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An Unprepared Journey of Readiness

posted 5 Sep 2012, 04:35 by   [ updated 5 Sep 2012, 06:16 ]
I'll admit it, I sometimes find certain things that jesus said and instructed to be slightly at odds with reality. His instruction to the 12 disciples in Luke 9 is a good example of this:

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Okay, so most of it makes sense. Here we have Jesus instructing the 12 disciples to do exactly what they were meant to do: go to different villages/towns, preach and heal the sick. Fine. The instruction that perturbes me is that found in verse 3: 'Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.' 
Personally I'd at least take a bag for my phone, a charger and my wallet incase I was in dire need of a pie, but no; what Jesus seems is saying is that the disciples should take nothing, not even what we would consider the essentials that, if told to 'take nothing', we would actually take because 'they don't count'. What is it about our contemporary mentality that means things such as a mobile phone and ten quid in your wallet are entirely necessary to what we do? Well, perhaps it is because they are for what many of us are doing in terms of life and ministry. If you work for a care-giving company and are needed urgently because one of your patients has been taken ill then if you don't have any means of being contacted what good are you? 
Of course I'm not now going to sit at this computer and tell you all to sell everything you've got and live on the streets but there is perhaps a deeper principle to be found here about the nature of community and the level of trust and reliance we should have on each other. 
The disciples are now fully reliant upon the people they meet for their provision. This probably worried them somewhat, it certainly would me. However they went out and, seemingly, were provided for at least in most places they went: 'So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.' 
Two principles to learn from this, the first about community and the second about journeying. 

Community Principles
Reliant upon the community around them, the disciples stepped out in faith putting their trust both in their Rabbi and the unknown faces who were hopefully to be providing for them.  How much trust do we place in the communities of which we are a part? I often get the answer, 'people are unreliable' or 'I find it hard to trust this community'. My question back is always, 'Why?'. Sometimes a genuine answer surfaces (at which point you maybe need to ask if it is a community at all!) but more often than not the answers are either based on hearsay and third hand experience or the person has had little to no need to interact significantly with aspects of the community which provide services. The elderly couple who seemingly ignore you at church; perhaps when you are made redundant, lose your home and make an appeal to the congregation for a sofa to sleep on will invite you into their home for a short while. 
However, this might not be your experience at all. You might be reading this wondering in what delusional world I live.  Well, perhaps have a look at the contribution you make to the community. Perhaps you're incredibly involved inviting people into your home, feeding those who have no food, providing financial assistance for those who need it etc. and either you're one of many who partakes in this or you're hitting your head against a wall trying to encourage others to participate in similar activities. However it might also be that you are not quite as involved as you perhaps thought. This has happened to me before, I have assumed I am of great help, providing whenever people need it whereas in reality I provide only either what I don't want and/or when it suits me. I think that those who took the 12 into their homes would have been surprised by their arrival; it's not like the disciples could call ahead to book a bed. This teaches us something very important, not only should we look with hope and not cynicism upon the communities around us but we should be ready to give up our bed or our dinner at a moments notice if someone is in need. 

Journeying Principles
When the 12 headed out they were in something of a strange situation: In preparing them for the task which lay ahead Jesus had left them entirely unprepared for their journey. Or so it seemed... Infact they were provided with exactly what they needed for the task Jesus set them, to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. What they were not provided in the immediate with was the items they thought they'd need for the journey. Now while the task is part of the journey the task is not the journey and neither is the journey the task (try saying that fast ten times!), so what can we learn about the journey? 
Sometimes our preparation for a journey is too much of a focus for us either due to a fear of the unknown, concerns about change or being overcautious about what may go wrong. This shifts our vision from the task with which we have been charged to the means of reaching its implementation. The journey is an important aspect of the task, don't get me wrong here, and we can learn a lot while we are on it but the truth of the matter is that we rarely end up on the path we expected. If the route is uncertain, why spend inordinate amounts of time gathering resources which may infact be redundant? If the task is correct then the resources you have, or will have, for it will be adequate and the path you are on will ultimately be the route on which the task is tackled. 

The disciples had nothing but the power to preach and heal, and they seemed to do alright despite their humanity, probable fear and likely lack of experience. I'm not suggesting that you specifically start a journey unprepared, what I am suggesting is that Jesus' example through the disciples shows us that it is preparation for the task to be carried out on the journey that matters, not preparation for the journey alone. 

ben Martin