July 3, 2016
Packing light is not a term the Swan family seems to understand. Unless we are flying, the back of Maureen’s car overflows with stuff regardless if we are leaving for a long weekend in Simsbury or two weeks away at the family cottage in the Berkshires. In fairness to the women in the family, its not just them who can’t seem to get the hang of packing light. I too always windup with a suitcase the size of a steamer trunk filled with everything I simply cannot live without for the week.
We all know the list, two bathing suits plus shirts for boating and relaxing by the lake, shorts and collared shirts for going into town during the day and for evenings at home. I aways have to add workout clothes and running shoes for my morning workouts, professional dress clothes for dinners out. And of course, sweatshirts and sweaters, just in case an arctic blast comes through the Berkshires in the middle of July.
Then we have to add the books for the endless hours of down time for reading and the board games for night entertainment because we don’t have cable or internet at the lake plus the multiple bottles of sunscreen. By the time I am done packing my extraordinarily large suitcase is now stretched to the limit and weighs approximately seventy pounds. All of which has to be carried down the twenty-five steps that lead into the cottage.
What can I say, this is the joy of the modern family vacation.
As I begin preparing for my vacation in a couple weeks and all the stuff I will need to pack, I am struck by the contrast between what I need to survive for two weeks away and what Jesus sends his followers out to proclaim the Kingdom with.
That is with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and the sandals on their feet. That’s it. No need to make reservations, or bring credit cards, or even an extra set of clothes. The seventy he sent out that day were to travel lightly and unencumbered with earthly things. They were to trust that God would provide for them.
I can’t imagine what the conversation was like after Jesus presented them with their latest challenge. If the followers of Jesus’ day were anything like the Swan family is today, I can imagine the push back he received.
“What do you mean I don’t need to bring my dress sandals and good tunic. What if the town’s Magistrate invites me to dinner? Proper dress is important you know.” “What do you mean I shouldn’t carry a purse? What if my allergies act up and I need Singular? You know, you can’t find that just anywhere.”
However, as I think about all the things that could have been said that day, I’m convinced his directive not to bring anything with them was less about about traveling light, as it was about being confident in God.
Jesus sent seventy followers into the world to proclaim that the Kingdom is near and to demonstrate this by healing the sick and casting out demons in the name of Yahweh. What they were asked to do was to trust that Jesus had provided everything they needed to share the Good News with the world.
This is the same trust and confidence we need today if we are to proclaim the good news of the Gospel in the world as well.
A couple of months ago I cited a statistic which claims the average Episcopalian invites someone new to church once every twenty years. While we are able to see the humor in this statistic, it also points out one of our greater weaknesses as a church. We, Episcopalians in general, are uncomfortable sharing our faith. This is not to say we don’t have faith, or that we are not a deeply spiritual people. What it says is that we are not comfortable sharing our faith with others.
I know there is a myriad of cultural reasons for this. However, more often than not it has to do with not knowing what it means to evangelize. We are so caught up in today’s cultural understanding of evangelism based on the tele-evangelists of today that we forget, evangelism is not about spouting out Bible passages, or dooming people people to hell.
Instead, evangelism is about telling others about our personal experiences of the risen Christ in our lives. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell the story of their experience and their understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was and is. St. Paul’s writings build on his experience of the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus and how he interprets who Christ is through his understanding of the Old Testament.
Evangelism, the sharing of our faith stories, doesn’t require a Masters in Divinity from Yale, or the intense preparation of EFM. All one needs to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ is the experience of the Holy in our lives and the confidence that the Kingdom is near.
So, while we may need to pack our suitcases full of stuff for our upcoming family vacations, the truth is, we don’t need any of it when we choose to share the love of God with the world. For that, all we need is to trust in our experience of God.