Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Jesus encourages the twelve not to burden themselves with any excess baggage as they journey around, but rather to take the bare minimum and rely on the kindness of strangers. In her book “Journey to Contentment”, Sally Welch encourages us to rid ourselves of any physical, emotional or spiritual encumbrances that weigh us down and to sit more lightly, both to material possessions and metaphorical baggage. In this manner, we can focus on a discipline of prayer and reflection that will encourage us along the way towards contentedness. This same lack of material burdens would have freed the twelve to concentrate on their part in Jesus’ mission.
The disciples are also encouraged to recognise places where they are not called to minister. During ministerial deployment, we rightly place an emphasis on an individual’s call to serve in a specific context, but how much do we pay attention when that call might have come to an end? Do we place equal emphases on discerning how a call develops over time, how circumstances change and how our gifts and graces may no longer be needed in a particular situation? These considerations are equally applicable to any of us, as members of a congregation or in any vocational context. What we feel called to offer in Christian service changes over time, as challenges evolve. Even as we recognise an opportunity to fulfil a rôle, it is equally important to notice subsequently when it would be better for us to stand aside in favour of another with different gifts. This is akin to “shaking the dust off” in the sense of a judgement, not of condemnation, but that our specific calling in that place is now completed and we are being called to move on and embrace a new aspect of God’s mission.
Prayer (based on Mark 6: 6-13 & Hebrews 12:1)
O God who call us all, help us to hear your concern that we travel lightly; let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, so that we can focus on your voice, guiding us onward, so that we run the race with perseverance and recognise when one phase of our calling ends and the next begins. In Christ’s name, Amen.
The Rev’d David Miller, Minister, The URCs of North Staffordshire