Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
In political campaigns there are always a group of young people, usually college students or recent graduates, who go ahead of the candidate into various cities and organize events, meetings, and interviews. They have to be energetic, reliable, and most of all, enthusiastic for the candidate. Usually they have political aspirations of their own. Maybe they want to be on the staff once their candidate is elected, or secure another position, a better position, in some subsequent campaign. Oh, and they never have much of a suitcase. They have to travel light and be ready to go at a moment’s notice as their plans might change from day to day.
On my one-and-only presidential campaign we had a lad who desperately wanted to be on the advance team. I’ll admit, we made fun of him. We shouldn’t have, but we did. There is no campaign staffer lower than a member of the advance team, after all. But, it’s what he wanted. I don’t remember if he worked for me or for my buddy across the hall, but eventually somebody got him on the advance team. I remember two things about that: His enthusiasm and his unwavering belief in the candidate, something the rest of us did not necessarily share.
He was a good lad from a good family and I suspect he went on to obtain a nice position in a non-profit association of some sort. I hope his ambitions came true. Today we have a story about Jesus’s advance team. It’s hard to know what their aspirations or hopes might have been but Jesus gave them the same advice that we gave our 20th century advance team: Travel light!
I am not on an advance team, but I have done a fair bit of traveling this summer and I will admit that I do not travel light. Even though I have not been near a beach I still have a snorkel in my carry-on. I have a travel bender, because you don’t want to go without a smoothie even on the road. There’s a two-pound camera I never use. I have a phone camera, after all, but I carry my big camera just in case. My laptop weighs almost five pounds… I know, I know, iPad Air. I’m thinking about it but they are expensive. Oh, and let’s not forget my collection of creams, lotions, and powders because you have to be properly lotioned and powdered. I should know better by now. Still, I travel with my gear and at the end of the day I am glad of it.
I travel with other things too: Memories, hope, anxiety… No, I am not talking about what’s in my suitcase anymore. But, on every pillow, behind every door… there they are, all the things that make me who I am. For better or worse, like you, I am a collection of my experiences and my reactions to them, my hopes and my fears too. So, when I read Jesus’s advice to his advance team I thought it was extreme. Jesus can be so extreme, you know.
He told them not to take any money, not to take extra clothes, and not even an extra pair of shoes. I can only imagine what he’d say about my snorkel. `Jesus probably intended that they actually not take money or clothes or shoes. This is one of those times we can be a little more literal with the original meaning. But this is not the first century and we are not in a cultural environment that mandates care of the stranger. So, for you and I, well, take some money. But, I think the advice about traveling light is still good. I mean, take your snorkel if you feel like it. I sure will. But I am going to leave behind some things too.
Whether your travels take you around the world or around the corner there is no need to travel with unfulfilled hopes, disappointment, or shame. You can leave it at home. Pack only the knowledge that you have been sent forth into the world to make known the love of God, to expend God’s friendship to all, and to share the good news that Jesus has lifted up the poor, cast down the powerful, and opened wide the gates of Heaven to everybody!
Oh, and take some money.
Linda McMillan is a free-range monotheist and a traveler hoping to settle down someday.
Some Notes of Possible Interest
2 Kings 4:29… Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”
Written in Heaven… It’s a Mesopotamian idea. May you be inscribed for a good year, the Rosh hashanah greeting. Or, Exodus 32:32, Daniel 12:1 (Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, editors. The Jewish Annotated New Testament : New Revised Standard Version Bible Translation. Oxford ; New York :Oxford University Press, 2011.)