. We also are sent with the powerful Gospel fully relying on God to provide our daily needs.
“Packing rightly” for mission work teaches total dependence on Christ. Very few people would set out on an extensive mission trip without taking at least bare essentials: food, a map, luggage, money, etc. Most would not even think of going off somewhere for an extended stay without the stuff you need. But here, Jesus instructs His disciples to “take nothing for the journey except a staff” (v 8). This was not intended to ignore their daily needs, or to be a mandate for all future missionary trips. But on this particular occasion – the 1st time sending His disciples out – there is something that Jesus wishes for ALL His disciples to learn: total dependence on Him. He who sends them out will provide for them what they need.
This also might be a dumb thing to say, but when you pack for vacation, do you pack everything you own? Duh, of course not. But wouldn’t it be handy if you had access to all your stuff so you were prepared to deal with anything that might arise? True, but we can’t possibly know all that lies ahead on our life’s journey. Life is full of the unexpected; the only consistency is life’s inconsistencies. With all that we experience at various times in our faith journey, one item of equipment is always essential: the Word of God. The disciples were given the commission of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit which is the power of God’s Word, and a walking stick…that’s it! Minus the walking stick, we are given much the same; the powerful Word that Christ by His cross has redeemed us – that Word proclaimed among us, poured over us, fed to us, then to be shared by us on our spiritual “vacation,” our perpetual mission trip through life.
Jesus doesn’t offer an idealistic description of what the disciples can expect on their trip. In fact, he’s very up-front and admits there will likely be places that will not welcome them or listen. When that happens, they’re not to let it squash their continued journey, but to “shake the dust off [their] feet” (v 11) and go on. In ministry and in discipleship, reception will not always be favorable, especially in our current cultural climate. Sometimes people will be openly hostile. Interestingly enough, the context of the sending of the 12 in Mark 6 following this text is the narrative of the events leading to the death of John the Baptist. This is no coincidence. Mark is showing what the result can be for those who bring the message of the Gospel to a very unreceptive audience!
It may not always be easy to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for the world’s salvation, but devotion to the task and its message rather than devotion to comfort for those who bring the message. Knowing that, sometimes we are content to let someone else do this mission work and not run the risk of rejection ourselves. How can we honestly pray for the mission of the Gospel in this world if we are unwilling to make sacrifices ourselves to help in that task? How can we expect to reach others when we seek shelter behind stained glass curtains? When Jesus calls us, He sends us out…out there…not to hide in the safety and comfort of “in here.” Mission work is no vacation; He does not promise protection and we don’t always get to choose how and where the journey will go. Answering the call to serve others is risky business, but ignoring it or scorning it is even riskier for those who are perishing eternally without the call to repent of their sins and to believe in Christ Jesus.
Nevertheless, there will be times, the Lord assures us, when the reception will be favorable. As the Lord had commissioned them, the disciples “drove out many demons and healed many sick people. These activities were real demonstrations of the restoration of all things that Jesus would secure by His death on the cross and victorious resurrection from the grave. Satan and sin are overcome; health is restored when God and man are reconciled. The Word of God does perform its function to bring people to repentance and receive the Good News of God’s mercy for them in Jesus Christ. The Gospel message changes heart; the Gospel changes lives. Mission work is not a vacation; it is an ongoing, joyous adventure with eternal consequences.
Bon Voyage, my friends, and enjoy your time next week with Pastor Hess! Amen.